Navigating religion is an individual process that comes with dedication and commitment. Teens are often raised in religions that are chosen for them by their parents. The generational passing of religion is as old as time, and to this day, continues to be special. Teens are in a place where they want to individuate and become their own person. Sometimes that means leaning into religion, and sometimes stepping away.
As a clinician, I am there to guide the client to be their best self and build support within and around them along the way. This means being open to learning, discussion, and doing research. The responsibility of cultural humility does not fall on the client but on me as the clinician to continue learning outside of the session.
For me, religion is a deeply personal and intimate subject. Yet, a teenager’s initial exposure to religion typically stems from their family environment. During teen years, we see individuals question the beliefs they have been taught and begin to form their own opinions regarding religion. Sometimes this can cause friction with their families and cause feelings of isolation.
I strive to make therapy a safe space for my clients to process their thoughts and provide tools to help them make informed decisions. As a therapist, I refrain from attempting to influence or guide the decision-making of my teenage clients regarding religion. I believe it should be a personal journey for them. I aim to be a listening ear, providing open-ended questions to foster healthy discussions that help teenagers make their own decisions.
As a practicing Episcopalian, and someone who had big questions about God and religion as a kid, I love being a witness to teens navigating some of those same questions. As a therapist, I refrain from attempting to influence or guide the decision-making of my teenage clients regarding religion. I believe it should be a personal journey for them. And as a Religious Studies major in college, I found that one question always led to ten more.
While we never quite know the answers with certainty (of course, that’s where faith steps in), exploring them gives us a better understanding of who we are and how we want to live our lives. Having a safe space to talk about religion is important, as it allows teens to explore what matters to them and who they want to be in the world.
Religion plays a huge role in my personal life and helps me to navigate difficult experiences that I may encounter. I remember being a teen and finding it difficult to find spaces where I could discuss the conflicts between my religious beliefs and other aspects of my identity or values. As a result, I believe it is important to help teens explore and understand the sources of tension that they may experience as a result of their religion or denomination.
While working with clients who have a religious background, it is important to have a non-judgmental approach to ensure that the client feels comfortable sharing without feeling condemned. Further, continued education is extremely important as it relates to differences in religion. By familiarizing myself with diverse ways that different religions approach maintaining their mental health and well-being, I can tailor my therapeutic approach to align with the teen’s culture.
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Until next time, Be Wise!
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