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Online Therapy With Teens

Online Therapy With Teens

Skype therapy works really well for teens. Credit: Ambro via

Skype therapy works really well for teens.
Credit: Ambro via

How well does teletherapy work with teenagers?  The answer: It depends.

Some adolescents can do internet counseling sessions very effectively and others do not do as well.  There are a lot of teens who benefit from videoconferencing sessions just as much as the traditional face to face sessions.  I have found this format to be great for many of my clients because of how busy their families are.  For some, getting to the office every single week is too much of a challenge.  Taking the time out to drive to and from the office for sessions is really difficult.  This is particularly true when there are other kids in the family who have commitments like soccer practices, tutoring, etc.  For the teen to be able to do their sessions from home is helpful to the whole family.

It actually simplifies the scheduling process as well.  It is much easier to find an appointment time that works.  Therapists keep specific office hours.  For example, I only work Thursdays and Fridays in the office.  However, I do internet sessions any day of the week except Sundays.  If your adolescent has school, sports, time with friends, etc., it’s nice for them not to have to miss an activity in order to make their therapy appointment.

Are you wondering whether your teenage son or daughter will benefit from online counseling sessions?  What are the answers to the following five questions?

  1.  Is your teenager conversational?  In other words, do they speak readily?
  2. Does your adolescent want counseling?
  3. Can your teenager pay attention?
  4. Is your teen moderately comfortable with technology?
  5. Can your adolescent find a private place for their sessions for an hour at a time?

If you answered yes to all five questions, your adolescent very likely will do well in the online setting.

I have been working with clients using telemedicine since 2010.  The clients who have worked in this format have actually had a better continuity of care.  I know that seems counter-intuitive, but the reason this is the case is that they are able to have a session when they need it at any point in life.  Some clients have gone off to college.  They are able to begin therapy and then continue while they are at school without interruption.  I have had clients who have moved away but they still request a session from time to time.  Basically it creates a relationship between client and therapist that can last longer because the therapist is accessible even if the client’s circumstances have changed.

If you know your teen needs help and you either live out of the area, you just don’t know how you’ll have the time to make one more appointment, or you just feel comfortable with videoconferencing sessions, this is a great option for you.  Please give me a call and we’ll talk about how this can work for you and your teenager.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Critical Parents of Teens

Critical Parents of Teens

Parents who nitpick their teens can hurt the relationship. Credit: David Castillo Dominici via

Parents who nitpick their teens can hurt the relationship.
Credit: David Castillo Dominici via

Some parents nitpick their kids.  It’s in an effort to help them become a good adult, but there are negative consequences for the child.  Teenagers who are nitpicked feel they cannot please their parents.  They get so frustrated that they either rebel or shut-down.  It feels hopeless to them.


I have worked with teens who deal with parents that just won’t let up on them.  When I ask they parents what is good about the child they start with something good, and still find a way to make it a back-handed compliment.  In those cases the teenager looks at me during their therapy session and seems to be shutting down.  Once the parent has left the room the teenager often confides that they just don’t care anymore.


If you feel your teenager is never really trying hard enough, is too sassy all the time, and is generally defiant, it’s important to look at the relationship between the two of you.  Possibly your teen is all those things and you are the nicest parent in the entire world.  There’s another possibility though that you are incredibly difficult to please.  Your teen has become defiant because they never can really meet your standard.  You would answer me that they can if they would only do X, Y and Z, but your teenager doesn’t believe it anymore.  Your adolescent would tell me that even if they did X, Y and Z you would think they could’ve done it better.


If this describes the relationship you have with your child, it’s important to start making changes right away.  Don’t lose the closeness you can have with your teens because they find you difficult and you find them rude.  Work at having fun with them!  Think really carefully about whether the things you worry about matter as much as you think they do.  As parents we fear that if our kids aren’t shaped the right way we’ve somehow failed to make them into responsible adults.  There is some truth to that, but there are lots of ways to achieve responsibility.  Parents who nitpick tend to lack flexibility.  They have one idea of who their teenager is supposed to be, and they have a really difficult time letting their teen be anything else.


Yes, you need to require respectful behavior from your child.  However, consistently making negative comments about what they eat, how they dress, who they’re friends with, how they played that last sports game, etc. will just drive them away.  If anything they might get defensive because they feel personally attacked.  When that happens you’ll possibly interpret it as back-talking.  Then you’ll think they don’t respect you and your teen will think you don’t approve of them.  That’s not a fun cycle at all!


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

How to Help Your Teen Feel Happy

How to Help Your Teen Feel Happy

Being happy means knowing it's not about you. Image courtesy of stockimages at

Being happy means knowing it’s not about you.
Image courtesy of stockimages at

Teenagers are constantly telling each other not to care what other people think and not to worry about fitting-in.  They are also constantly telling one another to focus on what’s inside.  They have a “You only live once” attitude.  They are encourage each other to pursue what feels good in the moment in pursuit of happiness.


