When Your Teen Needs Counselling

By Mindfront Shanghai Centre 2021-12-28 17:07:32

The teenage years can be challenging. Intense emotions and behavioural changes may cause tension, but when do they become a bigger problem? Here is advice on when counselling can be beneficial.


How is teenage rebellion different from depression?

Having a rebellious stage, or even a lot of emotional issues is typical for adolescents. It’s directly linked to their physical and neurological changes. Mood swings, extreme emotions with risk seeking behaviours, testing boundaries, even vandalism are actually normal teen behaviours. But we consider a few things when distinguishing between a normal concern or a clinical issue.

One is the impact severity. Is the impact just a nuisance to parents and teachers, or is that behaviour impacting a teen’s normal functioning, social relationships, academic performance, or physical health? We also look for tremendous and sudden behavioural changes. The third thing we look for is self-harm, suicide, or thoughts or action of harming others.

Parents need to pay attention to any significant issues with a relationship, a significant struggle with academic performance, or a severe change in eating or sleeping habits.


How does counselling deal with addiction?

Neurological changes experienced by teens, particularly their reaction to dopamine, make them prone to be addicted to social media, to alcohol, cigarettes, and many things. We work with the child to first explore the motivation for making a behavioural change because addiction is not just satisfying physical needs. There are emotional needs as well. Any time you need to change a behaviour, especially when it’s associated with very strong needs, you need an even stronger motivation. This motivation is not just “my parents telling me so.” You need to find something to really fuel that kind of struggle. Once there’s a motivation, a psychologist can then support the behavioural and emotional changes during that process.

When you are quitting using digital device, what else are you doing to fill that time? We find a substitute, and that cannot be just reading a book. You cannot use something they don’t want, to substitute for something they really, really want. So, you need to find the next most interesting thing. There are going to be emotional struggles because you are giving up something very, very important to you. Even though it’s not good for you. It’s important. A psychologist will support the child to overcome this emotional difficulty.


When should parents consider counselling for their teenager?

Most of us can use some counselling, especially when teens express the desire to speak to someone. For teens, a lot of times they can’t talk to their peers or don’t want to talk to parents. So they will need a third and neutral party. Counsellors can be a good option. There is a stronger need for counselling when there’s a great impact on daily life.


What does counselling achieve for a teen?

Counsellors create a safe environment and a relationship to explore and talk about thoughts and feelings. Counsellors can model helpful coping mechanisms. We foster skill building such as developing a more helpful behavioural or cognitive pattern.


Feng Guo (Davy), PhD

Guo is the Director of Psychology and member of the British Psychological Society.

Mindfront Shanghai Centre 
Address: 18F, 68 Yuyuan Road
Phone: 6718 8883