With the onset of puberty in early adolescence (about 10-15), the total being of a person goes through the most rapid and drastic change since infancy. Hormones are released that begin a multi-year process of preparing the physical body for maturity. Simple and linear reasoning becomes more complex, cyclical, and creative. The well-defined emotional world explodes into layered feelings that can conflict and contradict with each other. Spirituality becomes more complex as hard questions can no longer be answered by easy, one-sided answers. In older adolescence, all of these developmental changes rock the social world and relationships that were once steady and smooth, especially in the family. The family unit can never be enough to provide the intense amount of nurturing that is needed by the older adolescent to integrate all of these changes that have recently taken place. In our society today we see these conflicts lasting beyond the classic period of adolescence, thus the term, emerging adults.
Positive Youth Development involves youth as active agents. In my practice, a guardian and I may set the structure, but the adolescent client is not just the recipient of services. Instead, they are valued and encouraged to bring their assets to the table. As part of gently challenging an adolescent to embrace responsibility, I involve my clients in every step of the therapeutic process. They are tasked to open and close the sessions in a way that is meaningful to them. We consider, select, and re-evaluate goals together. I offer them an opportunity to be seen as the confident and respected adults that they are becoming. This intention is the therapeutic key to the Positive Youth Development approach.
If an older adolescent or emerging adult in your care struggles with issues of low self-esteem, experiences uncertainty or ambivalence towards life goals, or is having trouble finding their place within your family or a peer group, the Positive Youth Development approach can be transformative and empowering. To learn more, please contact me at 510-292-4002 to schedule a free 30-minute in-person consultation.