When we help young people our results are often not immediately seen.
In the last few weeks a number of young people contacted me that I had seen years earlier. Here’s three examples of the six cases that are returning for help.
I saw Derek* when he was a freshman in high school. A tough, angry boy who was failing in every subject. I met with him several times over the course of his first semester trying to help him and understand what was keeping him from at least trying in school. I knew something emotional was underneath his failing performance, but he wasn’t going to let me inside his head no matter what I did. Realizing that fact, I made the goal of our meetings to create a supportive and welcoming place for him to feel safe to possibly share in the future what was troubling him. Derek failed out of school and because of that his parents saw no need for him to continue seeing me, even though our meetings were infrequent. (Because of his lack of sharing and to make him feel not pressured I spread our appointments out.) Dial up to 2012. I received a call from Derek himself, now a senior in high school, to make an appointment. At that appointment he flooded me with feelings and facts on why he was hurting and why he had closed off the world. It was serious traumatic incidents inflicted upon him since childhood and now he wanted to “fix things.” He is coming in regularly and works hard in each session to purge himself of these demons. It’s important for young people to take ownership of the help you offer.
Tina* is now a young woman of 22. I initially saw her for a substance abuse evaluation mandated by her high school. I recommended her to continue with substance abuse treatment. She and her parents refused any further help at that time. Now an adult, she admits to a bad drinking problem and contacted me to conduct a re-evaluation and to get advice on where to go for help. She refused to see any professional but me. She had to be ready to get help and again take ownership of her problems.
James* was a severely depressed, angry young man of 16. He saw me for many sessions to help him with the depression stemming from a verbally abusive and neglectful father. James fought with me continually throughout his therapy with me. When I would suggest coping mechanisms to help his feelings, he would do them but yell at me, “This won’t help! I need something stronger!” He found relief from his depression while seeing me, but abruptly ended his sessions in a huff again, yelling, “This isn’t working, this isn’t working.” Yet, his grades were greatly improved, school reported he was very engaged with friends, often seen laughing and playful. Clearly, the depression was better. Was he done with therapy, no, but again, I didn’t pressure him to continue since he was telling me he didn’t want my help. As I write this, late last night I saw James for an appointment after not seeing him for 2 years. He had his mother call me because he is feeling the pressures of senior year of high school and college choices, etc. He came in my office as a smiling, confident young man. We had a great meeting and he left relieved and with tools to cope with his pressures. Sometimes the way teens communicate with us is not socially appropriate like James’ hostile nature when I first saw him, remember they are not finished products~don’t match their hostility with yours.
*No names used here are real names.