I have been working with adolescents and their families for over 25 years and taught a course that I co-developed called “Working with Adolescents” at Douglas College for 5 years (in the Continuing Education Dept). I also co-developed a course for teens on relationships in several Vancouver high schools.

I have seen families who are dealing with all kinds of issues, and especially have experience working with adolescents and expertise in parent teen conflict which can include…

  • Skipping school
  • Cutting or other forms of self harm
  • Eating disorders and disordered eating
  • Binge drinking and drug use
  • Defiance
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Self esteem issues
  • Problems with peers
  • Abuse
  • Learning disabilities
  • Blended family issues
  • Sibling rivalry
  • Sexuality or promiscuity
  • Anger management or anger issues

Sometimes adolescents will want to come to therapy of their own volition, but that is rare. I find that I am pretty good at engaging them and they soon become willing participants in the process if they feel heard and understood and not blamed for everything. I usually meet with the parents first to get an idea of what is going on. Then I usually do a combination of one on one and family therapy depending on the situation.

Sometimes an adolescent will want to come and talk to me about things that they don’t feel they can talk to their parents about. In that case it is good that they are at least talking to an adult. Sometimes parents just want to come and talk to me about what to do about their teenager’s behaviour or if there are problems within the family like sibling rivalry that is getting out of hand. Lots of times there are blended family issues that people want help with.

The process

I primarily use Emotionally Focused Family Therapy in my work with families and often draw on many other methodologies. The process allows us to…

  • Improve communication skills
  • Understand behaviour that seems irrational or destructive
  • Understand each role within a family system and how these affect identity


The goal is to repair and/or strengthen the bond between family members. The outcomes that I see for families who have gone through therapy together are…

  • Experiencing a sense of closeness and togetherness
  • Using better communication and understanding
  • Decreasing conflict
  • Changing dynamics
  • Adjusting parenting styles to the age and maturity of their child
  • Parents learning how to customise their approach to their own particular child
  • Parents not taking teen’s behaviour so personally, remaining calm and looking at the bigger picture
  • Parents having skills to know when to back off and when to intervene
  • Parents balancing love, understanding and guidance, with control, supervision and protection
  • Parents letting go of questions and just listening
  • Parents understanding how a teen is moving from concrete thought to abstract and how that affects their behaviour and choices
  • Both parents and teens learning to say no and set healthy boundaries
  • Gaining an overview understanding of societal issues such as gender roles, sexual orientation, race and group identities
  • Decreasing anxiety and worry
  • Teens no longer viewing the parent as the enemy
  • Appreciating each other more
  • Teens re-establishing the bond in a new way