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Does my teenager need to see a counselor? I get asked that question at least once a month. The teen years are hard! Kids hit 5th grade and they begin to change into people we are not sure we know. Sometimes it is really hard to determine if our teen is moving through a phase or they are in serious emotional trouble. The truth is that therapy and counseling are finally normal parts of our culture and many times our families could benefit from bringing another trusted voice into difficult situations. Why? Many times when we are in conflict with our teen, fear for their future leads us to focus on surface issues (don’t talk back to me, I told you not to wear that, you will obey me or else…on and on) instead of the real problems underneath. (stress, depression, worry, poor self image, etc.) This is where the counselor/therapist comes in…a neutral voice who can bring up difficult issues, provide direction, and help formulate a plan. When parents have a plan they are empowered to not give up and fight for the health of their child. So when do you bring a counselor into a situation with your family. Mark Gregston (go check our his blog and ministry at Heartlight Ministry) had some great advice in this month’s Living with Teenagers magazine…

  1. When your attempts to engage him are met with no response
  2. If you suspect she is stating that “she wants to die”
  3. When you find that she has been cutting or engaging in self-destructive behaviors
  4. Any time his behavior is self destructive and your attempts o stop it are ineffective
  5. When he changes friends radically, experiences a major “shift” in thinking, or now dislikes all he used to like
  6. After any traumatic happening in her life
  7. When the “abnormal” starts becoming the “normal”