Teenagers and their Adults

I offer individual sessions for teenagers. I also like to encourage the significant adults in a teen’s life to join in psychotherapy.  Family, teachers, mentors, youth leaders and coaches orient teens with a moral compass.  My experience has shown me that some teens follow that compass (with adjustments and upgrades) and others craft a moral compass of their own.  In any case, what is important is that they align themselves with sound values through intention, awareness and purpose. With solution-focused therapy and narrative therapy, I help significant adults provide the individual teen with the full map for negotiating the sometimes turbulent waters of adolescence.  These important players are welcome and essential in the therapy session.

My approach to therapy with teens is grounded in two beliefs.

Belief #1: the teenage brain is paradoxical.

This means it maintains simultaneously…

opposite thoughts…

Get Out of My Life, but
First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall?1

opposite intentions…

“I don’t want to have sex while I am in high school and can you make an appointment so I can get contraception?”


Belief #2:  Paradox is good for the brain, heart and soul.

The paradoxical brain can be one of the most frustrating things about being a teen in basically an adult world.  It is also one of the most frustrating things about being an adult (especially a parent) in a teen’s life.  Here is where teens and their adults find common ground: the ability to hold two opposite experiences builds resilience, a key component in well-being and healthy relationships.   It is important then that adults meet teens at this common ground.  When they do, adults gain flexibility of mind, and adolescents get to have the crucial experience of being seen, heard, and loved.  This is a win-win for the whole family, the whole classroom, the whole community.

My role as a psychotherapist working with teens and their adults is to tap into the riches of the adolescent brain while always keeping the adult in mind.  I want to honor the adult that the adolescent is becoming and honor the adults who love and care for that adolescent.


1 Wolf, A.E. Get out of my life but first could you drive me to the mall?  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 2002.

"Research indicates that the involvement of inspirational others with at-risk children and adolescents serves a resiliency protective function.... Once involved in treatment the inspirational other and concerned friends can join forces and establish a tight-knit support system for him or her in a social context that he or she continues to experience difficulties in, such as at school."

Matthew D. Sleek man, Pathways to change: Brief therapy with difficult adolescents.