Children and Teens Counseling

man-510481_1920-282x300 Children and Teens Counseling  Longmont Mental Health Counseling

Kids today face a whole new world of pressures and challenges that weren’t part of our reality.

It isn’t easy being a kid today. (And parents, I know it’s tough for you too.)

Kids today face–and grapple with–a whole lot of challenges previous generations didn’t. More and more, we hear heartbreaking stories–of bullying, youth suicide, and more.

I can help.

We’ve all experienced some sort of bullying. But today, a concept that might have once been looked upon as a sort of rite of passage in growing up has a much darker nature. Bullying is no longer limited to the schoolyard. Distressing intimidation takes place both in person and online. While your child may not be on the verge of suicide, the truth of the matter is that children are continuously bombarded with external messages, tearing them down and telling them who they “should be.” These messages can have a severely adverse effect on children’s mental health and sense of well-being.

Music therapy offers a unique, personal form of counseling for kids and teens that can make all the difference.

Parents, don’t be hard on yourselves. It’s hard to be a parent to a growing, developing human being in the 21st century– because it’s hard to be a human being growing and developing in the 21st century. Kids today must navigate precarious terrain without necessarily having the preparation of cautionary life experience. Adding further complications, children’s prefrontal cortex, essential for making healthy and informed decisions, isn’t fully developed until roughly age 25. And it gets even harder if a child has issues with executive functioning and communication.

As the parent or caregiver of a child or teen who is struggling, you want to help above all else. But this turbulence is new to you, too. How do you know what your child needs when they don’t want (or are unable) to tell you?

Some things your child may be trying to do are:

Figure Out How to Deal with Anxiety and Depression.

Worries that seem small to adults can be all-consuming 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.”

Search for identity.

Strong feelings may due to kids’ internal questioning about who they are and who they want to be. Some kids are recognizing themselves as transgendered or grappling with 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 those who are LGBTQ.

Cope 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.

Make sense of 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 the task at hand. 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.

Some kids may be able to cope with the intensity of their feelings in a healthy way while others may not. Those who have a difficult time managing such strong feelings may instead turn to:

  • self-harm, such as cutting

  • drugs and alcohol

  • suicidal thoughts or actual attempts

That sounds like my Child. We Could Use 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:

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.

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.

Establishing healthy 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.

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.

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.

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:

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 some benefit or relief in an area of being that has been negatively affecting one’s ability to function in life. Music within this therapeutic context can be thought of as a tool, a vehicle for personal exploration, growth, and development. On the other hand, while a person may find music lessons to be therapeutic, the focus of this structure is musical development. SoundWell does provide adapted music lessons to those who may benefit from an adapted approach. See our Studio Policy for more information.

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. However, following this foundational time, sessions can taper off to every two weeks to once a month, eventually no longer being necessary. Sometimes people find benefit from occasional check-ins; 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.

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.

What are Your experiences working with children and teens?

My diverse experiences working with children and teens spans over 15 years. As an educator, I’ve worked in both the public and private school settings in the United States and in South Korea. My professional background in education includes early childhood special education, special education, and English as a Second Language. I also completed my clinical training at a youth residential treatment center in Denver where I worked with children and teens from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Adding to my depth of work experience and as relevant, I remember how difficult my own experience of growing up was. I struggled as a child and teen, which resulted in my dropping out of high school my junior year despite having always gotten good grades. Like many teen girls, I dealt with body issues and eating disordered thinking, depression, and suicidality.

Yet, here we are today. I managed to make it all the way through graduate school and have been able to create a life that is in alignment with who I am and allows me to help others. It was hard, and I recognize that I was lucky in many ways due to my own socioeconomic and ethnic background. Because of this, I strive to be a caring adult role model for other young people being who are struggling with life challenges, including those challenges faced due to systemic oppression.

Examples of How Music Therapy Can Benefit Children and Teens

Children Dealing with Attachment Issues

Challenge: A child whose mother struggled with drug addiction and had abandoned him at a young age was in a treatment program for mental health issues.

Treatment Plan/Results: Together, we worked on goals related to attachment and healthy self-expression. Shared improvisation on the piano was foundational to our progress. Sitting side-by-side at the piano allowed us to be close, but without infringing on his sense of personal space while we played at opposite ends of the piano. As we played, his 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 him to feel safe with an adult. Increasingly, he began sharing his thoughts and feelings with me, healing in the process.

Teenagers Grappling with Grief and Loss and Struggling with Self-Esteem

Challenge: A teen’s whose parents were divorced, one of whom was in prison, was in a treatment program after experimenting with drugs and getting into some legal trouble.

Treatment Plan/Results: We worked together on goals related to self-esteem and grief. Much of our work centered around me teaching him how to play requested songs on the instruments available to us. These songs held special personal meaning. Each would take a few weeks to learn, but he was committed and focused. His self-confidence and self-expression visibly increased as he continued to develop proficiency.

Teenagers Struggling with Their Personal Identity

Challenge: Parents of a teen girl were worried because they discovered she was cutting herself. I came to learn from her that she was struggling with her identity, including her sexuality. She was worried that her family wouldn’t accept her if they knew how she identified.

Treatment Plan/Results: The goal of our work together wasn’t for her to “come out” to her family. Instead, we worked on goals related to increasing her self-esteem and self-confidence so that she could share in her own time. She enjoyed singing, and she had eclectic musical tastes. The varied influences she was drawn to played out in the songs that she wanted to sing. Working with her on these songs allowed her to “try on” different personas, and singing helped her become more grounded and comfortable within herself. Her feelings of depression decreased. Alongside becoming more comfortable with me, she became more comfortable sharing her concerns about her family and relationship issues she had at school.

Ok, I’m Convinced. What Do I need to do next?

Contact Faith to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation if you think that your child or teen could benefit from the music therapy and counseling services offered by SoundWell Music Therapy. We’ll be happy to arrange a time when we can talk more about your particular situation and to schedule an initial session.