As parents we are tell our teens that their future is what’s important.  We are on them about their grades, their conduct, their reputation and their attitude.  We tell them, “We just want you to be happy,” but then we don’t let them play video games until 2 am on a school night even though that makes them happy.  Somehow we know that’s not good for them even though it makes them happy.


So, who has it right?  Are the teenagers right who think you should do whatever feels good right now?  Are we parents right, who think living should be for our future happiness and goals?  Could be both be wrong?


If you live only for right now then everything is momentarily gratifying.  It actually takes bigger and bigger items/activities for the same emotional high.  While buying your child a candy bar made them happy once, kids who get to gratify every whim now need a new car for that same feeling the candy bar used to give them.  Stupid decisions can be made with the momentary gratification attitude as well.  A teenager might have sex with someone they don’t love, try drugs or alcohol, or cheat on a test at school.


If you live only for your future you will also be unhappy.  What a waste to have all the gifts of youth, and enjoy none of them.  When is the last time you could sprint after your friend while laughing hysterically and not get winded or sore?  When is the last time you could go out tanning without worrying about skin cancer?  When is the last time it sounded like fun to get a block of ice and slide down a long grass hill while trespassing at midnight?  You can’t be so focused on setting up your future that you miss everything in front of you.


Now that we’ve exhausted the two most common ways people try to become happy, what’s left?  What I am going to propose would be a major shift in your teenager’s thinking.  In order to effect that kind of shift, it will have to start with you.  Firstly, start seeking out opportunities to serve others.  Stop teaching your child that becoming the best athlete or the most popular cheerleader is important.  None of that is lasting, and it is quite a fragile foundation.  That leads to the second important piece of happiness.


It is your job to help your teenager know why they’re here on earth.  If you teach your teenager that their purpose is to attain status and things because that’s how you live your life, then that’s what they’ll pursue.  It will start with an immovable belief that their life is worthless if they aren’t accepted to Stanford, UCLA or whatever other top-notch college.  That’s a sign that you’ve misguided your child on their purpose.  Their purpose has to be a selfless, timeless cause.  In our household that purpose is to be a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ.  We assume that out of that will come a good work ethic, servant-leader mentality, compassionate heart, driven and focused attitude, and happy child.  If you don’t choose to go the faith-based route, choose something else that’s bigger than yourself.  Don’t be your own cause; it’s selfish and uninteresting.  The happiest teens are the ones who know how to give of themselves to others.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Are You Pushing Your Teen Too Hard?

Are You Pushing Your Teen Too Hard?

Teens can burn out and become exhausted. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Teens can burn out and become exhausted.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Dear parents, your teen knows how deeply you love them.  At the bottom of their heart they even know you push them to do better and do more because you want them to have a good chance in life.  You want them to have opportunities that you may have missed out on.


Keep in mind though that sometimes this can be overdone.  Kids can only handle so much before it starts to wear on them.  While the threshold varies for each adolescent, every single one has their breaking point.  It’s really easy to get too busy doing a lot of different things and keeping your teens in all kind of extra-curricular activities.  This is supposed to help them get into a better college, and that is important.  On the other hand, is it so important that it’s worth them feeling exhausted and burned out?


Some of you have a different battle to fight in order to manage an over-committed teen.  Your child is the one who puts all kinds of pressure on herself to take on more.  She wants to take another AP class, play another sport, or join another club.  In this case, it’s up to you to say no sometimes.  Even though everything your teen wants to get into is good, there can be too much of a good thing.  Your saying no helps her to learn she can succeed even if she’s balanced.


Teenagers are still children.  They are becoming adults, but their minds have a lot about them that is young.  They need time to play, rest, socialize, and regroup.  They need a lot of sleep.  They need more downtime than they will need once they are in their mid-twenties.  Teens are still trying to figure it all out.  If we allow them, or require them to be overly busy, they won’t learn the skills needed to lead a balanced life.  That is an extremely important lesson to learn in order to be a joyful, healthy person.


The great thing about removing some of the demands placed on your kids is that you will have more opportunity to spend time with them.  They’re about to launch into their own life.  With you transitioning more and more into the role of a guide, they will feel safe to explore.  Eventually they will really appreciate you for it.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

The Homework Struggle

The Homework Struggle

Homework is often tedious, but the right attitude can change everything. Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at

Homework is often tedious, but the right attitude can change everything.
Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at

This is not for the teens who consistently do their homework and care a lot about school.


For those of you who cannot seem to focus on your homework, read on.  First of all, I understand that a lot of the time it is boring.  Believe me, I understand that.  There are so many assignments that seem irrelevant to the rest of your life.  There are so many chapters to read full of facts about things like how a frog reproduces, or how mitochondria are involved in cellular energy.  Unless you’re planning to be a biologist, you probably don’t care.  You’d definitely rather come home and watch TV, play a sport, eat, nap, or really do anything else besides sit down and study.


How do you move past this hatred of your homework?  How do you get yourself motivated to complete your assignments so that you can do well?  It seems so easy for some kids.  Why isn’t it easy for you?


