Counseling for Children & Teens

Children and Teens are Growing Up in a Complex World

A young boy experiencing loneliness may benefit from counseling for children or teens.

Kids today have to deal with challenges in life that most parents today didn’t have to even consider. As a result of these challenges, rates of anxiety and depression seem to be going through the roof. 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 is challenging in general, and even more so today. These challenges increase if your child has issues sensory processing, executive functioning or communication. Likewise, there’s nothing inherently “wrong” or “bad” about your child or teen if they need counseling.

Everywhere kids look, they’re having to navigate the bombardment of sensory stimulation. With that, society and culture at large send out some pretty unhealthy and distorted messages. At the same time, they don’t yet have the life experience and wisdom to know how to best navigate through it all. It’s inevitable that your child or teen’s mental health and well-being could be 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 your child or teen could benefit from counseling?

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 a healthy way, such as by 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.

Everybody’s experiences growing up are different. This is true even among siblings growing up in the same family. That’s why it’s important to know what some of these differences might be. Things your child may be grappling with can relate to their:

General Mental Health and Well-Being

Trying to Manage Anxiety and Depression.

Worries that seem small to adults can be monumental to kids. Each year, an increasing number of kids struggles with anxiety. According to the 2014 & 2016 Boulder County Child Health Survey, 20% of children age 1-14 have difficulties with their:

  • emotions
  • concentration
  • behavior
  • interactions and relationships with others.
  • Teen depression, in particular, can have alarming consequences. The Boulder Valley School District did a survey and found that more kids have “felt sad or helpless for two weeks.” This increase went up 8%, from 20% to 28%.

    Self Identity

    Searching for their identity.

    Kids’ may be questioning who they are and who they want to be. This is an important part of adolescence. Yet, some kids are recognizing themselves as transgender and/or 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.

    Personal Expectations

    Coping with the Pressure to be Perfect.

    Many kids today struggle with real or perceived pressures to be “perfect.” They may be receiving actual outside pressure, or they may have imposed it upon themselves. 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, and feelings of powerlessness.

    Sensory Needs and Unique Neurology

    Understanding their sensory needs.

    Kids may be struggling due to their own innate neurological wiring. Their brains aren’t “neurotypical,” and that’s okay because it takes all kinds of people in the world. But I know that it isn’t easy to know how to best support your child if their way of being and perceiving the world isn’t “typical.”

    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. You are there, ready to support without question, but you also understand that you can’t help them alone. Your child or teen could benefit from working with a counselor, a neutral yet caring, third-party adult. Here are a few of the many ways counseling can be helpful for children and teens:

    Improve Communication

    Time and space for safe, healthy, honest self-expression

    Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint what is bothering us. This is especially true for children and teens, who may not be able to put their thoughts and feelings into words. Working with a counselor can provide them with the time and space to gain clarity and strength. Incorporating music therapy into the counseling session provides a safe, nonverbal means of self-expression. It can also be a joyful and uplifting means of self-expression that can help them discover new dimensions of who they are.

    Gain Personal Insight

    Guidance in identifying thoughts and feelings, and connecting them to behaviors

    Therapy isn’t about telling clients what to think or how to feel. Rather, as a counselor I listen and reflect back to clients what I observe them saying through their words, tone or body language. By doing this, I create opportunities for them to hear their own voices and what they’re saying. In working with children and teens, I help them to develop an awareness of their underlying thoughts and feelings. In so doing, we can then examine what they want and mean, and draw connections to their behaviors.

    Further Cultivate Self-Regulation and Coping Skills

    Finding ways to self-regulate and cope with stressful experiences or strong emotions

    Kids need to learn and develop strategies for working with intense emotions. For children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences or trauma, self-regulation is especially important. A counseling relationship that incorporates music is a powerful means for helping kids and teens do this.

    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.

    Experience a Safe Space to Simply Be Themselves

    Unconditional positive regard

    Kids need to feel safe to be themselves. They can receive so much judgment from society or their peers that they can form a protective shell around them. Yet, everyone loses out on the gift of who that child or teen is when they don’t feel comfortable enough to be themselves. 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.

    More About How I Work as a Counselor with Children and Teens

    I understand that you may still have some questions about how the child and teen counseling services. Keep reading to learn more about how I work as a counselor and music therapist with children and teens.

    Examples From My Counseling and Music Therapy Work With Children and Teens

    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 the counseling services I provide.

    Attachment Issues

    A Child Whose Mother Abandoned Them at a Young Age

    Attachment and feeling a sense of belonging and feeling worthy of love were important in my work with this client. Much of the client’s progress came from our time together 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.

    As we played, the child’s fingers would approach mine. This led to times where we would “chase” each other on the piano. Through playful activities, like this, we steadily built trust, allowing them to feel safe with an adult. Increasingly, they began sharing their thoughts and feelings with me 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, their commitment was strong. Their self-confidence and self-expression increased as they continued to develop skills. Treatment staff also saw a change as the client’s acting out behaviors in the program decreased.

    Personal Identity

    Teenager Who Was Cutting

    Through the initial assessment, I came to learn from the client 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. Along with this, 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…

    Music Therapy

    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 key 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 wherein weekly therapy sessions are necessary. This is because we need to establish rapport and develop a treatment plan. However, following 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 and complex a person’s situation is the more time that may be necessary. Music therapy and counseling services are one hour long and cost $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), Cigna, United Healthcare ComPsych, and Profile EAP.

    Do you offer groups?

    Yes, SoundWell Music Therapy does offer groups as a way to help increase community access to music therapy. Groups are currently offered in collaboration with schools, youth-oriented community organizations, and mental health organizations. More information about the groups I offer can be found here.

    My Background Working with Children and Teens

    What are Your experiences working with children and teens?

    Professional Experiences
    For over 15 years I have been working with children and teens from diverse backgrounds. As an educator, I’ve worked in both the public and private school settings in the United States and in South Korea. Specific areas I’ve worked in within schools are:

  • Early childhood special education
  • Special education
  • English as a Second Language.

  • My training as a therapist included working at a youth residential treatment center. Here I was able to work with children and teens from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. All these children had backgrounds that included some form of trauma. Currently, I work with children and teens in a variety of school settings as well as individually in my Longmont office.

    Personal Experiences
    Furthermore, I remember how difficult my own experience of growing up was. I struggled as a child and teen. This resulted in my dropping out of high school despite having always gotten good grades. Like many teen girls, I struggled with body image issues and eating disordered thinking. Depression and suicidality are also issues I dealt with as a teen.

    Yet, for as hard as these experiences were, my experiences as a teen helped make me who I am today as an adult. Facing and confronting these challenges cultivated my inner resiliency. It pushed me to go to college and even beyond that with graduate school. As a result, I’ve been able to create a business that allows me to help others while living a life aligned with my values. My background compels me to be a caring adult role model for other young people being who are struggling with challenges in life.

    “My Child or Teen Could Benefit From Counseling. What’s Next?

    Congratulations on taking this step to provide your child or teen with the counseling services they need. If you have further questions, you can contact me by email. Otherwise, I offer a free 30-minute consultation by phone or at my office that you can schedule here. During this consultation, we’ll talk in more detail about your situation and how I might be able to help your child or teen.