Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

SEARCH: An Integrated Model for Counseling Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

SEARCH: An Integrated Model for Counseling Adolescents

Article excerpt

Adolescence is a developmental stage characterized by rapid and complex changes. Adolescents experiencing psychological concerns commonly benefit from participating in counseling. The authors present a model that is an integrated strengths-based approach in which the adolescent actively identifies his or her personal strengths.


Counselors are increasingly focused on the unique mental health concerns of adolescents. Adolescence has long been recognized as a developmental stage distinct from childhood and from adulthood. Therefore, the mental health needs of adolescents and counseling interventions for this population are also unique. There are many significant indicators highlighting what a complex and challenging time adolescence currently is in our society.

The seminal works of Peter Blos (1962), On Adolescence: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation, and Erik Erikson (1959), Identity and the Life Cycle, identified adolescence as a developmental stage with specific psychosocial tasks. Contemporary research about adolescence (Boyle et al., 1996; DiClemente, Hansen, & Ponton, 1996; Ketterlinus & Lamb, 1994; Lewinsohn, Solomon, Seeley, & Zeiss, 2000; Offord et al., 1992) has reported high prevalence rates of youth psychiatric disorders (approximately 1 out of 5 adolescents) between the ages of 4 and 18 years. School personnel have identified family issues, learning disorders, underachievement, and parents' divorce and adjustment reactions as problems that affect students who are often not referred for counseling. Many children and adolescents fail to meet the criteria requirements for a diagnosis because of the current symptom patterns outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Yet, these individuals may experience significant developmental, emotional, and behavioral problems with compromised long-term prognoses, adding to the significant number of adolescents in need of counseling services. Kazdin and Johnson (1994) reported teachers and parents frequently refer children with disruptive disorders, including conduct and oppositional defiant disorders and hyperactivity, for clinical treatment.

Kazdin and Weisz (2003) concluded that "adolescents experience many different types of problems, experience multiple problems concurrently, and will profit from some intervention" (p. 9). Kazdin and Weisz alerted counselors that dysfunctional behaviors come "in packages" (p. 223); for example, at-risk behaviors such as delinquent acts, academic failure, drug use, and conduct problems tend to cluster together. Bonati and Clavenna (2005) reported the alarming fact that despite a scarcity of supportive research on the appropriate use of psychotropic drugs in the adolescent population, epidemiological studies report an increased use of psychotropic medications, especially stimulants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. This trend is alarming because of the scarcity of research supporting the use of psychotropic drugs for adolescents. The risk of inappropriate use or abuse of these drugs is high. The critical mental health needs of contemporary adolescents serve as a call to action for counselors currently providing counseling interventions for adolescents in schools, community agencies, and private practices.

In general, therapeutic approaches with adolescents have only included modifications of counseling models developed for adults. Weisz, Weiss, Han, Granger, and Morton (1995) defined appropriate counseling for children as any intervention that is developed to lessen distress, to reduce maladaptive behaviors, and to enhance positive coping and functioning. Kazdin and Weisz (2003) outlined the goals as improving intrapersonal adjustment, focusing on views about self and choices of action and interpersonal functioning, and focusing on the quality of interactions with others. Weisz, Weiss, Alicke, and Klotz (1987) emphasized that "adolescents are more cognitively complex than children, less likely to rely on adult authority, and seemingly less likely to adjust their behavior to fit societal expectations, possibly causing adolescents to be more resistant to therapeutic intervention" (p. …

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