The teenage years can be extremely tough to manage. Everything is changing, the stakes are high, and teens don’t yet have the full arsenal of coping skills that adults have acquired.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that things normal teenage want collides with normal teen thinking. Teens want to experiment with whatever comes across their path—drugs, alcohol, sex, fashion, politics, information, etc. Playing around with some of this stuff is pretty safe and can have positive impacts, for example experimenting with politics. However, some forms of experimentation can be pretty risky, such as when drugs are involved.
In addition, teens have a few ways of thinking that can make it all more dangerous.
One of these ways of thinking is called “Illusion of Immortality.” Humans do not get good at figuring out how dangerous something is until they are 21-23 years old. Which means they don’t believe anything is truly dangerous until they grow-up. Unless a teen knows someone close to them who died, teens REALLY don’t believe they can be hurt. That means that a 18 year-old has a hard time “getting” what could happen if they have sex without a condom or smoke a joint and get in a car. If you ask them, the smart ones can tell you the right answer (pregnancy and a car accident), but they can’t really feel the fear of the possible outcome- the “Illusion of Immortality” gets in the way. It is the fear that prompts all of us to make a different decision, not just knowing a fact.
The second form of thinking is called the “Invisible Audience.” Teens actually feel, most of the time, as if EVERYONE is looking at them and judging them. This way of thinking can create worry and fear. It also makes them want to blend into the crowd by not standing out, so they do what their friends do. So, teens who hang-out with risk-taking friends are more likely to take risks themselves.
Dump all of this into a cauldron of hormones, changing bodies, sexuality, and learning to be one’s own person, and a pretty intense life comes out.
Believe it or not, most teens handle all of this really well. However, if a teen has to deal with family or world drama (divorce, suicide at school, car accident, etc), they can reach a point where they stop coping well and need some help.
That’s what Teen Counseling is about…helping teenagers get back to a mind space where they can deal with normal teen stuff, by addressing and working through the not normal stuff.