Working Through It
In today’s hyper-connected world of social media, new and evolving means of communication and even greater levels of data and sensory overload, a teenager’s daily life has becoming ever-more complex and stressful.
Adolescence is an increasingly trying time of life, and our teens need to be equipped with the skills and strategies that will enable them to cope with these struggles and successfully make the transition to young adulthood.
Taking A Toll
Teenagers deal with typical stressors such as academic pressure, an illness in the family, a sibling with learning differences, their own learning differences, parental divorce, a move to a new school or town, and pressures related to sex, drugs and alcohol. In addition, girls in particular may struggle with issues such as body image, low self-esteem, assertiveness, establishing healthy relationships and acceptance by their peers.
As a result, teens are caught between the roles of adult and child, unsure of where they belong. It is a time when many feel misunderstood and lonely. In fear of being judged or ostracized, many teens internalize or hide their true feelings, which in turn, perpetuate their feelings of isolation.
Teen Stress Levels
Last week, U.S. News & World Report ran an informative piece on the topic; Teen Stress: How Parents Can Help. The article refers to the American Psychological Association's recently released survey, (Stress in America. Are Teens Adopting Adults’ Stress Habits?) which revealed “teenagers rated their stress during the school year at an average of 5.8 on a 10-point scale, while adults averaged a 5.1, and 3.9 was considered a healthy stress level. And whether you're 14 or 41, too much stress is not particularly fun or healthy for anyone.”
Support & Personal Insight
Before signs of distress appear and rather than wait for the coping mechanisms to kick in, it is often beneficial to simply talk things out amongst peers experiencing the same issues. The way that group therapy is looked upon has changed and evolved; it is not seen as just for those in crisis, but rather a way to normalize things before a situation becomes problematic and to learn from others’ experiences.
A Group That "Gets It"
Group therapy provides adolescents with a safe space to be vulnerable and honest. Many teens find groups to be a haven where they can open up and be "real.” As the group dynamic unfolds, participants come to realize that they are not alone. Group therapy gives teens the opportunity to look at themselves through the eyes of someone else. The support teens feel from the group can help them build their confidence and self-esteem; feelings that continue long after the group session is complete.
Research has shown that effectiveness of group therapy can be equal to individual treatment and can include additional benefits as well. Through participation in a group, adolescents can learn firsthand that there are others who are experiencing similar struggles. This, in turn, may help to alleviate feelings of isolation and stigmatization.
"Through group sessions, I realized that my fears and problems were not unique to me, and some people had really good suggestions for me! I loved not being alone. I felt so much more normal," said ‘Jennifer’ who recently participated in a series of group therapy sessions.
Validating & Empowering
Therapy groups are organized and customized according to need and are led by a psychologist who not only understands the age group, but also is well versed in the stressors typical of adolescence. Within the group, confidentiality, group norms, and group goals help to create a safe haven in which members feel comfortable sharing their experiences and expressing themselves. The results are feelings of validation and empowerment, which help adolescents to thrive and develop a better understanding of themselves.
Group therapy need not simply be sitting in a circle and talking. In fact, there is great value in using fun and humor in counteracting some of the very difficult feelings teens face. For example, to address the issues of self-esteem, body-image, family, and peer relationships, group therapy discussions can occur while also incorporating art, music or even cooking, should this suit the needs of the group.
For Families Too
"The art class meant a lot to me. It brought me closer to my family and I got to know another family, which was nice too. It taught me that there is laughter and troubles in every place you go but you can’t hide from your problems, you should face them head on. Next, the art class showed me that even the silliest art project can bring you close to people that you don’t even know. My favorite part about the art class was that no one judged each other no matter how messy or out of hand your project was." (Nicole)
The benefits of group therapy can also extend beyond the teen and have a positive impact on other family members as well. "Day-to-day responsibilities make finding time to relax and bond as a family difficult. I never imagined that the family art therapy group sessions could do so much to help tackle difficult topics with my children. Doing different art projects in the casual, non-judgmental group setting allowed Allison and Keara to bring up topics in a way that didn't make anyone feel uncomfortable, and the projects led to conversations we continued in our home. Every family should have this experience." (Chris, a parent)
The Collaborative Group for Learning and Development at Greenwich Education Group offers group therapy sessions on a variety of topics with trained group clinicians who tackle many of the trying issues of adolescence in a creative and dynamic way. Please contact Diane Ferber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-409-0069 for more information.