Adolescence. The mysterious age that can be effected by so much and provide the necessary transition into adulthood. Because there is an infinite number of factors that could change the span of adolescence, we may never be able to map out exactly how someone will end up just by analyzing things like their current environment, childhood, what child rearing practice was used, etc, but we are getting closer and making stronger predictions based on specific categories in those areas. I chose to focus on this area of lifespan development because I feel like there is still so much to discover and learn.
Children and teens are amazing the way that they shape and mold themselves into adulthood and I would love to gain more information into that process. My ultimate goal for the future is to work in or run a private practice that specializes in child and adolescent psychology and counseling but also services marriage, couple and grief counseling as well. I feel like I can relate to children/adolescents very well and find that sometimes it’s easier communicating with them than adults because they are so willing to absorb information if it is presented in the right way.
There are many children out there who sometimes just need someone to talk to. Other times, it’s more than that but I would love the chance to help them grow into the amazing people that each of them has the potential to be. I’m excited for what the future holds and I hope to achieve my goals by finishing my B. A. in General Psychology and then going on to pursue my M. S. in Child/Adolescent psychology. You will see that talking to Suzanne Johnson from Johnson Counseling was a great experience for me to see how she runs her practice and some of the issues she encounters most.
You will also continue to read about major events or milestones that I find important when looking at an adolescent’s life. There are many things that can affect a young person that sometimes we never even realize. Lastly, you will see how the interview with Suzanne is integrated into what I have learned from this course. Synopsis of the Lifespan Professional Interview When I went to interview Suzanne for my lifespan development interview I found it a very eye opening experience. There were some things that I did expect to see and hear and others were the complete opposite than what I would have expected.
I found her through a general local search online so we had not had any contact at all prior to our interview. I learned online before meeting her that she specializes in child/adolescent counseling but also does other types such as independent adult, couple, and marital counseling which was perfect because that’s exactly the field that I would like to go into in the future. All of my questions to her were pretty general and more centered around her observations of her clients and patients instead of questions about her specific practice and the way it functioned.
I started out by asking her what she found to be some of the most harmful environmental factors to a teen or adolescent. She said that by far, the most harmful factor is the friends or associations the subject has on a regular basis. This also included parents. Depending on how attached (consciously or subconsciously) the teen is to the parent, they can have the greatest influence on a child. I then asked what one of the biggest initial reasons that an adolescent starts going to counseling in the first place was.
I wanted to know if most kids saw her because of stress, anger, depression or something else entirely. Her response was something I didn’t expect. She said that she would categorize this answer as “confused”. She said that many kids seek help either voluntarily or because of family for one reason or another whether it is that they’re depressed or withdrawn or acting out when really the reason is sometimes the opposite or just something completely different. Taking a look around her office I could tell that she tried to center herself and her practice around children and teens.
She had things like board games stacked up on a shelf, some CD’s of the type of music the younger generation listens to and a very worn out deck of cards on her table. Seeing these things made me feel like being in her office as a patient, it wouldn’t be very hard to open up while playing a game or just listening to some music. Making your patients feel comfortable seems to be one of the key elements to running a good practice. I asked a few more questions and she gave me some great answers.
Like I stated before, some of them really surprised me but I suppose they’re the sort of thing that you can only find out once you’ve been in that profession for a while. Talking with her was very inspiring and motivated me even more to keep pursuing that career path. I felt like everything she was saying was exactly what I wanted to do with my career for the rest of my life. Even if I couldn’t run my own practice, feeling like I was making a difference in the world and in someone’s life would be the most fulfilling feeling I could think of.
I hope to keep in contact with her in the future and maybe visit her again to talk a little bit more about her actual practice instead of just the type of patients that she sees. Literature review on adolescent psychology Many people believe that teens will be teens. They’re rebellious because they want to be and that’s something that just can’t be helped. They also believe that they will go through different phases regardless just as a baby or toddler goes through phases while they’re developing. These thoughts are half true.
They’re true in the sense that teens will go through different phases because just like toddlers and babies, they are still developing physically, mentally and emotionally as well if it does seem like it for some. Their brains are still physically forming and their hormones are still getting sorted out in a way that might make them come off as irrational or over emotional but the truth is, this is part of life and although there are things you can do to cope with it and help your teen cope with it, there isn’t necessarily a way to stop it all together.
One of the best things you can do for your teen is to understand what to look for when they’re acting out. They don’t often act out “for no good reason”. There are usually signs or specific reasons as to why they’re acting how they are even if they’re not obvious to you or even them. Often times, they will use defense or escape mechanisms as a natural way to handle their feelings when they aren’t sure how they should be handling them otherwise. One of those defense mechanisms is called “projection”. Projection is the mechanism frequently used to escape from thoughts, ideas or situations which would, if faced, make the individual insecure and therefore fearful. Projection may be of three types. The individual may project the fault upon someone else in order to withdraw form a situation unendurable because he had been at fault or has failed ot accomplish a task. He places someone else as the agent or something else as the cause of his failure or his fault and thus escapes the situation” (Hart, 1933). Another type of escape or defense mechanism is “rationalization”.
