Therapy for First-Generation American Teens

November 7, 2023

Growing up as a first-generation American teenager can be tough, with a mix of cultural and family pressures. Therapy can play a crucial role in helping these teens navigate their unique challenges. At The Wise Family, we are fortunate to have multiple first-generation therapists who understand on a deeper level, allowing for stronger connections and support.

Wedad Omer, Resident in Counseling

As a first-generation therapist, working with first-generation teens holds a special significance for me. I understand the complexities and unique challenges these adolescents often face as they navigate cultural, familial, and societal expectations.

My own experiences allow me to empathize with the sense of identity struggle and the balance between preserving cultural heritage while integrating into a new environment.

This shared background creates a foundation of trust and understanding, enabling me to provide culturally sensitive and relatable support. By tailoring therapy to their specific context, I aim to empower these teens to embrace their heritage, overcome obstacles, and develop resilient coping strategies that honor their roots while embracing their individuality.

Tiffaney Knight, Resident in Counseling

As a therapist, the act of working with first-generation teens includes a lot of holding space for them. First-generation individuals can find themselves at a crossroads as they begin to blend their own culture with the American teen culture. They can begin to go through an identity crisis as they struggle to find their place in this “new” world. First-generation teens may begin to have conflict with their families who may not understand the nuances of American culture and they may have the burden of growing up fast to help their parents navigate language barriers.

The therapeutic space can be seen as a safe haven to take off all the many hats they have to wear and simply focus on their needs and wants. As a therapist, I want to encourage them to explore who they are and reassure them that it’s okay to blend all of their worlds together.

Cleo Chalk, Resident in Counseling

Therapy for first-generation teens is a unique experience that requires cultural competency, a safe space, empowerment, and continuous learning. Clinicians must be aware of cultural factors that may influence how the teen presents during sessions and willing to encourage discussion about cultural conflicts and identity. Additionally, clinicians should support teens in embracing their culture and celebrate each step forward that they make in that effort. Further, it is important that clinicians psychoeducate both the teens and their families to help better understand the concept of mental health and destigmatize seeking help.

Lydia Hatcher, Resident in Counseling

Therapy with first-generation teens is a gateway for the therapist to explore many unknowns about the therapeutic process. Often one of the biggest challenges is convincing the family that the teen needs or would benefit from therapy.

These days teens are exposed to their peers’ experiences, which often include mental health therapy. Teens openly discuss with their peers some of the struggles they have and the resources they use to address those things. First-generation teens learn about therapy resources that are successfully helping their friends address their mental health. This exposure also opens the door for conversations in the homes of first-generation teens so they can seek help and support for their mental health. This also is a gateway for their parents.

Looking to get into therapy but don’t know how to start the conversation? Send us a message. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Until next time, Be Wise!