Adolescence, or the years between 11 (sometimes earlier) and 19 (sometimes later) is a special time in our development when we are encountering a new found sense of individuality, including a separate identity, and sense of self with interests that are authentic and uniquely different from people and things we once agreed with and didn’t even think twice about. This is an important time for:
- Self-discovery with a separate space needed to explore new self-awareness and feelings about the people around them
- Developing a sense of their own boundaries
- Finding their own voice to express feelings and internal experiences
- Learning and cultivating intimacy with self-chosen and self-directed relationships
The teenage years are a time of looking deeper at the self to encounter big questions about beliefs, self-care and independence, intensity of emotions, and defining who they relate to and who relate to them.
Along with this process of discovery comes the capacity for analyzing and thinking about oneself, often a bit too critically and can lead to both an internal and interpersonal shut down. If making art was a part of childhood, it can waiver and peter out. If she was social and fun-loving, new doubts may have arisen as she re-examines herself. If he feels significantly different from his peers, this can be a time when articulating one’s choices and feelings are unfathomable and sense of desire can feel far from attainable.
There can also be a newly developing sense of excitement, endless possibility, and joy of discovery and therapy can be a place to harness and solidify these unique and amazing capacities. Sometimes, there is pressure to conform, not only to peers but to the expectations of teachers, parents and societal norms, and specific attention is placed on protecting the therapy from outside influences and finding a place to develop one’s independence is of vital importance.
While we all go through the process of individuation and finding ourselves, the internal experience is personal and unique to each of us. Depending on the teen’s preference and needs, the parent may called upon for collateral support, to educate the parent or acknowledge when boundaries are needed. How much information is shared is a conversation that may be explored with the therapist and a decision made by the teen, taking place within the teen’s presence.