Psych Grads Create New Model to Serve Teens and Their Parents

Written by Laura Paskin
September 15, 2016

220x154

Master’s in Psychology alumni Kristin Beck and Jennifer Reisberg, class of 2015, created a model of psychotherapy to specifically address issues facing teens and their parents. Beck (right) works directly with parents, while Reisberg (left) meets independently with teens. Beck (KB) and Reisberg (JR) discuss their specialized psychotherapy practice, Inside Out Therapy Alliance.

Q. What led to your decision to work with teens and their parents?
JR: There are a few therapists in Seattle who specialize in adolescents, but their practices are generally full and tend to have extremely long waiting lists. If you are looking for a therapist for your teenager, you don’t have very many places to turn, and that’s a big part of what pushed us forward to create this practice.

Q. Why a separate approach with parents?
KB: Adolescence is a family event, and parents need psycho-education and support. They want to understand what’s going on with their teen developmentally, how to be supportive through the chaos, and how to take care of themselves so they can effectively parent through this period.

Parents call us because they see their teen struggling, yet they no longer have a finger on the pulse of what’s happening at school or with friendships, and that can feel scary. Parents view our model as a way to help their family make sense of the enormous changes that hit during adolescence, in order to stay connected.

Q. Why a separate approach with teens?
JR:  It is very important for the teenager to feel that they have their own person who they trust. Confidentiality is a huge thing. My work is letting them know that this is their space — they choose what we talk about. I’m interested in understanding their experience, rather than focusing only on controlling behavior or fixing something. That’s the underlying philosophy of our model and therapeutic orientation, and teens seem to respond so well to that because they aren’t with someone who is judging them — they’re with someone who is striving to understand them.

Q. What kinds of problems are the teens facing?
JR: There’s a lot of academic and social pressure. We see teens struggling with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and difficulties in school. Some are over-achievers and others have difficulty dealing with the pressures of teenage life.

Q. How did the MAP program prepare you for your practice?
KB: The existential-phenomenological approach places a premium on looking closely at the lived experience of our clients. Understanding context — what is going on in the home, what is going on developmentally with the child, what is happening in the lives of the parents and siblings, and how the past impacts the present – that’s important. The program trains clinicians take in all of the details.

Q. What is it about the humanistic approach that’s so successful?
JR: Our training emphasized the importance of meeting clients where they are, rather than being a therapist who already has the blueprint and knows how things should be. We do what’s called a phenomenological reduction, bracketing (setting aside) our assumptions, and focusing instead on working with the person sitting in front of us. We try to make sense of what is going on together. We realize the importance of the relationship between therapist and client. I see the relationship itself as a healing tool, a way of modeling to the client a different way of experiencing the world, and a different way of experiencing a relationship with another person.