by Brenda J Titus, CH, MS
Throughout the year, I have been exploring how hypnotists can work with adolescents and their families to help them overcome challenges specific to this age group. In the January edition, I introduced the series and focused on special considerations for hypnotists to address when working with this population. In the April edition, I highlighted topics of concern more specifically focused on middle school age clients. In this article, I will discuss primary problems that high school age teens face, specifically addressing adjustment, changing relationships, heightened pressure, and lack of power. Hypnosis is an excellent intervention to help these teens and their families. I will share some insights into how we as hypnotists can help these clients.
Teens are in a constant state of adjustment in their lives.This is largely because each year in their high school careers represents a unique challenge where they must adjust and understand what is expected of them within the social and educational structure of the school. Right around when they have figured it out, the school year comes to an end and it is time to begin a new challenge. In their minds, it might seem as if once they’ve figured out what is expected of them, it is time to change.
Transition from junior high to high school and freshman year
I discussed many of the challenges that middle school students face in a previous article. As a bit of review, during that phase and continuing on as they transition into high school, there is building pressure to fit in and to develop identity in regards to romantic relationships, scholastic performance, and extracurricular activities. Middle schoolers making the transition to their Freshman year in high school may be as young as 13 years old, yet they enter an environment with fellow students who may be as old as 18. In the development of the teen brain, how they think, and how they interact with others, this is a vast difference in age. Along with the differences in age, students face a difference in level of maturity and life experience, which exacerbates the challenge to fit in and develop identity.
In addition to pressure to establish identity, there is often fear associated with the transition from middle school to high school and the freshman year. There are many “what ifs” associated with adjusting to their environment and the challenge of fitting in. “What if people don’t like me?” and “What if I don’t get accepted into XYZ club/group” are high on the list of fears. The result of not being liked or accepted, in the teen world, can lead to being left out, ostracised, or even bullied, which can result in lack of confidence for the student to apply him or herself toward their studies and extracurricular activities.
Hypnosis to overcome fears and build confidence and social skills can be helpful at this stage to help the teen transition with confidence, laying the foundation for a successful high school career.
Sophomore and junior years
By the time teens begin their sophomore year in high school, they’ve come to understand the social system of the school, have usually found and settled into a peer group, and have identified extracurricular activities to be involved in. Having overcome the fear and pressure of the “what if’s” of their transition into high school, they can settle into their academic endeavors as their achievements start taking on a new level of importance. While colleges take into account the student’s entire high school career as they assess them for admittance, it is the sophomore and junior years when their grades really “count.” Students who have adjusted through the earlier stages of their high school careers will be well prepared for this stage. Those who continue to experience challenges may become overwhelmed by the potential permanency of their choices. They may even have some catching up to do academically.
This is a great time for students to utilize hypnosis to learn and reinforce study skills, time management, concentration, stress management, and relaxation techniques. In doing so, they can be better prepared for the next challenge that they face in their high school careers.
Senior year, graduation, and transition to the next stage in life
During the senior year, teens must learn the challenge of remaining focused. Their eyes are excitedly pointed at the future, however they must still complete their high school education before moving to the next step. During junior year, students had the pressure of adjusting to the concept of permanency as colleges assess them for admission. During the senior year, students must maintain their grades and activities, while adding the struggle for freedom and independence that is blossoming within them. This time of life is full of potential, can be exciting, and it can also be scary. After four years of high school, adjusting to each stage of the social and educational system, teens must prepare for the next stage in their lives. Those who had smooth transitions to and through high school often feel more confident and prepared for this stage.
As students prepare to graduate and transition to the next stage of life, it is almost as though we are back to where we began with them. There are many “what if’s” as teens enter into this stage. As they prepare for college or careers, there is an added pressure because of the permanency of their decisions and their newfound independence.
In addition to interventions mentioned earlier in this article, this is an excellent time to work with teens on goal setting and helping them see the long-term consequences of their daily actions. As they transition toward adulthood, they begin to develop more personal responsibility in regards to whether they will succeed or fail in accomplishing their goals. Hypnotic forgiveness work, specifically forgiveness of self, can be very useful in this stage to help the client overcome any guilt or anger toward themselves due to previous mistakes so that they can truly accomplish their goals in the future.
Relationships with others is an important part of a teenager’s life. They often evaluate their self worth and self esteem based on these relationships and the quality of their interactions with others. This is true both within the family and in the social network of the school.
Parents, family and authority figures
While teens actively seek independence during this time, they also continuously seek input from authority figures, including their parents and other family members. Receiving acknowledgement and pride of accomplishment in grades and extracurricular activities, positive reinforcement, and attention from their parents and teachers or other authority figures can go a long way with teens in fueling their desire to achieve. Often times, teens challenge authority structures in their search for independence, which can lead to conflict and punishment.
