Many people still believe that adolescence and puberty mean the same thing, so I’ll start this reflection by explaining the difference between the two.
The word puberty comes from the Latin puberty and it means “covered with hair”. It is a moment in human development in which bodily and emotional changes take place. It usually happens between 8 and 14 years of age and it is during this period that our bodies start to produce hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are responsible for the increase and thickening of hair in the armpits, pubis, legs and face. Menarche (first menstruation) and semenarche (first ejaculation with the presence of sperm) also occur.
The word adolescence comes from the Latin grow up, which means to grow. The term teenager refers to the person who is in the growing phase. And this stage of life is not related to any physiological issue, but part of it happens along with puberty, so many people confuse adolescence with puberty.
So, to recap: puberty occurs between the ages of 8 and 14, while adolescence, being a social and historical construction, can vary from culture to culture. Here in Brazil we have the definition of the ECA (Child and Adolescent Statute), which says that this phase begins at age 12 and ends at 18.
mental health in the second decade of life
Regardless of whether they are two different things, it is important to know that both adolescence and puberty bring about intense changes. In addition, the second decade of life is still highly stigmatized, often being pejoratively described by adults as “annoyance”, which connotes that this is the stage of annoyance.
If dealing with teenagers’ changes is difficult enough for adults, imagine being the person who is feeling these changes, literally, in their own skin?
Imagine waking up one day and your body being totally changed, your voice cracking, pimples all over your face and back, hairs growing in unexpected regions and your mood changing every hour. Now imagine all this added to the discomfort of looking in the mirror, being ashamed of non-acceptance in friendship groups and the conflict of wanting to talk about all this and fearing not being understood in your anguish?
Many teenagers feel the pressure of having to belong to a social group and, at the same time, deal with new ways of looking at their own bodies and understanding their emotions.
Psychotherapy, at this stage of life, appears as a safe space that allows the expression of feelings without judgment, in addition to being confidential. It is important that we know that the therapeutic process can help in healthy development, contributing to the passage through adolescence to be made with power and self-care.
How to choose a professional?
If you are an adult and are looking for a professional to assist a teenager, the first step is to dialogue with the teenager in question about the possibility of psychotherapy. Ask if he feels the desire to start this journey and if he wants to meet a professional. Explain that psychotherapy does not mean that he is sick or frail, but that this is a safe and confidential self-care space.
Now, if you are a teenager and want to start a psychotherapy process, talk to the adult person responsible for you and let them know of your desire.
The next step is to look for the professional. There are a few ways to do this search. You can look for it in your health insurance, by indication of people who are already in psychotherapy, in addition, some professionals have profiles on social networks. It is also possible to seek care at school clinics, which are university clinics that have a psychology course. There, the teenager will be attended by senior students who receive supervision from the faculty.
Psychotherapy for adolescents is a possibility for reflection on oneself and can help a lot in this stage of life. It is important to say that family members and guardians of adolescents can also benefit from a process in psychotherapy, after all, many mothers, fathers and caregivers have difficulty accepting that that child, who until yesterday was crawling around the house, grew up.