Dora Futterman, Psy.D.

For some adolescents, the teenage years are ones of crisis, but they are also truly years of opportunity. Adolescents are of an age where they are increasingly capable of making decisions that have long term, sometimes damaging consequences. At the same time, they are in a stage where they are able to reason about their decisions and can make good decisions that re-direct their life in healthy ways.

Sometimes, communication between parents and teens becomes difficult. Conversations can be packed with distrust and negative emotion. A professional can play a helpful role in providing a constructive adult perspective that is not coming from a parent. I take that approach while being an understanding and non-judgmental person the teen can talk to about what is troubling him or her.

When I work with teens, I help him or her to feel comfortable in therapy, so she or he can be open to the benefits of treatment. At the same time, I work as closely as possible with parents and family members. I have worked with teens who are having trouble with anger, acting out, substance abuse, attention disorders, depression, self-harm, and other problems that are getting in the way of growing up in a healthy way.


When You Should Seek Professional Help for Your Teen

Here are some indicators that a psychotherapy can be helpful for your teen:


How I work with teens

I adjust my way of working to the individual teen. Some teens are really good at talking; others have a very hard time opening up. When possible, I tap into the teen’s imagination and creativity to help her or him to communicate with me. Sometimes, what is needed is a light touch, where I will talk with the teen about anything they are willing to talk about, and I will do that until the teen has developed enough trust in me to talk about heavier subjects.

Perhaps the key step with teens is giving them the chance to learn to trust me. Teens who are in an adversarial relationships with adults can sometimes need some time to get to that point.


Confidentiality and working with parents

I endeavor to balance two things when I work with teens. First, the teen needs to know that what they tell me is confidential. Secondly, the parents need to know how their teen is doing, and parents need to know that I will do what I can to help keep their teen safe. Each case is different, but I discuss these issues openly and thoroughly at the beginning of therapy, so both teens and parents know what to expect.

Whenever conditions allow it, I meet with parents regularly to share my impressions and concerns, hear from them how they think their teen is doing, and to talk about how they and their teen are getting along and working together. As I attempt to get the teen to see his or her parents’ point of view, I also try to help the parents to see things from their teen’s perspective. When possible, and when it appears that it will be helpful, I will bring the teen and his or her parents into a joint meeting. Sometimes, siblings or other significant individuals can be included.

A key task of work with adolescents is to gain their trust, so that they can be open to being influenced to gain a more mature perspective, to make better choices, and to stay safe while they figure out who they are and how they want to conduct their lives.

The adolescent years are times of emotional turbulence, trial, and challenge for teens and their families. If you have any questions about whether your teen would benefit from help, please contact me by phone at 925-640-8078.