n CME : Your SA Journal of CPD - Communicating with adolescents : main article

Volume 25, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 0256-2170



A non-pathologising psychodynamic understanding of adolescence can assist health professionals to communicate more effectively with teenage patients.

Adolescence is a distinct developmental period characterised by enormous physical, emotional and psychological shifts that can manifest in dramatic behavioural changes.
A hallmark of adolescence is an extreme tension of opposites in the psyche that tugs and pulls the adolescent between the safety of childhood and the developmental urges toward separation and individuality.
This tension causes psychic conflict and concomitant anxiety that the psyche deals with through defence mechanisms.
Two pertinent defence mechanisms that explain many of the overt behaviours typically seen in adolescence are 'acting out' and 'projection'.
These defences are normal and functional except when, taken to the extreme, they can cause developmental arrest.
In aid of normal human development, healthy psyches are unconsciously predisposed toward recognising authentic adults who can both 'hold' their anxieties and limit their destructive potential.
Communication always occurs on both conscious and unconscious levels simultaneously, thus health professionals need to become aware of unconscious prejudices and attitudes toward adolescents that can severely hinder effective communication.

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