I’m not sure I’m ready to talk: Therapy for Teens

by Amy Hughes, LCSW

Anderson Paak, Anderson Cooper or P.T. Anderson. Who inspires you?

Flea or Billie—who’s cool?

Rainbow Powell, Angie Thomas, Suzanne Collins or Jason Reynolds. Whose book would you grab off the library or bookstore shelf?

Podcasts or poetry?

Coming across words written by someone else can be a meaningful way to help you find your words. Putting words to your thoughts and saying them out loud is not in everyone’s toolbox. Keeping a diary? Giving a speech? Seriously?! Reading or listening to the words of others works better for a lot of us.

When I was in the eighth grade my English teacher announced we were to try something out. Oh, geez, what now? I worried the next thing out of his mouth would sound like “public speaking” or “read your essay to the class.” No way. I made a little prayer that he was going on vacation and a substitute was coming in for a month. He instructed us to pick a song to discuss in class. Before I could even think of a possibility, Jonathan Hanson raised his hand and said: “Hotel California. The Eagles.”

Years later, I used that approach when I did group counseling in a public high school. Tupac had been shot in Las Vegas. The group was divided. The Notorious B.I.G. was their guy from Brooklyn, after all. I asked them to bring in a track by each musician. We discussed the lyrics. The group remained split, arguing about the significance of one rapper versus the other, the possible meaning behind the words, their influences on the music industry. What mattered to me was that the members were able to talk about important issues.

One of my clients was a shy 13-year-old. We spent many sessions discussing a TV show and the situations the characters got themselves into. Another client was a 17-year-old drummer. He preferred telling me about how his band members worked on music. Both clients were less enthused to discuss family situations in their homes. In time, we got to those topics.

Therapy gives people opportunities to talk about what really matters. You and your counselor will talk about what’s going on in your life. And the words are up to you: whatever way you choose to talk about your life is your choice. Reading a book, song lyrics, listening to music or spoken word—these are excellent ways to distract, to expand your thoughts, to escape into a character or another world. Go for it. And feel free to tell me about it in session.

Here are some titles on my bookshelf with words I like to read and use:

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Are you interested in working with Amy? Give our office a call at 503-994-8424

Amy Hughes, LCSW helps teens and young adults to navigate relationship and mental health challenges. She is passionate about helping her clients to grow and overcome obstacles.

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