Kids today have to deal with stressors and challenges in life that their parents didn’t have to even consider when they were young. Perhaps not surprising then, rates of anxiety and depression are increasing. More and more, we hear heartbreaking stories of bullying, youth suicide, and more. Increasingly, parents are needing to find counseling for their child or teen.
It Isn’t Easy Being the Parent to a 21st Century Kid
Parents, don’t be hard on yourselves. Being a parent can be a tough role to play even in the best of circumstances. It becomes even more difficult if your child:
- has experienced Adverse Childhood Experience(s) (ACE), such as abuse or neglect
- has issues with sensory processing or executive functioning
And understand as well that there is nothing “bad” or “broken” about your child or teen if they need counseling. Everywhere kids look, they’re having to navigate the bombardment of sensory stimulation. Along with that, but the messages they receive from society at large aren’t always the most healthy. Yet at the same time, they don’t yet have the life experience and wisdom to know how to best navigate through it all. With all that, is it really surprising that your child or teen’s mental health is affected?
As the parent or caregiver of a child or teen who is struggling, you want to help above all else. But this is all new to you, too. How do you know what your child needs when they don’t want (or are unable) to tell you? How do you know when counseling is right for your child or teen?
Things Your Child May Be Dealing With
Childhood and adolescence is an important time in human development. During this time, children and teens are developing coping skills and resilience. The skills they develop can either be helpful or harmful to them later on as they become adults. Some kids may be able to cope with the intensity of their feelings and experiences in healthy ways on their own. One such way kids and teens can do this is through making music.
Yet, others may not be able to cope so well. They may turn to drugs or procrastination. They may refuse to try new things because their fear of failure is too great. This is where counseling could help your child or teen.
Unique Individual Experiences Have an Influence
Everybody’s experiences growing up are different. As well, how a child or teen understands and internalizes their experiences differ too. This is true even among siblings growing up in the same family and sharing the same experiences. That’s why it’s important for you to understand what your child may be grappling with.
Things your child may be struggling with include their:
General Mental Health
Managing Anxiety and Depression.
Worries that seem small to adults can be monumental to kids. Each year, an increasing number of kids struggles with anxiety. In Boulder County, it’s suggested that 20% of children age 1-14 have difficulties with their:
- interactions and relationships with others.
Teen depression, in particular, can have alarming consequences. This is because it can contribute to suicidal thoughts, attempts, and in some cases, completion.
Coping with the Pressure to be Perfect.
Many kids today struggle with real or perceived pressures to be “perfect.” This pressure may be due to outside sources, such as parents, teachers, or peers. However, they may also be imposing these expectations upon themselves.
As well, rigid thinking can also make it difficult for kids to recognize other ways of doing things. With that, they may expect immediate success when they try new things. For some kids, they can’t tolerate not achieving immediate success. They may begin to self-identify as failures, or “stupid”. This, in turn, contributes to:
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of motivation
- Feelings of powerlessness
Searching for their identity.
Kids’ may be questioning who they are and who they want to be. This is an important part of adolescence. Kids need to be able to individuate themselves from their families. As they become adults, they need to be able to discover their own personal truth.
With that, some kids are working with even greater, fundamental dimensions of their self-identity. They may recognize themselves as transgender. As well, they may be grappling with their sexual orientation.
Recognizing this can be stressful for some kids. They may question how to tell their family and friends and whether they’ll still love and accept them. For a child who lives somewhere that they can’t be accepted for who they are, this can be scary.
Sensory Needs and Neurology
Understanding their sensory needs.
Some of the struggles kids face are due to their own innate neurological wiring. Their brains aren’t “neurotypical.” This could be due to a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Whereas some kids may have unrelated issues with sensory processing or particular sensory needs.
Yet, I know that it isn’t easy to know how to support your child if their way of being and perceiving the world isn’t “typical.” It may be hard for you to understand them. Likewise, it may be hard for them to even understand you or themselves.
You may find that your child has difficulty paying attention and focusing on what they need to do. They may also have difficulty planning and following directions as a result. As a result, they may have a hard time in school with grades and completing assignments.
Perhaps they find it challenging interacting with other people in general. This could be due to unrecognized sensory needs or be the result of their unique ways of making sense of the world. This may be hard for you to understand, and they may not have the words to tell you.
“That Sounds Like My Child. How Could Counseling Help Them?”
It can be painful to see your child struggling because you can’t do anything to change it. You are there, ready to support without question, but you also understand that you can’t help them alone. This is when child or teen could benefit from working with a counselor. Here are a few of the ways counseling can be helpful for children and teens:
Explore effective ways to express oneself
Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint what is bothering us. This is especially true for children and teens. Working with a counselor can provide them with the time and space to gain clarity and strength. Music therapy in the counseling session provides a safe, nonverbal means of self-expression that can later be explored verbally. Through the metaphor and experience of music, kids and teens can learn new, more healthy ways of expressing themselves.
Self-Regulate and Develop Coping Skills
Discover ways to cope with stressful experiences and emotions
Kids need to learn and develop strategies for working with intense emotions. Self-regulation is especially important for children who have experienced trauma. A counseling relationship that incorporates music can help kids and teens do this. This is due in part to how music can both activate and calm our nervous system.
A Safe Space to Simply Be
Experience unconditional positive regard
Kids need to feel safe to be themselves. This is because they can receive so much judgment from society or their peers. As a result, they can form a protective shell around them.
