Teenagers considered “at risk” struggle with issues unlike those of your average teenager. These teens may experience severe depression, anger, and anxiety, leading to problematic behaviors, such as suicidal thoughts/actions, self-injury, aggression, eating disorders, and substance abuse. You may find these teens in the juvenile justice system or in alternative schools. Typically, their behavioral problems are a reaction to some kind of trauma that alters their developmental path. They have to find a way to cope – a way to survive – their stressful, chaotic, and even dangerous environments.
My professional experiences in foster care, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and alternative education settings have given me a great appreciation for the particular needs of these teens. In therapy, I use patience and empathy to understand my client’s experience and develop a trusting relationship. Many of these teens want to change but don’t know how to ask for help. Many of them want to understand their behavior but don’t know the words to describe how they feel. Over time, I work with my teen clients to develop self-awareness, a positive self-image, empathy for others, and a desire to do the right thing. I work with them to find their voice and speak with confidence and respect. I work with them to find their place in this world.
“At-risk” or not, your teen deserves a chance to create a better life.