Here are 5 tips to make the homework process a little bit more palatable.

1. Do not allow yourself the option of not finishing your homework.  Until now you’ve given yourself permission to be a little bit lazy.  It’s like the person who smokes cigarettes and always says they want to quit.  There’s a very different attitude between someone who wants to quit and someone who says, “I’VE HAD IT!!!  I’M NEVER SMOKING ANOTHER CIGARETTE AGAIN!!!”  You have to get that serious about finishing your homework.

2. Work intensely for a short amount of time, and then take a short break.  It is up to you how long each should be depending on your age and attention span.  Here’s an example: When I was 20 years old I had a college class that required a lot of studying.  I did not enjoy it and struggled to get the work done.  I finally decided to work intensely for 50 minutes, not even allowing my mind to wander or my eyes to glance at my phone.  Then I’d take a 10 minute break and do whatever I wanted.  I was able to get the studying done much more quickly this way.  For teenagers who are younger, like 13 years old, I often recommend 15 minutes of intense studying with a 5 minute break.

3.  Change it up.  If you are partway through an assignment and it is too tedious to complete right now, work on something else.  As long as you keep working on something you’re still making progress towards finishing your homework.  Let’s pretend you detest math.  As a result you often don’t even look at your math book until 9:30 pm.  By then you’re tired and out of time.  You have to push straight through the assignment without a break or you’ll fall asleep with your calculator on your lap.  Start your math early so that if you get bored or frustrated you can take an break to work on English.  It makes the process so much more tolerable.

4.  Don’t try to be perfect.  Some teenagers never start their homework because they are determined to do it perfectly, or just not bother.  You are much better off getting a 60% on an assignment than a 0%.  You still learn something, and you have a much smaller hole to climb out of.  When you’re working on an assignment, just push through to the end.  You can go back and make corrections afterward if you have time.  Somewhat sloppy work that is finished still helps you more than perfect work that is half done, or not even started.

5.  Provide yourself boring alternatives.  If you have an essay to write, give yourself an alternative activity to distract yourself, but make it boring.  In other words, give yourself the option of either working on your essay or cleaning the bathroom.  Choose something that is slightly worse than essay writing.  What will happen is that when you’re desperate for a break, you’ll go do the yucky task.  However, you’ll quickly tire of the yucky task and prefer to get back to your essay.


See if any of these things help you.  This all presupposes that you actually want to do better in school.  You can’t be like that cigarette smoker that vaguely talks about quitting but never really means it.  You have to truly tell yourself that you are making a change.  Once you’ve done that, and mean it, these tips will help your survive homework.  What’s even better is that you’ll learn skills needed to survive college and your future job (No matter what job you go on to do, there will be parts of it that are not fun).  Muhammad Ali, a famous boxer, said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit.  Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'”  Your homework is like Muhammad Ali having to go on a 5 mile run at 5:00 am, not fun but completely necessary to win.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Parenting Teens and Social Media

Parenting Teens and Social Media

Social media keeps your teen connected to friends. Image courtesy of Ambro /

Social media keeps your teen connected to friends.
Image courtesy of Ambro /

Social media is a game changer for teenagers.  It is so different than when we were kids.  My clients are always shocked when I tell them I was in high school during the era of pagers, and the beginning of cell phones.  They think that sounds incredibly arcane.  Indeed!


Social media and texting is a necessary part of your teenager’s social development at this point.  Many, many things are communicated this way.  This is how they make plans, deepen friendships, and keep tabs on their friends.  Before you succumb to the temptation to ban social media with your teenagers, it’s important to see its benefits.  The reason this is the case is that like it or not, it’s here to stay.


After working with hundreds of teenagers in my counseling office, it seems to me the families who learn to work with social media outlets fare best.  The parents who allow their teens to use these platforms, while monitoring and guiding their teens, have the best outcome.  These parents use it to teach responsibility, concern for reputation, empathy, and as a means to build trust.  If you make sure to have access to all your child’s various accounts, and keep at least weekly tabs on what is being posted, you will have a very solid feel for which of their friends have integrity and which lack it.  Those that have integrity post things commensurate with how polite they are in front of adults.  The teenagers who lack integrity are the ones who post things that we adults see as shocking or disappointing, while they act mature in front of you.  You can work with your teenager to make sure they are posting things that match your expectations of them.  You can also help them understand why provocative pictures, posts promoting getting high or drinking, passive aggressive posts, complaints about teachers, etc. ultimately hurt them in the long run.


It’s important to remember that social media is just another means to an end with your kids.  Everything you have them do should have a bigger purpose in mind.  You want to be constantly trying to use the events, people, and activities that come up in their lives to help develop them into a well-functioning adult.  You want them to be thoughtful, faithful, responsible, kind, passionate, driven, etc.  You use sports to teach them these things, and you can use social media to do the same.  It’s not the enemy; it’s just something we didn’t grow up with so it requires us to adapt.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT