Teenagers & Young Adults
Growing up is hard. Teens and young adults face an incredible amount of pressure as they try to figure out who they are and what their place is in the world. Sexuality, spirituality, and social identity are forming in a young person’s mind during these years. They are forming an identity which can become the foundation for who they are as adults.
The COVID-19 pandemic certainly didn’t make life easy for teens and young adults, but for many, their confusion and frustration started long before this (and it has lingered long after the return to “normalcy”). Mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression have become the norm. While medication can help reduce symptoms (and in many cases I do recommend talking with your doctor about this), counseling provides a deeper space for teens and young adults to wrestle with questions about their identity and purpose. It’s also a safe place to process the difficult emotions that come with the stress of academic work, performance pressure (from sports or other extracurricular activities), peer influences, and family dynamics.
“Anger is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for.”
- David Whyte in his book Consolations (emphasis added)
Many clients have come to me seeking to manage or eliminate their anger. I usually end up guiding them toward a different approach: to awaken it!
Anger can be scary because it is often used to harm others, and we reserve our most fierce anger for those we love the deepest. Anger can also be difficult to control. In a season of my own life when anger was at its most intense, I felt as though there was a volcano of fury inside me ready to burst at any moment. The smallest trigger could set it off. This led me to carry deep shame for the ways I harmed others. And yet I had no idea where all the intensity was coming from, let alone what to do about it.
I eventually found ways to move through the worst of my anger in ways that did not harm others. I discovered the root cause of this emotion and processed these experiences of pain and disappointment in ways that lifted the cover off my own steaming pot of anger. The pressure was released and the water stopped boiling.
My own mental health journey led me to a deep form of healing which caused both my anger and my passion to come alive – and to be directed toward what they are meant to fight for, and what they are meant to fight against.
Male Sexual Addiction / Men's Issues
A man’s sexuality is a gateway to his identity. Many men find it difficult to understand why they are drawn to undesired sexual behaviors. They long to be faithful partners and to act with integrity, yet they find themselves enslaved to behaviors they feel they can no longer control. This can take the form of an online pornography addiction, affairs, visiting strip clubs, soliciting prostitutes, prolonged fantasies about a neighbor, colleague, or random stranger, as well as many other issues.
Behind any such form of sexual brokenness, there is the desire for something beautiful. Some form of goodness or wholeness that has likely been long forgotten or given up on. Lasting healing comes when this desire is awakened; not suppressed. The philosopher C.S. Lewis put it very well:
“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy [has been] offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
- C. S. Lewis, Weight of Glory (emphasis added)
Most men have also experienced some form of sexual brokenness. This could be a seemingly small issue, such as being teased by other children about slow sexual development, or by exposure to pornography at an age well before the images or video could be understood and processed. Or it can be major, including physical and sexual assault. In either case, these can have long lasting effects on a man’s sexual development. It can change a man’s pleasure and arousal sensors, making it difficult for him to enjoy the sexual experiences he desires. I have journeyed alongside many men who have experienced dramatic changes in their physical response to sexual stimulation through the process of emotional healing.
Trauma / PTSD
It’s not just for soldiers and sexual assault victims. I define trauma as distress beyond the mind and/or body’s ability to cope. Most of us carry trauma, but few of us know how to find relief from it. Common examples of trauma include:
Repetitive stress at home in early childhood
Car accidents or other significant bodily injury
Hospitalizations or life-altering diagnoses
Divorce, breakups (and other relational rejection), and death of a loved one
Failures or rejections in business and professional pursuits, athletics, and academics (these can be actual or perceived)
Domestic violence, physical or emotional (including yelling and belittling), and bullying
Systemic oppression (such as racism), social violence (repetitive mass shootings), political unrest, and terrorism
Witnessing acts of violence or life-threatening emergencies (such as car accidents)
Natural disasters such as a tornado, fire, hurricane, or flood
Ignoring our trauma and distracting ourselves from it seem to be the most common coping strategy, but I know firsthand that it is not a very good one. I also know from personal experience that healing from trauma is possible. Life on the other side of trauma can be filled with beauty, hope, and deep relational connection. I have journeyed alongside many others who have experienced this fullness of life.
But healing cannot be found without work. Time does not heal all wounds. We must remove the resistance and enter the places in our minds, bodies, and emotions where trauma is stored. I start by providing my clients with a safe place where they can work through their trauma at their own pace. From there we can enter the painful places with a spirit of curiosity and compassion, trusting our minds and emotions to guide the healing process in their natural way. (Your brain and your emotions know how to heal themselves in the same way the body knows how to heal itself from a wound. Metaphorically, our work is to clean out the wound, place a bandage over it for protection, and then allow the body to conduct its own healing process).
I am certified in EMDR therapy.
Grief and Loss
Grief is hard. It’s also complicated. Grief has a tendency to come in “waves”, and these waves hit us at unexpected times and places. The pain of grief often stays with us much longer than we could have imagined.
You have probably heard that there are 5 stages of grief, yet your experience of grief is probably much more complicated. Grief does not follow a set of steps, and there is no formula you can follow to find relief from it. The human experience is far more complicated than that. Not to mention that there has never been a grief exactly like your own.
It is an honor for me to sit with my clients in their grief. To hold space for them to process whatever emotions find their way to the surface. I often tell clients that the only way to the other side of painful experiences is to go through them. You cannot go around them, under them, over them, or ignore them and pretend they are not there. If pain is not dealt with, it remains in the depths of our emotional and spiritual selves (and in our physical bodies), finding its way out in ways that harm ourselves or those we love.
Are you angry at God? Burnt out with church or religion? Confused about what the Bible is actually saying? Have you been lied to or betrayed by a pastor or other spiritual authority?
Wresting with our spirituality can be one of the great struggles of life. I have wrestled with my own for many decades, and it is a journey I am well equipped to engage with my clients on. I cannot provide all the answers, but I value the opportunity to come alongside you as you are asking the questions. I believe the truth is worth searching for, and that we can draw closer to an understanding of the nuances, subtleties, and paradoxes of the spiritual realm.