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“Tips on Counseling Adolescents”

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

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Counselling adolescents is different from counseling children or adults, for the simple reason that Adolescents are neither kids nor adults, they are in transition, in between.

When an adult walks in for counseling he is by and large, mostly decided within the mind that there exists a need to talk. He is seeking to clarify, to bring some semblance of order into life. It is just a matter of time, until a certain comfort is established and the adult is able to voice his thoughts and talk of his feelings. They are to a large extent free and independent.

When a child is brought in for counseling, he is bought by parents, is dependant on them, not only in the physical sense, but in the emotional realm too. Might not be able to express himself clearly, and a lot of individual attention and playing goes into child counseling.

Whereas counseling adolescents is different because AN ADOLESCENT is

  • Mostly brought by an adult, or forced to come to counselling
  • Presumes that he will get unwanted advice and sermons all the time
  • Generally does not trust adults to keep up their word or be truthful
  • Unable to express emotions, verbally, clearly
  • Feels vulnerable, and hence becomes defensive
  • Exhibits a “don’t care” attitude, which is only external
  • Uncomfortable with show of any kind of affection, comfort
  • Highly emotional, and yet can become suddenly rational
  • Wants to be treated like an adult, and might not want family involvement

Then how do you counsel the teenager?

  • Make sure you disarm him by treating him like an adult and a friend
  • Allow his to take the lead in the initial stage
  • Learn about things that interest him
  • Talk his “language,” and go down to his level, accept his slang or arrogance
  • Allow him to ramble, digress, shift topics rapidly initially
  • Make a mental note of the emotions that you observe in him, and reflect them back
  • Give him the space to withdraw when he feels unable to voice or control emotions.
  • Don’t be shocked by his language, or when he talks about so-called unacceptable topics
  • Be genuine , they pick up disapproval very fast
  • Use praise immediately, when relevant, and be specific
  • Convey warmth and caring but don’t overdo or treat him like a baby
  • Accept and understand him. Ask for clarifications, information, express your interest in his world, and your willingness to learn something new. Be a part of his world
  • Use a bit of humour, be light-hearted and casual. Don’t appear stern , be
  • Assure confidentiality. Tell the parents in presence of the teenager that you would appreciate if he is not questioned about what he shares with you.
  • Reassure him that coming back is his choice, at his time
  • Reassure that you would help in exploring options, clear confusion
  • Be observant about general appearance, mood, behaviour, speech and language. Learn to identify when he is lying, but do not confront him directly.

About the author


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