How do I know if my daughter needs therapy?
Not every teenager needs to be in therapy. The developmental stage of adolescence presents many changes—and challenges—that are quite normal, including testing limits and boundaries, some fluxuation in grades, exhibiting a broad range of emotion, shifting social groups, and changes in ideas or values that once seemed so solid. Your role as a parent must shift to meet the needs of this developmental stage by allowing more space for your teen to be independent in the world, and simultaneously maintaining appropriate limits and boundaries to keep your teen safe. Tricky, isn't it?! It is important to recognize how increasingly stressful it is to be an adolescent in today's world. When these behaviors are persistent over time, or extreme in nature (social isolation, repeated negative self comments, truancy or legal problems, aggression and defiance at home, decreased functioning in one's life, thoughts of hurting oneself or others) therapy can help. It is the process of better understanding one's thoughts and feelings in order to make better choices, increase connection in relationship, improve communication and increase overall satisfaction in one's life.
What kinds of teenage girls attend group?
It's a Girl Thing! attracts girls from all spectrums. Some are experiencing depression,or anxiety. Others are simply struggling with the challenges of being an adolescent female in today's world. Every girl who attends group is first screened for group readiness and appropriateness to ensure a positive and effective group experience for everyone. Some parents worry that their daughter will be negatively influenced by other girls with "bigger problems." I can tell you that this doesn’t happen. What brings girls together is not that they've necessarily had the same life experiences, but that they relate to each other's emotions. We all know what it's like to feel left out. Or sad. Or worried. We all know the feeling of insecurity or uncertainty. Though the circumstances may be different, the feelings are universal. Girls who attend group are committed to their own growth and well-being and that remains a focal point of our time together. Group offers a place to practice healthy coping skills as well as develop new tools to deal with stress.
What does it cost?
Group sessions are often covered by most insurance plans. Because I believe so strongly in the group process, I try to keep my fee low, $40/session, so that it can be accessible to anyone who truly wants to come to group.
What happens in group?
Sometimes parents ask me, "I hear so much laughing, what happens in there?!" It is true, that Group is fun. Girls like to come to group. There is certainly a social element to the work that we do in group. I always say that there is room for laughter--and tears--and I find that typically groups experience both laughter and tears. It is the connection that girls make with each other that allow them to go deeper into their own experiences and feelings and share this with other group members. Some group sessions become quite intense, offering girls a place to talk about feelings that they can't express elsewhere in their lives. An example of an evening's topic might be communicating assertively, body image, goal setting, how to be safe at parties, the effects of drugs, alcohol, sex; grief and loss, trust in relationships, family dynamics, coping with stress, or peer friendships. Group is structured to offer group discussion time as well as some type of expressive arts activity (collage, team building, journaling, small group work, art) that supports the evening's topic. From a clinical perspective, group therapy is considered the most effective type of therapy for adolescents because of the emphasis that is placed on their peer group during this time of development. Parents/guardians are given feedback about how their daughter is progressing in group after the 3rd and 9th session via phone consultation from myself.
Does my daughter have to be in therapy to attend group?
No. This is not requirement. However, some girls do attend individual or family therapy outside of group. I often collaborate with outside therapists so that the group work can support the individual therapy goals as well. If your daughter is not in individual therapy, she can attend an individual session with me during the course of the 10 week group because sometimes an issue comes up in group that a member needs more time to process or work on.
What if I think this could be a good program for my daughter, but she is afraid to try?
You are not alone! Most adolescent girls are somewhat reluctant to come in to a group of strangers. (wouldn't you be?) Therefore, I meet with every girl individually before she attends group so that she knows what to expect, and I can get a sense of what she needs to feel safe in a group. In addition, the first 2 group sessions are open-ended. That means your daughter can attend the first 2 weeks to simply try out this whole group thing. No commitments. If it feels like a good fit, she is asked at the 3rd session to make a commitment to join the group process--to come for the remaining weeks, be on time, agree to confidentiality and respect, to participate with honesty. The group is then "closed" meaning no new members will enter group at that point, allowing the group members to bond and make stronger connections. My job is to provide a welcoming, safe environment that promotes respect and confidentiality. This is done by setting guidelines and offering team building activities to help girls feel comfortable with each other. Sometimes it is helpful for a teen girl to attend a few weeks of individual sessions with me prior to attending a group session. My goal is to help all girls feel safe and comfortable in a therapy experience.
How will I know if Group is helping my daughter?
Generally, I believe that your daughter's interest in returning to group is an indicator that group is helpful. Many girls find group to be a stabilizing space for them in their tumultuous teenage life. They come, regroup, release, get centered, connect, recharge. You might notice that she comes away from group just a little bit lighter or more relaxed. I teach many coping skills and ask girls to try them all out. If they connect with one or two strategies, I consider that successful. Ask your daughter if she finds group helpful and how she feels about attending. In time, what happens in group will translate to the outside world for your daughter. I would expect a more positive self image, better critical thinking skills, and a stronger ability to develop healthy relationships. I welcome communication with/from parents. Although what is shared in group is confidential, I encourage parents to contact me if there is something significant that has happened with your daughter over the course of the week, so that I can be sensitive to those issues in group. In addition, I schedule a 15-20 minute consult (in person, or on the phone) after group 3 and 9, not to share verbatim information, but rather to share themes that the group is working on, and how your daughter is doing in the group. I am continually evaluating group members individually within the group process and will give you feedback if I think there are other types of help that could benefit your daughter.