Adolescents & Teens


Teenage years can be the best of times and the worst of times. There are many challenges facing teenagers, ranging from bullying to substances to classroom struggles.

As these issues bear down on our teenagers, anxiety and depression can seep into their reality, making it difficult to navigate everyday life at home, at school, or with friends.

At Neal Psychological Specialties, we take a relational approach with our teens. We know adolescents are looking to be understood, not just treated. Our goal is to provide a safe place to have a conversation about what is troubling them.

We foster self-worth and self-esteem as the building blocks of a full, thriving life. Every parent’s dream is that their teen reflects not only the love and values that they, as a parent, have poured into their child since birth—but also for their child’s own unique personality traits to be encouraged and blossom. 

At NPS, we hold that every teen has inborn brilliance, with talents waiting to be nurtured and mentored into full expression. Our goal is to give them effective tools for the challenges they are experiencing. We equip our teen clients to have a balanced emotional life with good habits and healthy relationships with their families and friends. 

The fundamental need of any teen is to be seen, be heard, and to know that what they say matters. The dynamic we create is one in which the teen feels immediately heard and accepted while we earn the right to speak into their life, so that we can have a two-way, open conversation about healthy options to their struggles.

Confidentiality between the counselor and your teen

We know it can be tricky waters when talking with our teen clients and parents. We have heard many stories of parents experiencing being closed out of the counseling process when they have sought help in the past. Teens will not be open if what they say is not held with trust and safety with their counselor. To help navigate this legitimate tension, we address confidentiality up front with both the parent and teen so as to strike a comfortable balance. We are intentional about building trust and safety with our teen clients so they can disclose anything on their mind and heart in the session—and we are intentional to build safety and trust with our parents so they know we have their teen’s best interest at heart. Our goal is to support as much communication between the teen and parent in their relationship with one another.

The use of medications for more severe depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, etc

Many parents are hesitant about their teens using medications. NPS counselors are sensitive and responsive to this legitimate concern. We offer natural approaches, medications, and other treatment options—all of which will be fully discussed with you and your teen. We work with trusted local professionals when we need to lean into their speciality. Please check out our Alternative Treatments page that addresses using alternative, more natural approaches to anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc.

Here are a few issues we commonly see:

While bullying has always been an issue, social media and gaming bring it right into the teen’s room and pocket. At such a pivotal developmental age, bullying can dismantle self-worth and esteem. We work to identify the root issues of why the teen is being bullied, contextualizing what might be happening in the mind and psyche of the bully, causing the behavior. Next, we focus on how to remove or navigate through it—all while cultivating an innate sense of worth and confidence, so that bullying has less to “stick to” and damage. We know that sometimes we cannot change or stop the bullies in this world. But, we can learn to be strong inside, so that the bullies behaviors and words have less impact on us.

Substance use is on the rise. Vaping has exploded on the scene, and marijuana is becoming more commonplace. While parents generally have a zero-tolerance policy with their teens, teenagers can find ways to use nonetheless. NPS clinicians are purposeful in teasing apart whether substance use is truly defiant or—more commonly—a way to self-medicate their emotional issues. Either way, our goal is to progress towards healthier ways of living. In the appropriate cases, we will refer out to programs that have all the necessary support.

Depression is difficult for all involved. We know that telling a depressed teen to “try harder" or “push through” only worsens the issue. We like to take a team approach when addressing depression. This includes the teen, parents, prescribing physician, and any other professional that helps move the teen into a healthier state.

Self-harm is a common mate to depression. While self-harm can be a difficult topic, we understand that the act does not always mean the teen is in danger of taking his or her life. Self-harm can communicate a variety of messages, from: “I feel numb” to “I feel overwhelmed” to “I am bored.” It is important for us to tease apart the function the self-harm is providing for the teen, in order to treat it properly.

Suicidal ideation can be frightening for parents when they find out their teen has thoughts to harm themselves. It is important to not overreact to the teen’s thoughts. Yes, they need to be addressed, but typically those thoughts are communicating something of a deeper pain for the teen. Pain such as: I’m lonely, nobody cares about me. I’m worthless. Life is hard now and it’s only going to get harder. Why go on?

With this in mind, our NPS counselors are intentional and swift to make responsible decisions, with the involvement of the family, to ensure the teen’s safety toward the ultimate goal of health and flourishing.

Similar to depression, anxiety leaks into all areas of a teen’s life. It most often depletes their mental gas tank, not allowing them to take on their school, social, and personal responsibilities. They tend to live their mental life in the past or in the future, contemplating what they should have done or preparing for the multitude of possibilities that might come at them in the day or week. This is exhausting. We like to help the teen shift perspectives, making the past manageable and the future achievable.

Anxiety can be rooted in many different issues. If anxiety is a secondary issue, we will pinpoint the primary problem.

Poor grades are typically the symptom of a deeper issue. Our NPS clinicians dig deep to identify what is really undermining the teen’s ability to apply themselves in school. Our expertise is in this identification process, called “differential diagnosis.” We have an in-house clinical psychologist, Dr. Douglas Neal, who has years of experience and can evaluate on a deeper level if needed, to support the counselor’s treatment plan.We realize our practice cannot support every academic need, so we have connections for learning disabilities, sensory issues, vision and hearing difficulties, tutoring, occupational therapy, and many more. Our role as therapists is to get buy-in from the teen to go on the journey of bettering themselves academically. We are there for their ups and downs, coaching and guiding along the way.

Regardless of what issues your teen is facing, NPS counseling is here to help! Call our office at 815-477-4727 to set up an appointment.

Are you ready to take the next step?

Contact NPS and schedule your first appointment today.

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