Existential Therapy for Teens?

The most common form of despair is not being who you are.
-Soren Kierkegaard

I believe that an existential approach to therapy is one of the most down to earth and practical ways to work with clients of all ages, despite having a somewhat confusing word in the title. In short, this therapy focuses on building a life that is worth living. Therapy creates a unique opportunity to develop self-awareness of the mind and body, identify options for moving through current roadblocks, and to live a meaningful life.

While self-discovery is a natural part of the emergence from adolescence into adulthood, we are greatly affected by both biological and environmental factors. Media, family, friends and peers, the foods we eat, and genetic factors outside of our control all affect our sense of wellbeing. There is even new research looking at how the experiences and health of our grandparents and parents contribute to our own. With so much static in today’s world, how do we even know if we are on the right track?

Rather than looking only at a client’s symptoms, an existential approach focuses on what might be happening at a deeper level. For example, one student might have poor attendance at school due to anxiety around an undiagnosed learning disability while another misses school out of fears of being bullied. While they are both in danger of not graduating, looking at things from the student’s perspective, rather than focusing on attendance, makes it clear that the help and support needed in each situation is quite different. While this is a simplistic example, this type of approach, to uncover what is beneath the immediately apparent issue, can be applied to many less obvious situations in which one comes to therapy. Once uncovered and understood, the healing can begin.

The power of owning our own stories, even the difficult ones, is that we get to write the ending.

-Brene Brown

I believe in doing things with my clients, not for them, and that only you are the expert in your own life. This means we begin with your goals, not mine. During our time together I will support you by helping to hold the things that are too big or unwieldy until you are able to do so on your own. We will uncover the meaning of these things together, at your own pace. While we might get heavy, talking about what it means to be alive, freedom, loneliness, and fears, we will also have opportunities to laugh, grow, heal, and try out some new ways of “being” in the world. I enjoy utilizing art in our explorations together, as well as getting out of of our heads and into our bodies through mindful breathing, relaxation exercises, and considering diet and exercise. One of the reasons that I enjoy working with young people is that their brains are literally still developing. During this critical development period, we can utilize the body’s own strength, to learn and adapt, to implement changes with lifelong positive impacts.

You do not just wake up and become the butterfly. Growth is a process.

-Rupi Kaur