Teens therapy began taking a huge place of importance after the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a systematic review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, adolescents worldwide experience significantly higher stress, depression, and anxiety levels due to the pandemic. In addition, youngsters have also reported an elevated frequency of consuming cannabis and alcohol post-pandemic.
The review recommended that adolescents seek and use all therapies and available resources to help teens glide through these difficult times. In line with the systematic review, Danica Copp, a licensed therapist, found that teenagers have begun to report several mental health conditions, including social anxiety. We sat down for a quick chat about her teen counseling challenges post covid era.
She noted that adolescents risk experiencing social isolation and loneliness post-pandemic. In addition, she offers suggestions based on her observations during her therapeutic practice.
Danica (Dah-NEE-ka) Copp MSW, LICSW (MA)/ LCSW (VA) has a bachelor and master’s degree in social work (MSW) and she is independently clinically licensed in Massachusetts (LICSW) and Virginia (LCSW). Danica has over 30 years of clinical experience working with adolescents. She started out as a staff member at a residential facility for adolescent girls, and moved on to working at an emergency room as a psychiatric screener.
For the last 15 years, she has worked in private practice in teen counseling services. She reveals, “I have always had an interest in helping adolescents, and teen therapy has been one of my specialties.”
What sort of problems/challenges are you seeing today with teens?
Post-pandemic, I am witnessing a lot of social anxiety, due to which teenagers are having a really hard time being around others. They may feel they are being scrutinized by others while having a conversation with others, or feel that they are being observed by others in a social situation.
This has led them to avoid social situations, which exacerbates the loneliness they already feel. Teenagers observe peers on social media who appear to have it “all together” and this leads to an increase in depressive symptoms.
Most feel, “everyone else is out doing things without them”.
What is the most difficult challenge during adolescence?
Adolescence is a tumultuous phase marked by various challenges, but perhaps one of the most difficult is the quest for identity and self-discovery. It’s a time when young adults and individuals grapple with a multitude of questions about who they are, what they believe, and to better understand where they fit in the world.
The struggle for autonomy and independence can lead to conflicts with parents and authority figures, which further complicates this stage. Peer pressure, the desire of young person to be accepted and liked by peers, friends and family and the need to conform to social norms can also be intense.
Emotional turbulence, including mood swings, anxiety, and self-doubt, in teen’s behavior is common during adolescence. Coping with academic pressures, career decisions, and the uncertainty of the future can add to the emotional burden of many teens.
Moreover, the physical changes and the development of a self-image can be challenging. The amalgamation of these factors can make adolescence an incredibly trying period, demanding emotional support, understanding, and guidance from parents, educators, and other significant figures.
What are three problems that confront adolescents today?
Adolescents today face a complex array of challenges, but three prominent issues are mental health struggles, substance abuse, and cyberbullying. The pressure to excel academically and socially often contributes to anxiety and depression in troubled teens. Substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol, can be tempting as adolescents seek coping mechanisms.
The digital age has brought about the issue of cyberbullying, where online harassment and social media-related conflicts have a profound impact on adolescents’ mental well-being. Addressing these problems requires a combination of awareness, education, and support from parents, educators, and mental health professionals.
In what areas do these challenges affect them?
These challenges affect their social abilities at school and create more perceived isolation and loneliness among teenagers.
Before the pandemic, what were the most common challenges you were facing with teens?
Before the pandemic, I saw more interpersonal conflicts and fewer instances of isolation.
What would you advise parents of teens with problems post-pandemic?
I always tell parents to sit down and listen to their teenagers and show empathy for their struggles, whether they understand them. Their child is suffering and when they dismiss their teen counselors feelings, it worsens their feelings of isolation.
Parents today had different struggles when they were teens. Most of us were lucky not to have social media to contend with, besides facing our adolescence.
Supporting your teen’s post-pandemic recovery
Navigating the post-pandemic world poses unique challenges for teenagers. It’s a time when parents may say they’re not only grappling with the typical trials of adolescence but also contending with the disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This section offers valuable insights into how parents can support their teens in getting back on track, emphasizing patience, well-being, connections, healthy relationships, and meaningful engagement as crucial components of their recovery.
Patience and Acceptance: Understand that change and growth aren’t linear. Accept your teen’s progress and avoid comparing them to others. Adolescents follow their unique paths, and their brains are still developing, so give them time.
Physical Activity: Encourage your teen to engage in physical activities that suit their preferences, whether it’s walking, dancing, or playing sports. Help them determine where and how often to exercise, making it a non-negotiable routine.
Prioritize Sleep: Ensure your teen gets the recommended 9+ hours of sleep. Adequate rest is crucial for learning and mental well-being. Even short, 20-minute naps can make a difference.
Foster Connections: Encourage your teen to maintain at least one or two close friendships and a healthy relationship with an adult. Positive parent-child bonds boost resilience, immune function, and cognitive skills.
Focused Interests: Help your teen find activities that captivate their undivided attention and align with their interests. While video games are popular, diversify their experiences with sports, music, reading, art, or engaging classes to provide meaningful outlets for self-expression and enjoyment.
What is the best therapy teens can get?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or something similar like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are the most helpful for teenagers. These therapies help them challenge their thoughts and recognize that thoughts and feelings are not facts. DBT also helps clients to learn to manage and regulate difficult emotions.
Seek professional help proactively
Therapists like Danica Copp, who works with teenagers, have found the post-pandemic phase particularly grueling for teenagers. Frequent lockdowns, being away from social circles at schools and colleges, and being cooped inside their own homes have all increased social media usage and a sense of isolation. If you are a teenager or the parent of an adolescent, watch out for any changes in behavior.
If you feel they need help, do not hesitate to contact a licensed professional like Danica. They can help deal with feelings of isolation, loneliness, addiction to social media, and even more severe mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
What type of issues can you see arising when providing therapy to a youth?
When providing therapy to youth, several issues may arise. Adolescents often present unique challenges due to their developmental stage. Resistance to these therapy sessions is common, as they may feel uncomfortable or resistant to sharing their thoughts and feelings. Maintaining confidentiality while addressing the concerns of parents or guardians can be delicate.
Engaging adolescents in therapy, building trust, and ensuring they feel heard can be demanding. Additionally, diverse issues such as peer pressure, academic stress, self-esteem, mental health issues and identity exploration are often central in therapy.
Addressing these concerns requires a flexible, patient, and empathetic approach, often involving collaboration with parents or guardians to provide effective and supportive care.
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