Hypnotic forgiveness work with teens, especially helping them see the other person’s point of view, can be very helpful in overcoming difficulties with parents and other authority figures so that the teen can stop doing behaviors that result in negative attention and begin doing behaviors that result in positive attention. It is often valuable for the parents to have sessions as well. In doing so, they can understand the teen’s point of view and needs, especially the deep internal desire to feel loved and good enough, which is a common thread in hypnosis work regardless of the client’s age.
One of the biggest personal challenges that teens face during these years is engaging in intimate relationships for the first time. Experiencing first love, and often first heartbreak, can distract teens from their schooling and their activities. It can also cause friction within the home as teens push the boundaries of parental rules and regulations in order to be with their new love. For some teens, sexual orientation and gender identity may come into play at this time, causing confusion or fear.
Hypnosis is a great tool for young people to develop personal confidence, self love, and even to overcome the heartbreak of a lost love. Helping a teen through relationship issues will aid them in developing healthy relationships in the future rather than continuing painful patterns established in early relationships.
Peers, social groups, and extracurricular activities
Teens rely heavily on what others think of them and where they fit into the social structure. Often, they are able to find a social group or extracurricular activities that will aid in their personal growth, and where they can learn to relate to their peers in a healthy way. Extracurricular activities are a great avenue to develop skills that will benefit students later in life, including leadership skills, teamwork, and problem solving. Teens may face challenges if they are unable to fit in. They may be teased or bullied, which can impact their confidence and capacity to achieve in these social settings.
Hypnosis can be utilized for teens who have had struggles fitting in, especially if they have been bullied or teased, so that they can alleviate themselves of the negative things that were done to them or said about them, rather than accepting them and behaving accordingly.
Teens who have high ambitions and goals often have high level classes in school, and they juggle multiple extracurricular activities where they may have leadership roles. Their lives are full of pressure, with little life experience to understand how to balance their responsibilities. This pressure can lead to sleep problems, test anxiety, fear of failure (or success), lack of focus, and stress related illnesses, just to name a few concerns.
Hypnosis can provide teens stress management tools so that this pressure does not impair their ability to accomplish their tasks. It can also help students understand how stress impacts their bodies and their ability to focus and concentrate.
Lack of power/control (decision making)
To add to the educational and social pressure, this is the time for teens to begin expressing their individuality, their identity, and their desire for personal freedom. They want to make decisions for themselves, yet they do not always have the maturity to make these decisions and follow through with them. They may experience conflict with their families, teachers, and other authority figures because of this desire for personal power. Some act out in anger or frustration, others make poor choices about their schooling or activities as they try to express themselves.
Working with a hypnotist, teens can learn to better understand themselves, the expectations placed upon them, and how to alter their behavior to meet these expectations. The hypnotist can help the teen to learn how to set achievable goals for themselves which conform to the expectations of the family and the school. While this is a great opportunity to work with the teen on goal setting, it is also a time to encourage the parents to let the client start making small decisions for themselves, incrementally working up to larger decisions as they show improvement in their capacity to make good decisions for themselves. In my work with teens and their families, this decision making often starts with the teen’s chores or bedroom, gradually leading up to school work and other responsibilities.
Hypnosis can help…
Teens and their families can benefit from a range of hypnosis techniques and interventions to help them adjust to the various stages and challenges of high school life, to cope with relationship issues, to handle the stress and pressure of their lives, and to set goals for themselves as they begin to develop more personal freedom.
As mentioned throughout this article, families may contact the hypnosis professional for a variety of reasons, from confidence, test anxiety, sports performance, behavioral issues, or fears. Providing a full range of hypnotic techniques can aid the client in overcoming the problem that they came to see the hypnotist for, and it can aid the teen in setting a solid foundation for future success by aiding in goal setting, relaxation, and stress management.
As a 5-PATH® hypnotist, I have utilized various hypnosis techniques with teens. I have had great success with these clients, helping them overcome the problems that they came to see me for and helping them look toward the future with more hope and confidence. Providing direct suggestion aids the client in gaining a new perspective on the problem, giving them hope that they can make changes that they came to see you for. Age regression helps the client understand the root cause of the issue, helping the teen understand themselves better. As the teen gains new insight on the subconscious reasons why they do the things that they do, they can begin to evaluate their choices and develop new behavioral patterns. Hypnotic forgiveness of others sessions aids the client in understanding the point of view of others involved in the situation and helps resolve underlying anger. Hypnotic forgiveness of self sessions aids the client in seeing their own contribution to the problem, providing an opportunity to overcome the anger and guilt associated, ultimately giving the teen responsibility, power, and control to make the changes that they are ready to make in their lives.
Working with this population is very rewarding. Helping clients while they are young can help set them on the path to success. In the final edition of this series, I will share examples from some teens that I have aided through this process and I will share insights into one of the biggest factors that will impact your success with your teen clients!