Romantic relationships are one of many exciting challenges that adolescents face. Navigating them can have serious effects on a young person’s anxiety, self-image, and physical health. These effects could extend far into adulthood.
Adolescents may not necessarily seek out therapy specifically for relationship help, but that doesn’t mean that dating and romance can’t be part of their therapy sessions. Here are some things clinicians should keep in mind for young clients who may be pursuing romantic relationships.
Encourage them to talk about their relationships.
Getting teenagers to talk about their relationships can sometimes feel like a monumental task, especially if the subject may not seem relevant. However, adolescent relationships are significant, even if their impact on the client is not immediately obvious.
Therapists should always ask young clients, especially new clients, about romantic relationships. This can include past or present relationships. Rather than it being a “one and done” conversation, be sure to follow up in future sessions.
These discussions are also a good opportunity to explore relationship goals and help adolescent clients understand what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like. This is a time to examine different factors that may influence how they view relationships, such as family dynamics, religion, and media consumption.
Teach young clients about safe dating practices.
Adolescence is an emotionally and physically vulnerable time. Understanding what makes for a safe relationship can help teens avoid many romantic pitfalls.
- Encourage clients to understand the effect of emotions, and how to avoid moving too quickly in a relationship.
- Discuss safe sexual practices, including birth control options and abstinence.
- Make sure your young client understands consent—either giving or receiving—and what may constitute date rape or assault.
- Help your client understand their own personal boundaries, and how to define and maintain them.
- Identify the signs of a dysfunctional or abusive relationship. Discuss what behaviors are or are not acceptable.
- Talk about different dynamics, such as disparities in age or experience, that may affect a relationship.
- Emphasize kindness and respect in all relationships, even those that do not work out.
Educate parents and caregivers.
As with all clients, therapists must protect their teen clients’ confidentiality. However, this does not mean that therapists cannot provide helpful resources to families, or encourage parents to be appropriately involved in their teen’s lives.
Offer families honest, effective information to help them navigate this new chapter in their child’s life. For example, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Adolescent Health Care offers helpful insights on discussing healthy relationships with teenagers. While this information is written for obstetrician-gynecologists, other clinicians and parents may benefit.
Therapists themselves should also become students of their clients’ culture. Teen culture is often confusing for adults, but attempting to stay up-to-date can help therapists better understand the challenges and influences in their young clients’ world.
Relationships are an important part of everyone’s lives, and they can have an especially big impact on young clients. Therapists can play a vital role in helping their adolescent clients navigate the often confusing world of romance and dating.
Behavioral health concerns are on the rise among U.S. adolescents, increasing demand for therapists and services. Avoid getting overwhelmed by using tools that help your behavioral health practice stay efficient, compliant, and profitable. Contact BestNotes today to learn how we can help!