You Become What You Practice: The Importance of Action in Teen Therapy
According to research conducted by Michael Lambert, there are four common factors to all effective teen therapy and therapy in general. These four common factors include:
The relationship between the teen therapist and the teenager,
The teenager's mindset or expectations,
The techniques utilized by the teen therapist, and
Lambert found that:
The techniques used account for 15% of the effectiveness therapy,
The teenager's hope and mindset accounts for another 15%,
The relationship bond between the teenager and the teen therapist accounts for 30% of the effectiveness of therapy, and
The highest percentage is what Lambert calls extratherapeutic factors. These account for 40% of therapy effectiveness.
Extratherapeutic factors include the positive relationships and resources in the teenager's life, including the family system. They also include the teen's effort and action outside of the teen therapy session.
The teen counselor can build a great relationship with the teenager, they can use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques and them and the teen can believe they are going to change.
But if the teenager does not put in effort and take action outside of the therapy session, their chance of growing will not be very high.
In my experience as a teen therapist, I would say that effort and action outside of the therapy session is the most important extratherapeutic factor. Teen clients that put in effort and work on their therapeutic exercises grow and get better. Teens that fail to work outside of therapy do not experience much progress.
Three Approaches to Practice in Teen Counseling
As a teen counselor, I am an avid reader of research and studies into what makes teen counseling effective. In doing so, I'm able to utilize these findings to better help the teens, and other clients, I work with.
Below are some approaches that I found helpful when working with teens:
1. Teenagers Taking Small Steps
It's important to start somewhere. If I'm working with a teenager who's struggling with anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks or other anxiety related struggles, I might suggest they spend time practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness has been shown by research to be effective for anxiety related challenges. It has also been shown to be effective for teen depression and other challenges. As a teen therapist, I also provide counseling for teen depression here in Katy, Texas and for those in Houston.
There are plenty of apps that provide quality guided meditations. Instead of asking teenagers to start with 10 or 15 minute sessions, I encourage them to spend 1-3 minutes practicing mindfulness. It does not seem like much, but it's gets them started with an achievable goal which increases the likelihood of success.
If a teen wants to work on an exercise routine, I encourage them to start with a modest routine so they can build endurance. The worst thing is for a teen to take on something that's too much at first and then they give up.
It's important to take things slow and to build on it over time.
In addition to small steps, it's valuable for teens to commit themselves to consistent action. If a teen's actions are not consistent, they will likely not experience the benefits of effort and follow-through.
Consistency does not have to mean several times a day or even once a day. Most teens (and many young adults and adults alike) I see have fallen into a cycle of doing very little to improve their mental health.
When working with teen athletes from the Katy and Houston area, they tend to get this concept innately. When working to enhance or improve athletic performance, consistency is one of the key elements in doing so.
My rule of thumb is to encourage teens to practice something at least three times a week. An example of what I'd prescribe:
Practice mindfulness: Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Go for a walk: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
Journal: Three nights a week
Thought record log: Three afternoons a week
An important component of teen therapy is accountability. Accountability refers the teen counselor checking in on the teen and helping him/her track their progress.
If the teen only walked once that week, the teen therapist does not get upset or judge the teenager. The teen counselor acknowledges the teenager's effort and progress and explores why there was a struggle to follow through.
I also collaborate with the parents so they can help encourage their teen to take committed action outside of the therapy session. It's important the teen does not feel overly pressured or nagged.
Gentle reminders and positive encouragements can go a long way in helping teens accomplish their goals.
4. Family Therapy
Pulling the following three steps together, sometimes family therapy can be the cornerstone of a teenager's success. Many teens I work with are highly motivated and want to change. There are those who enjoy therapy but struggle to implement what is talked about and learned into their daily lives.
When this is the case, starting family counseling can help. As a family therapist, I like to review the challenges that we are working hard to overcome for the teen. We also explore the action that is being taken by the teen in between sessions.
Family therapy also provides a strong resource for accountability. Here we gently explore how the actions or inactions of the teen between sessions has an effect on the different family members (whether intended, unintended, or simply unaware).
This is not to "guilt" the teenager into action, but it is important that they have a clear picture regarding their impact on the one's they love. We praise and validate the steps they have taken while at the same time, provide some accountability on the steps yet to be taken.
We also explore how the family can help support the teen in helping them over the hump of inaction. In family counseling, we also explore the different ways that each family member can do things differently that may help the teen in their therapeutic journey.
Family therapy can be a powerful tool to help support the teenager, help with accountability for the teen, as well as help the family system make some changes to further increase the chances of success.
As a family counselor, when I have each family member willing to look at themselves and willing to take action to do things a little differently where called for, the rate of success is very high.
Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Providing Teen Therapy & Family Counseling in Katy, Tx & Houston
At our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we utilize those teen therapy and family counseling approaches that are supported by research.
With teen and young adult mental health reaching national emergency levels according to the American Association of Pediatrics, there has never been a greater need for therapists who specialize in teen counseling and family therapy.
If your teen is struggling and you are ready to meet with a specialist in teen therapy, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling, PLLC.
Meet with one of our therapists
Take that first step in breaking free of the bonds of trauma.
Other Teen Therapy, Family Counseling, & Young Adult Therapy Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we also provide other services in addition to trauma therapy and PTSD treatment. We have therapists who also specialize in Marriage counseling and couples therapy.
While not intended, it can be stressful parenting a teen who is struggling with trauma. Our hearts break as parents as we gather all our resources at our disposal to help our teen. As a result, it can sometimes create strain on the relationship. Our marriage counselors and couples therapists can help.
We also provide other counseling and therapeutic services for teens, young adults, & families at our Katy, Tx location:
Board Certified Neurofeedback
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
About the Author
Quique Autrey is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Quique specializes in teen therapy and helping teens build upon their innate strengths while developing skills and tools to overcome trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, ADHD, and more.
Quique views each individual through that lens and provides therapy for the family system which includes: teen therapy, young adult counseling, family counseling, marriage counseling & couples therapy.
Quique also has a passion for helping teens, young adults, and adults who may be on the Autism Spectrum. He has a talent for connecting with and helping people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
If you're ready to start your healing journey in teen therapy, you can call us at 346-202-4662 or email us at email@example.com.