Teen Therapy

Adolescence is a challenging time even for the most resourced child. Common issues that teens face include challenges that have been around for a long time, such as peer interactions, sexual development, substance use, bullying, peer pressure, grades, and school performance. But today’s teens also deal with challenges that are somewhat unique to this generation, such as cyber-bullying, sexting, screen or device addiction, school shootings, and environmental and political anxiety. Teens of color often struggle to feel accepted in the mostly white areas of Portland, which can lead to feelings of “otherness” and isolation. Teens who are questioning or exploring their sexual or gender identity have unique concerns and often need extra support through these confusing and sometimes scary transitions. As a parent of a teenager it can be hard to know how to support your child through issues you may not have dealt with yourself.

Common Family Issues:

  • Communication Difficulties
  • Frequent Conflict
  • Blended Families
  • Recovering from Abuse
  • “Coalitions” Within Family

Common Teen Issues:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Self-harm
  • Disordered Eating
  • Withdrawal from Family
  • Poor Grades
  • Behavioral Issues
  • Rebellion
  • Fights at School
  • Sexually Acting out
  • Frequent Arguing/Yelling
  • Anger Issues
  • Sibling Rivalry
  • Substance Use/Abuse
  • Excessive Electronic Use


  • Divorce or Remarriage
  • Grief and Loss
  • Moving or Changing Schools
  • Preparing for College
  • Stages of Adolescence
  • Questioning Gender or Sexual Identity


What is your experience working with teens?

I spent the first seven years of my career working with teens in various settings – first in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, then doing in-home and community therapy and crisis work with severely mentally ill children and teens, and finally as a family counselor in middle and high schools. This breadth of experience has given me a unique perspective on the modern teenage experience.

How is adolescent therapy different than therapy with adults?

Teens often need a different type of engagement than adults do to keep them energized and interested in the therapeutic process. I tend to focus more on activities and, if the teen is comfortable with it, I encourage them to try walking therapy. The office setting often makes adults feel safe, but the face to face setup can feel intimidating or even confrontational to a teen. Ever notice how the best conversations with your teens seem to happen in the car? That’s because the lack of eye contact and direct focus helps them feel freer to open up.

How involved should the family be?

There are different school of thought on this – some models of therapy say that the family should be intimately involved in every moment of the therapy process. Others say that teenagers should have a safe place where they can talk about things they don’t feel comfortable discussing with their parents. For younger children, the former approach can be quite effective, but adolescence is a time where teens start to develop their own identity apart from their family. Peer relationships become paramount, and teenagers can become distant or even secretive. For this reason, my approach is more moderate – yes, the teen should have the chance to talk things through with a trusted adult outside the family, especially when they aren’t sure how to broach an important topic with a parent or guardian. But in the end, parents should be involved in those tough conversations about sex, substance use, self-esteem, development, and identity. My approach is client-centered, so I will maintain the teen’s confidentiality as much as is needed but will encourage them to at least share an overview of the important topics we cover with their caregivers and invite parents to sessions when they aren’t sure how to share what’s going on.

What’s next?

You’ve made the important first step of looking for help for your teen. It’s important that they feel comfortable with me, too. Feel free to share my website with them and if they are interested, we can set up a phone consultation or initial session so we can start to get to know one another.