One of the biggest problems that comes up in my therapy groups has to do with friends who take on the problems of their friends.
Often teens feel burdened, overwhelmed, and stressed when they have friends who talk about suicide, threaten to commit suicide, or end up being hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. Some times kids have problems getting off of social media, getting off the phone, saying no, asking for help, getting adults involved, or recognizing the limits of what they can do. This can interfere with sleep, concentration, homework, and grades.
Group is one unique therapeutic setting where kids who have “been there” can often dish out advice. While sometimes this advice is hard to hear, the value of being in a group increases the probability of being understood. The combination of being understood and of having practical tools for speaking up, asking for help, and setting limits creates options for practical problem solving- especially when it comes to tough conversations with people we care about.
One of the projects I have taken under my wing recently is to write a book on What To Say To Your Suicidal Friend: A Resource Guide for Teens.
Do your teens need more sleep? Feeling assured that friends are safe and having concrete resources to help their friends can reduce anxiety, increase focus and concentration, and help kids perform better in school.
Refer them to group!
Click Here if you want to be notified about the progress and availability of the book.
Socially anxious adolescents struggle in the presence of others. Some don’t know what to say, some become self-conscious, and some feel as if they have nothing to contribute. Others feel judged and go out of their way to avoid being the center of attention. Simple things like accidently dropping a pencil, asking to use the bathroom, or getting up to throw something in the trash are treated as a crisis. Social anxiety can create problems in other areas of life, including the inability to simply feel at peace with oneself in large groups, classrooms, and school.
The dilemma: Avoidance of social situations can result in isolation, loneliness, despair, depression, increased stress, and suicide risk. Approaching social situations, especially without confidence, can be downright painful. Classes may be skipped and grades may drop.
Individual services for social anxiety is a challenge: The task is to make a connection without overwhelming the individual. Sometimes teens find “therapy” downright painful. Sometimes it “works” for a short period, but teens also need to find their way within their own peer groups.
Groups allow teens to participate passively, contribute without disclosure, and to experiment with finding their voice. It is not all about them all of the time. What a perfect venue for providing a service that is indirect yet direct! While individual services are helpful for solving emotional problems, group services replicate reality more realistically than 1:1 services with an adult. If teens are in places where peers offer spontaneous interactions while brainstorming solutions to conflict and emotional problems, the teen will be exposed to what life could be like if they open up. The increased comfort of speaking up and participating will translate into other peer settings- including school and eventually work.
Feeling comfortable speaking up and finding one’s voice is a powerful thing!
Does your teen have debilitating social anxiety? Please don’t hesitate to contact me…
According to Greta is a movie about an adolescent who gets “shipped off” to live with her grandparents for the summer. As her grandparents are driving her from the bus stop to their house, she announces her intention to kill herself.
What I appreciated about this movie was being able to witness changes in Greta when the people around her were able to openly share their reactions to her behavior. I especially like the character of Julie, who was able to approach Greta in a down-to-earth manner while nonetheless valuing the relationship. I also noticed the difficulty that Greta had finding out how difficult it is, sort of speak, to get attached and care about other people.
While I am usually skeptical about movings portraying suicidal actors (and would typically not recommend most of the movies I see), I would have to say that this one is an exception.