I began working with children in my mid 20s’ while teaching for the Dallas Children’s Theatre. I helped children create characters, and write plays, that they would then perform at their school. While I had once thought of becoming a teacher, I decided to explore the field of natural healing instead. After I received my graduate degree, I worked in a children’s psych ward (ages 5 – 13). Then I worked in an adolescent drug rehabilitation center (ages 13 – 18). Both experiences showed me that many of today’s children, and adolescents, are struggling with the pace and complexity of our society. We are seeing the side-effects of this struggle play out in many ways; anger management issues, self medication, lack of motivation, depression, cutting, anxiety, and so on. This is why adolescent and teen counseling is so important.
From Biological To Structured Maturation
Before the 1930s, the pace and direction of our lives was determined by the maturation of our physical body. Afterward the 1930s, our lives became determined by milestones and social structure that was solidified in a numerical concept of aging.
We coined the term “childhood” in the 1800s, “adolescent” in the early 1900’s, and “teenager” in the 1940s. Since the 1950s’, our development between birth and age eighteen became pre-packaged, labeled, and organized by numbers and ideals. Overtime, the attempt at assimilating to this new paradigm created a myriad of side-effects. These side-effects are now being seen by those born in the decades after the paradigm was created. It doesn’t help that the maturation of our biology does not run parallel with our numerical social structure. If our biology did run parallel with our social structure, we would be going through puberty when we were eighteen or twenty-one, instead of ages nine through thirteen.
The Medicated Generation
Because most adults are just trying to get by, they do not take the time to consider that they are the first of our species to be lawfully separated from their families, placed into a building, and “educated” with generalized information (the memorization and understanding of which was graded to determine the level of their intelligence and the level of opportunity they would have once they left the building). Instead, most see it as “normal,” and just a part of “growing up.” I am not saying that our society should abandon socialized schooling. I am simply saying that depression, anxiety, worry, low-self-esteem, self loathing and other psychological issues are created by the social structure into which we were born—the same social structure into which our children are being born.
Experiencing these psychological issues does not make you week; it makes you normal. This is why having a negative experience in middle school (and often high school) has become expected. In 2017, ruffly 7,213,599 kids in the United States between 0 and 17 were on psychiatric medications. 3,655,472 kids took ADHD medications. 1,445,509 kids took anti-anxiety medications. 2,100,315 kids were on antidepressants (IQVia Total Patient Tracker Database for Year 2017). This total is not including the number adolescents who are self-medicating with illegal drugs. What many of us don’t know is that children who are on antidepressants, and other mood altering drugs, have never received counseling.
The Side Effects Of Modern Adolescents
Several of you transitioned into adulthood without realizing one important thing. It was completely normal for you to have difficulty sitting in an uncomfortable chair for seven hours a day, five days a week, with little to no exercise, in a highly stressful environment, where obedience and attention was demanded at all times.
Situational depression, anxiety, worry, suicidality, and a number of other mental and physical issues proved to be side-effects of the scholastic experience. This is doubled when combined with a dysfunctional home-life.
Did you grow up thinking that something was wrong with you? If so, then remember this—the social structure in which you were born is difficult in different ways for most people. This is why, well into your adulthood, many of you continued using the mood-altering medications prescribed to you for your anxiety, depression, ADHD, and whatever else was used to keep you focused and sitting still.
No Light At The End Of The Tunnel
The main issue you experience when you are young is not having enough life experience to understand the term; “time heals all wounds”. You haven’t had enough life experience to know there is something waiting for you on the other side of a difficult moment.
Loss, heartbreak, and confusion are fare more intense for those who have yet to discover the tools they need for working through such experiences. Many of you were prescribed medication to deal with your issues—and that became how you dealt with your issues. The world is now filled with an older generation that never learned how to deal with their emotions. Because of this, they are unable to pass that knowledge onto their children. Their children then face the confusion of our modern society without the tools necessary to do so.
The relationship that develops between the therapist and the patient is very important. The adolescents must be listened to. They must be understood on their level, with the realization they may have no prior reference for many of the experiences they are facing. They may also lack the communication skills they need for expressing their feelings. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to them, while other times they need more guided sessions. Either way, an adolescent must feel comfortable, safe and understood.
The Family Should Get Involved
In adolescent counseling, or working with children of any age, family issues may arise. Treatment that involves treating the family as a whole, in addition to addressing the adolescent’s specific issues, is more effective for long-term change. Because of this, I may recommend a few family sessions when necessary, though it is not required. That being said, anything the client says in session is kept confidential unless there is an admittance of suicidality with a plan or child abuse. Otherwise, everything my clients says is not repeated to the parent. This allows the client to speak more openly and without fear.
While I counsel adolescents from 12 and up, I have also written a series of books designed to help children, adolescents, and adults look at the side-effects of our social structure, and how to deal with them. The books are written for ages seven and up. For more information check out Monkey Mind Tales®.