The Four Most Common Mistakes in Treating Teeens


The Four Most Common Mistakes in Treating Teeens

And What You Can Do About It

By Jerome Price and Judith Margerum

July/August 2000


Most therapists agree that teenagers can be among the most difficult clients we see in our practice. They often refuse to attend sessions, refuse to speak when they do attend, swear at parents and therapists, and storm out of the room when they hear things they don't like. Difficult teenagers often argue head-to-head with adults, saying things like, "I'm not going to give them any respect if they don't give me respect," and "It's my life." At times such teenagers have thrown objects across the office. One particularly aggressive 12-year-old girl once threw her wooden-soled sandal directly at my face hollering, "I'm glad I'm not one of your kids!" Some teens are so direct that they come out and say, "There's nothing you (the therapist) or them (their parents) can do about me."

Any therapist treating domestic violence takes one look at a husband who is dominating and abusing his wife and recognizes that he exercises power over her. Yet, when a teenager threatens, dominates by shouting and imposing guilt and controls her parents by threatening to run away, too many therapists fail to realize that abuse is going on.

Adolescent and preadolescent behavior begins at younger ages as our culture educates them more rapidly. As psychologist David Elkind pointed out decades ago, children are growing up more quickly and losing their childhoods too early in our fast-moving society. As teenagers become adult-like at earlier ages, they see themselves as "equal" to…

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