This is when an adolescent uses reason for things because they feel responsible to the opinions and attitudes of adults or peers. Hart (2010) makes a good example saying it’s like “the high school girl who wishes to go to the dance in spite of the fact that her parents feel her to be too young, will say, ‘I do not care particularly about the dance, but I’m afraid that my friends’ feelings will be hurt if I do not go. ” This is a sign that they are starting to consider other feelings and emotions other than their own which is a great sign of maturity.
This brings us to the level of morality that adolescents have versus children or adults. Kohnberg was one person that broke down this idea into stages. The first of these is called Heteronomous morality. This is basically saying that children start their morality off with following externally imposed rules. These are not rules that they made or are made for them “rather, the child has an intuitive sense that immoral actions are punished because they are immoral and immoral because they are punished” (Moshman, 2005).
This stage of morality does not require any more justification than that. The next stage Kohlberg lists is Individualism and Exchange. This stage includes the start of respecting the rights and emotions of others along with their own when fulfilling their own interests. They start to make the exchange of give and take in order to satisfy both or all parties involved. “When young people negotiate and compromise with age-mates, they realize that social life can be based on cooperation between equals rather than authority relations” (Berk, 2010).
In the next stage called Mutual Expectations, the subject starts to really take in what society believes and their image to others. They genuinely want society to view them as a good person. Kohlberg believes this stage can be viewed as early as 10 years old. This continues to go through a few more stages such as Social System, Social Contract and Universal Ethical Principles until the person reaches a “moral adulthood”. Some people go their whole lives without reaching this point while others seem to reach it at a surprisingly young age.
There are several factors that can influence moral reasoning. Just because moral has to do with people’s internal feelings, doesn’t mean that external forces don’t have a hand in changing the ways of thinking of someone. Parenting practices, schooling, peer interaction and culture are some of the major influences that children face when developing their own level of morality. When trying to relate with your teen no matter what they’re going through some of the most important things to remember are to “keep the lines of communication open, be patient and show respect for your teen” (Rotella, 1999).
This might be hard at times because you feel like you want to just be the parent and the child should accept that but the more you try to enforce the rules, sometimes the more the child will pull away and attempt to make their own instead. It’s a very good idea to sit down with your child at an early stage and go over some of the things they will experience in the years to come. Sometimes the best preventative measures to rebellion and change is just being aware of what’s going to be happening emotionally and physically.
As Berk (2010) states “Adolescents who gain most in moral understanding have parents who engage in moral discussions, encourage pro-social behavior, and create a supportive atmosphere by listening sensitively, asking clarifying questions, and presenting higher-level reasoning. ” This is the time in a child’s life that they start to figure out who they are. They figure this out by watching others, taking advice but mostly, figuring out by trial and error on their own. Berk goes over the four stages of identity in her book to map out what exactly people go through to find who they are and who they want to be.
She defines the stages of “identity achievement, commitment to values, beliefs and goals following a period of exploration; identity moratorium, exploration without having reached commitment; identity foreclosure, commitment in the absence of exploration; and identity diffusion, an apathetic state characterized by lack of both exploration and commitment” (Berk, 2010). It’s good for people to be aware of these because the more knowledge you have on these subjects, the more conscious you can be to do what is necessary to be in a good state mentally and emotionally.
Integration of the interview with selected research Doing this research has taught me a lot and only reinforced the idea that every person is different. They can go through the same situation and handle it completely opposite. After reading about all of the different situations that adolescents handle it’s easy to group their reactions into categories and say that this group handled this passively, this group handled it aggressively but in life, it’s full of gray areas from talking to Suzanne. It seems that life is full of many partial feelings instead.
The answers that Suzanne gave in my interview taught me that you can never just expect to know what the outcome will be of a situation of an individual because as much as a textbook can teach you, there will always be underlying factors that influence someone’s decisions and can therefore, change how they handle certain situations in their lives. There are an infinite number of things that could go wrong in an adolescent’s life from depression to trouble with sexual preference to drugs and delinquency. Depending on the childhood and natural instincts of the child, these things may not be avoidable.
Sometimes things like depression or anger are passed down from parents even if we’ve never met them but that doesn’t mean that there’s no way to cope with it. There are always preventable measures to use before a child can get to that state that can help them be aware and handle the situation better themselves and there are also always actions that can be taken while the child is in this state to help the child deal with whatever issues they are responding to. From both research and the interview though, it seems like one of the best courses of action for any situation is to keep communication lines open and free.
The more talk there is between an adolescent and adults, the more they will willingly take influence of them hopefully in a positive way. It’s important to make the child feel safe and not attacked or they could revert and rebel. No one likes to be looked down on especially when you feel like society is already looking down on you. You always need someone in your corner. Doing both the research and interview have been extremely influential for me in my journey to my career goals and I can only hope to further both and gain all of the knowledge I can before starting my own life as a child and adolescent councilor or psychologist.