Teens and 20s – A Time for Self-Improvement

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, January 27, 2021
By Jenny Friedman, LCSW

I’ve always liked working with the younger population (teens and 20s), but never quite knew why. Maybe it’s because I can relate to them pretty well given my “younger” age, grew up as an older child with younger siblings, or was a camp counselor for many years. Or, if I look at it more deeply, maybe it’s because I can relate to a lot of the issues that my young patients face: I can understand them, empathize with them, and know that things ultimately get better.

Teen with purple hairHowever, the more and more I work with this population, a new reason emerges: teens and 20s (and, yes, beyond!) are just figuring themselves out. They play around with ideas in sessions, they explore their identity, their likes, their dislikes. They finally have a forum to share all that’s on their minds as their consciousness expands and new thoughts generate. As a therapist listening, it’s quite incredible to be part of their journey, to hear them think things through, to reflect on something mentioned the week prior, to explore an area they had otherwise not yet explored. How lucky am I to be a witness to my younger patients realizing things about themselves, about the world around them! It’s exciting for them and it’s exciting for me.

With this age group, I’ve found that a lot of my job is to simply listen.  In today’s fast-paced world, where there are a million and one distractions, how many of us truly *listen*?  We are all at varying levels obsessed with our phones, the news, social media, the latest trends, etc. Our younger people have a lot to say, but maybe not enough people to listen. Given the time and space that therapy provides, and ideally a curious and motivated therapist to match, I’ve found that this age group really opens up, even the shyest and most introverted patients. And that’s part of the beauty of therapy: having an uninterrupted 50 minutes where the time is yours–to say what you think, to vocalize new (and sometimes scary) thoughts–and have someone on the other side that is listening, not judging, a true partner in one’s journey of self-discovery.  I really can’t think of something much better, or more hopeful, for this younger population.

*Note–the aforementioned ‘beauty of therapy’ applies to any age.


“It takes courage to become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings