Beginning on Feb. 28, the New Jersey Center for the Healing Arts counseling center in Red Bank is seeking to “normalize the experience of stress” among adolescents who may find it difficult to cope with anxiety.
The center will serve as the host to the first session of a teen anxiety group. Adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 may register for a weekly program that will be held for a minimum of six weeks. The program aims to abolish the stigma associated with adolescent anxiety and to help teenagers cope with academic, family and social stress. According to Kristy Mathews, mental health counselor at the Center:
“School is like the wild, or the movie Mean Girls. If (teenagers) show a little bit of weakness, fear or anxiety, you are going to get eaten alive. Creating a space that is not at school helps teens understand it’s OK to show you are experiencing (anxiety).”
Mathews said teenagers who join the support group will examine peer relationships and social anxiety. She said they will also discuss family dynamics and anxiety. Participants will learn anxiety coping skills and relaxation techniques.
At the end of the six-week program, Mathews hopes adolescents feel “understood.” She adds, “Teens when they spend time together are not having a play date. They are hanging out.
“You want to talk about the drama that happened in school today? Let’s talk about that here. When you hang out with your friends, sometimes they say the wrong thing. The idea is that therapists are hopefully not saying (the wrong) things.”
Mathew encourages teenagers to visit the center to meet with a therapist before signing up for the program or other counseling sessions. She said, “it helps to have a relationship before (teenagers) come in” for counseling.
According to the organization’s Web site, the mission of the Center is to provide access to opportunities for the integration of mind, body, emotions and spirit through counseling, medicine, complementary healing arts, educational resources, cultural and artistic expression, and the celebration of community.”
The teen anxiety group will meet each Thursday for six weeks beginning Feb. 28. The cost is $35 per session. Some insurances may cover the cost of group therapy. Residents of all towns may participate. The program will be facilitated by Mathews and by Parker Hilton, a licensed professional clinician intern. To register, call 732-747-2944.