It doesn’t take an expert to realize that transition of any kind can trigger stress. And there’s no bigger transition in life than the transition from childhood to adulthood.
Cameron Carpenter, an LPC-MHSP with the Counseling & Relationship Center of Murfreesboro, says that his work with adolescents has shown him that many terms attached to adolescence are outmoded, maybe even counterproductive when it comes to helping adolescents make that transition into adulthood. With Licensed Clinical Social Worker Rhonda Johnson, CRC of Murfreesboro provides outpatient mental health and eating disorders treatment, as well as individual, family, and couples therapy.
“The biggest thing I see right now is that there is a very large difference between what adults remember of their adolescence versus reality,” Carpenter said. “Oftentimes, parents are expecting this magical transition from childhood to adulthood. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve dealt with these issues from childhood. There’s a need there for adolescent counseling.”
Meanwhile, adolescent substance abuse has been a problem of huge proportions for at least a generation. While the risk factors involved with adolescent substance abuse are many and varied (family history, genetics, media representations of substance use as glamorous and “cool”), teens just may be turning to substances to escape the normal stress of oncoming adulthood.
“As with anything, I think addiction is a great way to escape,” Carpenter said. “In this day and age, it’s easy to get confused and want to detach or seek validation somewhere. Alcohol and drug addiction are not the only way to do that—it can be anything, from social media to poring yourself into a friend group that might not really be your friend group.”
Carpenter adds that one thing he focuses on with the patients of his adolescent practice is the importance of having realistic and worthy goals. In his experience, motivation can be boiled down to a “triangle of interaction.” This three sides of this triangle are:
- The goal must be actual (as opposed to a generalized dissatisfaction or yearning)
- There must be actions that can be taken to directly or indirectly correlate to the goal
- The patient must genuinely believe that the goal is available to them
“If any of those three are missing, then the motivation is killed,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter works with adolescents in a one-on-one setting, but he’s looking to build weekly adolescent group therapy focused on motivation, goal-setting, and stress management. Because at heart, he says, most of his patients are completely normal in their stress.
“I see drug and alcohol dependence, adjustment disorder, separation anxiety, depression,” he said. “But plenty of people who come in just need somebody to talk to.”