Teen years are tough; addiction recovery is even tougher. Put the two together and the odds can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, however, they aren’t.
Every day, teens who are struggling with substance abuse get the professional help they need and an important step in the process is proper counseling. Knowing your teenager's recovery success largely hinges on the therapist, it’s vital to choose the right one for your teen.
Finding "The One"
Since teens are complex creatures with often unpredictable natures, you want a therapist who’s knowledgeable and experienced with the demographic. Good therapists stick to the following dos and don’ts when dealing with teenage clients:
Good Teen Therapists Do:
- Present a warm and open presence that emphasizes collaboration.
- Demonstrate flexibility and responsiveness to issues as they arise.
- Use open-ended questions that engage and encourage collaboration.
- Spend time gaining an understanding of how a teen sees problems, then work with them to establish treatment goals.
- Use mindful listening, demonstrating empathy and validation.
- Seek input from the teen on how the treatment plan is going.
- Maintain confidentiality.
- Explain treatment decisions in teen-appropriate language, offering clear reasoning for activities.
Good Teen Therapists Don’t:
- Come off as overly formal and instructive without showing an understanding of the emotions involved.
- Rigidly adhere to therapy manuals.
- Use closed-ended questions or a check-list of queries.
- Tell the teen what their treatment goals should be.
- Demonstrate judgment.
- Come off as an all-knowing authorities, potential threats or enemies.
- Forge ahead without stopping to consider how the teen feels.
- Implement methods or decisions without explaining how or why.
Eye on the Prize
In addition to the dos and don’ts, here's one more key ingredient to the recovery recipe: Teenagers must feel like they’re being included in the process. They’re not adults; therapy can’t be thrown at them. Let them be an ally to the process; allow them to help shape their treatment, provide feedback and participate as an equal.
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