Counseling And Therapy For Troubled Youth – How To Make Them Think That They Need It Part 1


Assisting Mental Health Counselors


To counsel trouble teenagers is a tough challenge for mental health counselors. One just cannot impose the regular and traditional psychotherapy or talk therapy techniques on these kids. They lack trust and will not ever participate in such meetings. There will be a communication barrier, for sure, and there’s the age difference. Like it or not, older people may have forgotten how it is to be a rebellious teen and will try to maintain that “I-am-the-adult-counselor-here” act.


Two Creative Techniques For Urging Teens To Participate In Counseling


Elisabeth D. Bennett, a distinguished professor from Gonzaga University who also happens to be a Program Director for Clinical Mental Health Counseling of the same institution, provided five techniques that can soften your hardened and troubled teenager. 


The good professor has more than three decades of work experience in connection with teenagers and adolescents. As for the techniques, there will be a mention of it here; she formulated these two techniques together with her team of experts. Everyone came from the Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Gonzaga University, and the said university is at SPOKANE, WA.


Anyway, Professor Bennett and her team revealed that if you want to get through to your patient (and this is also applicable for parents who have kids who are a bit hard-headed and stubborn), listen and apply the techniques as discussed below. 


How can you efficiently help a troubled teenager? Normal one-on-one conversation, at first, won’t work. You need something creative to interest the youngster’s mind. And what are these creative avenues you’re talking about, you ask, right?


Breathing Room


These teenagers need a breathing room, a place where they will feel safe and secure, and a haven of comfort. If your office is boxy, unappealing, with white walls and big chairs, very non-homey atmosphere, it is highly likely that you won’t get anything out of your teen client. They won’t budge when you welcome them with pleasantries, either. Teenagers are complicated!


So what can you do? Make your office conducive to a place of comfort for teenagers specifically. Of course, you the counselor must also feel secure in that setting. After that, build the connection. Recognize that connecting with your client is a challenging thing to do for the both of you. Be verbal about that. You must also validate with the teen client that counseling is not a one-time deal or a rush kind of program. Building the trust and healing will take time. 


Ask the client what will make him, or she feel good – anything goes! Singing, dancing, game playing, talking or whatever; the client has to do this every session to improve the mood. When the walls are down, go in and conquer the client’s need for counseling. Lastly, end the meeting with – Can we do this again next week? If the client agrees, then, you’re a competent counselor.


Talk Meter


Some teenagers don’t know how to express their feelings in words. They don’t know how to address their primary problem just yet. And so the Talk Meter technique is introduced. There is a thermometer with meters that says – NOT READY TO TALK, WANT TO TALK, A LITTLE UNCOMFORTABLE TO TALK and so on.


First, reassure the client that he or she is not forced to talk, but it would be a significant improvement if he or she will be ready to communicate. Next, tell the teen that you can talk about anything under the sun – good things, great things, bad things, and the worst things. If they are not yet ready to talk about the negative stuff, then, make that assurance that it is ok until such time when they can do it. 


Tell the client to engage in his readiness by coloring the thermometer or pointing as to his capacity to open up for now. Brainstorm together on ways to increase their willingness to talk, break barriers, and promote openness. Compliment the client for being open and inspire him to do more self-assessment. After the brainstorming, do the thing together. Reflect on its results, find ways to comfort and ease the mind of the teenager.




There are just two of the out of the box techniques shared by Professor Bennett’s team. There are three more techniques which will be featured in Counseling And Therapy For Troubled Youth – How To Make Them Think That They Need It Part 2. Hopefully, Breathing Room and Talk Meter techniques will assist you in curbing the teen’s bad behavior so that he or she will think to change for the better. As for parents, you can talk to your teen’s mental health counselor about these two effective techniques.

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