As a psychotherapist with a background in Expressive Arts Therapy, I am able to connect with tweens and teens not only with words but also using drama, art, music and play. I see my work with children as a collaboration between myself, the child, his or her parents and other providers, in an effort to find ways for the child to know and communicate her experience in a way that would make sense to her and allow her to fully participate in her own life.
Respecting teens in Therapy
,Why the heck are teens in the Bay Area under so much pressure?
Many wonderful schools in the Bay Area do a great job serving a variety of needs. However, many thoughtful, creative teens who don't buy into the competitive, entertainment industry driven culture, may find themselves in despair. In our current society, often deprived of intellectual rigor, they may find themselves lacking the vocabulary and opportunity to express their big thoughts and feelings. Some teens describe it as the feeling of not tolerating their own bodies- their awkward changing bodies. This feeling, in our current culture is often mistakenly translated into a feeling of being transgender (yes, I know that some people are genuinely transgender- I'm not talking about those people now). Teens who feel out of place, anxious and depressed are too often hospitalized as a first resort. Given medication which is never tested on teens so we can't begin to know its effect on those vulnerable changing bodies. Those smart, sensitive young people are told to take charge of their emotions (ever changing, not completely known). Well meaning therapists sometimes instruct them to identify and avoid "triggers", to "stay safe".
I wonder what happens to a teen's curiosity under such circumstances. While I do not advocate risk taking behaviors, I do feel it is important to discuss respect a teen's need for exploration, to support and guide the emergence of value systems, beliefs, convictions, sense of esthetics, a sense of history and of purpose. Some moments are uncomfortable in any exploration. I belief that a safe exploration happens in a non punitive environment where rules are not arbitrary and a teen's need for privacy is respected. The ability to respectfully disagree, to argue, to defend one's point of view, to change one's mind- those are things that make us human and make us part of a society. I bring those convictions into therapy sessions with teens and consultations with parents.
I meet teens for therapy and do my best to have meaningful conversations with them and to empower their parents to do the same. I take their ideas, feelings and experiences seriously and try not to take myself too seriously. Meeting every week or twice a week creates a rhythm in which the creative elements in our relationship can come to life. I use art, drama, writing and sand tray therapy in addition to conversation with tweens and teens (and adults!). We think about past experiences, trauma, family, peers and life itself.