Adolescence is a challenging stage of development for our young people and all those involved in their care. About one-third of adolescents will struggle during this stage of development. The distress they experience can be characterised by pervasive despair and misery, difficult peer relationships, emotional outbursts, poor coping, struggles meeting the demands of school and activities, conflict with parents and other authority figures, impulsive and self-harming behaviours, social isolation, substance issues and in particular painful confusion about self-esteem and self-worth.
If you know a young person who might be experiencing some of these problems then you might like to read on and hear a bit more about getting help for them.
Adolescence and Mental Health
Research concurs that in adolescence there is a notable increase in the prevalence of many mental health problems including, depression, anxiety, eating difficulties, self-harming behaviours and substance dependence and that they can persist into adulthood. However, research evidence also indicates that addressing the early warning signals of distress in young people, with and appropriate range of supports and interventions, can reduce the risk of escalating and enduring mental health problems in adulthood.
Mental Health and the Adolescent Social World
Tackling the individual needs of the young person is important at times of distress. However, this does not mean that we understand the problem as being solely rooted ‘within the individual young person’. It is important to take an extensive look at all the biological, psychological and social factors present. In particular this includes an exploration of the young person’s wider social network.
A biopsychosocial approach to mental health promotes this broader understanding of the problem, including looking at the social and relationship context of the individual’s emotional problem. In addition, this approach encourages the recruitment of help and resources from the wider social network, including family, school, peer groups, social media, professionals and the wider community.
In our work with young people we encourage them to take a look at their wider social network and learn how to better use the resources available to them. Supporting this stance can help you and your relationship with your young person. During the course of psychological therapy the aim is to gradually build a broader, but sustainable range of resources to help and support your young person and improve the quality of all their relationships and especially with family and friends.
Rationale for Service
As psychological therapists working with young people we recognise the importance in mental health service provision to provide them with emotional and psychological input within a peer group setting. Getting help for your young person on an individual basis is necessary, but evidence would suggest that it’s not sufficient. The main reason for this is that we now know that the interpersonal world of the adolescent is not just important from a social perspective, but is central to facilitate the key stages of neurobiological and psychological development that take place during this time. Therefore, providing your young person with the opportunity to meet others with similar difficulties can be a powerful and validating experience. Furthermore, meeting similar others can provide a special opportunity to access peer feedback and approval, explore ways of understanding themselves and others and develop the competence and confidence to effectively communicate with others.
Group Aim and Focus
The aim of the group is not to resolve all of the current difficulties, but to kick-start the ‘mentalizing’ process, which is an essential developmental process of change which includes learning how to develop the skills necessary to enhance individual emotional wellbeing and healthier relationships. Psychological interventions are not a ‘quick fix’, but can make a significant difference in helping your young person to engage with a process of recovery, allowing them to achieve the things that are important to them at this stage of their lives and to engage with the wider range of supports and resources that are available to them.
The approach we take is to help the young people to enhance the fundamental psychological process of ‘mentalizing’ which is understood to interface with all major mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, trauma, eating difficulties and substance misuse.