Here’s the Thing, Young Adults: Counseling Does Not Mean Lying on a Couch.

By Amy Hughes, LCSW

Young adults. The teens and twenties. It’s a time for independent thinking, autonomy and trying out opportunities. A time for moving away from everything familiar and exploring the world outside your home. It’s when you can imagine what lies ahead and how you want to take steps to get there. You can try out new ways to express yourself. You’re figuring out who you want to be.

Amy Hughes, LCSW at Newberg Counseling & Wellness

Counseling for young adults is about giving you a place to get support and guidance outside of your bubble. It’s about having a confidential space to say whatever you feel like saying—with no backtalk. It’s about making time for yourself to talk about ideas and goals and frustrating situations. It’s a place where you can be quiet, and no one is pressuring you. It’s your time.

I remember being in class and when the teacher called on me, I was panicked—my mind was empty, my throat closed up. Most of us have struggled with finding the right way to express what’s on our mind, and sometimes all those thoughts can cause clutter. Finding ways to let it out, to make sense, or to move it out of the way can open up space to grow. We all need this.

Counseling does not mean going to a psychoanalysis session like we might recognize from popular images on TV or movies. Years ago, I saw teens for counseling in New York City. One fifteen-year old walked into my office for her first session. She stopped in the doorway, reached out to the doorframe as if to brace herself. Her eyes moved around the space, and she frowned. I pointed to the two chairs. Still, she stood in the door. I gave a shrug. She glared at me, and said: “Where’s the couch?”

Therapists working with teens and new adults are open and flexible to different approaches—they know the issues of your age group very well. These therapists get it, and when they don’t, they’ll ask for more details. A conversation happens; sometimes the discussions can be very long. In sessions, you and your therapist will talk about a plan to make things better.

I once saw a high school student whose mom felt he needed help cleaning up his act. He lounged on the chair in my small office. He barely fit; his legs were long and his voice filled the room. He talked about a movie he had watched, spouting off lines and making facial expressions. After a while of this, he said to me, “What am I supposed to talk about?” We could talk about anything, but maybe there were things that mattered. He went back to the movie, noticed there were similarities between the movie character and himself—that he put on an act, and said things to get attention. Sometimes, we make progress by making connections in unexpected ways.

There is no expectation that you will have to bare your soul and be asked to disclose something embarrassing or painful. In therapy, your responsibility is to bring up issues that matter to you and to show up, for yourself.

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