Children and teens can benefit from the counseling relationship because it’s non-judgmental. With this, I as the counselor, hold unconditional positive regard towards them. As a result, counseling can help children and teens feel safe in discovering more of who they truly are.
Gain Personal Insight
Connect thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
Therapy isn’t about telling clients what to think or how to feel. As a counselor, I listen and reflect back to clients what I observe. This can be reflecting back to them their words, tone or body language. By doing this, I create opportunities for them to hear their own voices and what they’re saying.
Counseling can help children and teens develop greater self-awareness. This can help them to identify their underlying thoughts and feelings about something. In so doing, we can then examine what they want and mean, and draw connections to their behaviors.
Develop Critical Thinking Skills
Learn how to think for oneself
We live in complex times. There is a constant barrage of information out there demanding our attention. Because of this, kids need to cultivate critical thinking skills. Doing so will help them to make safe, healthy choices that will best serve them throughout life. Music therapy fosters these skills experiences that foster curiosity and discernment. It can do this because because can be music engaging and motivating. As well, it can promote both objective and subjective critique, discussion, and analysis.
More About How I Work as a Counselor with Children and Teens
I understand that you may still have some questions about how counseling might work. Keep reading to learn more about how I work as a counselor and music therapist with children and teens.
Examples From My Child and Teen Counseling Work
Below are some vignettes highlighting my therapeutic work with children and teens. These stories are composites of client experiences within therapy. They do not represent any particular client. They are to illustrate ways that children and teens have benefited from counseling.
A Child Whose Mother Abandoned Them at a Young Age
Attachment and feeling a sense of belonging were important in my work with this client. Along with this was a desire to feel worthy of love.
Much of our time together was spent engaged in shared improvisation on the piano. Sitting by me, while playing at opposite ends of the piano allowed them to be close to a caring adult. At the same time, they were able to maintain their need for personal space.
Playful activities at the piano helped the child feel more trust towards me. Thus thereby allowing them to feel safe with an adult. Through our work together, they began sharing with me things about the sadness and anger they felt.
Grief and Loss
A teen involved in the legal system whose parents were divorced.
We worked together on goals related to self-esteem and grief. Much of our work centered around me teaching them how to play requested songs on the guitar and piano. These songs held special personal meaning to them as they reminded them of their father. We would take about these meanings and associations.
Each song would take a few weeks to learn and their commitment was strong. Their self-confidence and self-expression increased as they continued to develop musical skills. Treatment staff also saw a change as the client’s acting out behaviors in the program decreased.
Teenager Who Was Cutting
When we first met, the client told me that they were struggling with their identity. This included their sexual orientation. They worried that their family wouldn’t accept them if they knew that they didn’t identify as “straight.” Increasing their self-esteem and self-confidence were the primary therapeutic goals.
They enjoyed singing, and they had eclectic musical tastes. These musical influences played out in the songs that they wanted to sing. Working with them on these songs allowed them to “try on” different personas. Singing helped them to become more grounded and comfortable within themselves. Their feelings of depression decreased and they shared more about their concerns. By the end of our work together, the cutting behaviors had ceased.
FAQs About the Child and Teen Counseling Services I Offer…
How is music therapy different than my child taking music lessons?
Music therapy and music lessons have very different goals and focus. In therapy, the focus is on achieving specific therapeutic goals unrelated to music. Music serves as a tool, a vehicle for personal exploration, growth, and development.
On the other hand, the focus of music lessons is musical development. Although that isn’t to say that a person may not find lessons to be therapeutic. SoundWell provides adapted music lessons to those who may benefit from an adapted approach. See our Studio Policy for more information.
How will music make therapy more effective for my child?
Music can “amplify” the skills and insights gained from therapy. This is because music impacts us in many different, multifaceted ways. We are neurologically and physiologically hard-wired to respond to music. Moreover, music can connect us to unrecognized thoughts and feelings. At the same time while also serving as a means of communication and self-expression. We can create and investigate new ways of being by engaging with music.
Logistics About Therapy
How long does therapy take, and how much does it cost?
The length of therapy varies by person, dependent upon a variety of factors. Typically, there is a period of a few months where weekly therapy sessions are necessary. This is because we need to establish rapport and develop a treatment plan. However, after this foundational time, sessions can taper off to every two weeks to once a month.
Eventually, sessions will no longer be necessary. Although sometimes people find occasional check-ins to be helpful. While at other times, they find reward in transitioning to music lessons.
Generally, the more complicated a person’s situation is the more time that may be necessary. Music therapy and counseling services are $100 an hour when provided in Longmont. They are $120 an hour when provided outside of Longmont. Through SonderMind, I also take insurance. I work with Aetna, Anthem (HMO and PPO), Bright Health, Cigna, United Healthcare, and Profile EAP.
Do you offer groups?
Yes, SoundWell Music Therapy does offer community music therapy groups. Groups are currently offered in collaboration with schools and community mental health organizations. More information about the groups I offer can be found here.
“My Child or Teen Could Benefit From Counseling. What’s Next?“
If you have further questions about the counseling services I offer, you can contact me by email. Otherwise, I offer a free 15-minute consultation by phone or online that you can schedule here. At this time, we’ll talk in more detail about your situation and how I might be able to help your child or teen.