Counseling for Children & Teens

A young boy alone looking out

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, kids and teens are experiencing greater feelings of anxiety and depression. More and more, we hear heartbreaking stories of bullying, youth suicide, and more.

It Isn’t Easy Being a Parent

Parents, don’t be hard on yourselves. It’s not your fault. Being a parent is challenging in general, and even more so today. It can get even harder if your child has issues with sensory processing, executive functioning, and/or communication.

Kids today must navigate through a world filled with unhealthy messages distortions and an overabundance of sensory stimulation. At the same time, they don’t yet have the life experience and wisdom to know how to best navigate through it all.

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?

What Your Child May Be Dealing With

Childhood and adolescence is an important time in human development. The coping skills and resilience developed during childhood and adolescence can either help or harm a person as an adult. Some kids may be able to cope with the intensity of their feelings and experiences in a healthy way. Yet, others may not.

Some things your child may be trying to grapple with are related to their:

Mental Health

Figuring Out How to Deal with 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 or getting along with others. Teen depression, in particular, can have alarming consequences. A Healthy Kids Colorado Survey done by the Boulder Valley School District found an 8% increase, from 20%  to 28%, in the number of kids who “felt sad or helpless for two weeks.”

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 transgendered and/or grappling with their sexual orientation. These types of self-realization can be incredibly stressful, and even frightening, to someone living in a society that may not be accepting of them.

Personal Expectations

Coping with the Pressure to be Perfect.

Most kids experience some level of anxiety or depression due to the real or perceived pressures society places on “perfect” standards. What’s more, they hold such high standards for themselves that when they don’t achieve immediate success (which is often unattainable), they develop a sense of worthlessness. They may feel themselves to be failures, or “stupid”. Rigid thinking can also make it difficult for kids to recognize other ways of doing things.

Sensory Needs and Unique Neurological Wiring

Making sense of their sensory needs and experiences.

Kids may be struggling in school simply due to their own innate neurological wiring. Their brains aren’t “neurotypical.” Your child’s grades may be suffering because they have difficulty paying attention and focusing on what they need to do. They may also have difficulty planning and following directions as a result.

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.

That Sounds Like My Child. They Need Help

It is 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. A safe environment–one wherein we know we can tell the truth about our experience–is of the utmost importance. 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. Working with a counselor through music therapy provides a satisfying, uplifting, nonverbal means of self-expression.

Gain Personal Insight

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

Therapy isn’t about telling clients what to think or how to feel. Rather, as a counselor I listen and reflect thoughts back to individuals, facilitating opportunities to objectively hear their own voices. In guiding children and teens to develop an awareness of underlying thoughts and feelings, we can then examine these together and draw connections to action steps.

Further Cultivate Self-Regulation and Coping Skills

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

In order to succeed in adulthood, kids need to learn and develop strategies for working with intense emotions and managing or processing trauma and stressful experiences. Music is a powerful tool for such exploration.

Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking skills

We live in complex times. We are continually bombarded by a sea of information. Kids, and especially teens, need to cultivate critical thinking skills in order make safe, healthy choices that will best serve them throughout life. Music therapy can help youth develop these skills through a variety of music-based experiences that foster discernment and curiosity.

Experience a Safe Space to Simply Be Themselves

Unconditional love

It goes without saying, kids need to know that their parents and caregivers love them unconditionally. We may not adore all of our loved one’s actions or behaviors, but this does not affect the fundamental love we feel. While the bond between child and parent or guardian reins foremost, it’s also important that kids have other positive adult mentors in their lives. In the therapeutic relationship, unconditional love can be understood as unconditional positive regard.

You know that they need help. I can help. Music therapy can help.

Tell Me More About Your Services…

Here are some questions people frequently ask about the mental health and therapeutic music services I provide for children and teens:

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 within this therapeutic context can be thought of 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 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 Services

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 because rapport needs to be established. 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 benefit from occasional check-ins. While at other times, they find reward in transitioning to music lessons.

While personal circumstances vary, generally the more complicated and complex a person’s situation is, the more time may be needed. The music therapy and counseling services offered by SoundWell Music Therapy are one hour-long and cost $90 an hour when provided in Longmont, or $100 when provided outside of Longmont. I’m also in- network as a counselor with Aetna, Anthem (HMO and PPO), Cigna, United Healthcare ComPsych, and Profile EAP.

Do you offer groups?

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

My Background with Children and Teens

What are Your experiences working with children and teens?

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. Within this, I’ve worked in early childhood special education, special education, and English as a Second Language.

My training as a therapist was completed at a youth residential treatment center. Here I was able to work with children and teens from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Currently, I work with children and teens in school settings as well as in my Longmont office.

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 also dealt with body image issues and eating disordered thinking, depression, and suicidality.

Yet, my experiences as a teen helped make me who I am today as an adult. Facing these challenges cultivated my inner resiliency. It pushed me to go to college and beyond with graduate school. As a result, I’ve been able to create a business that allows me to help others. I’m able to live a life aligned with my values. It’s precisely because of my background that I strive to be a caring adult role model for other young people being who are struggling with life challenges.

How Children and Teens Can Benefit From Music Therapy

Children and teens can benefit from music therapy

Below are some vignettes highlighting my therapeutic work with children and teens. These descriptions are to help you see the ways in which I have been able to use music and the therapeutic relationship to help people struggling with significant mental health issues and challenges.

Attachment Issues

A Child Whose Mother Abandoned Them at a Young Age

The focus of our work together was on attachment and healthy self-expression. Shared improvisation on the piano was foundational to the client’s progress. Playing at opposite ends of the piano allowed them to be close to a caring adult. While at the same time not infringing on their need for personal space.

As we played, their fingers would gradually come close to mine. We would “chase” each other on the piano. Through such purposefully playful activities, we steadily built trust, allowing them to feel safe with an adult. Increasingly, they began sharing his thoughts and feelings with me.

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, but they were committed and focused. Their self-confidence and self-expression visibly increased as they continued to develop proficiency. Treatment staff also saw a change as the client’s acting out behaviors in the program decreased.

Personal Identity & Sexual Orientation

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 were worried that their family wouldn’t accept them if they knew that they didn’t identify as “straight.” The primary goals of our work together were related to increasing their self-esteem and self-confidence so that they could simply feel more comfortable in their own skin.

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. As a result of becoming more comfortable with me, they became more open about sharing their concerns about their family and relationship issues at school. By the end of our work together, the cutting behaviors had ceased.

Ok, I’m Convinced. What Do I Need To Do Next?

If you have further questions about music therapy or the services that SoundWell Music Therapy offers, 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 more specifically about your situation and how I might be able to help you.