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Counseling for Adolescent Sexuality Struggles

Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical, emotional, and cognitive human development occurring before the onset of puberty and ending by adulthood. The NCBI continues to explain that this is time where it is typical to be exploring issues related to sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual behavior.

Throughout adolescence, most youth will question their sexual orientation in one way or another. This can be confusing because it is quite possible to be emotionally attracted to one gender but physically attracted to the other. Or, youth can find themselves emotionally and physically attracted to predominantly one gender, but a specific person or persons of the opposite gender can attract them. Therefore, it is expected that adolescents may feel somewhat uncertain, or ambivalent about their sexual orientation.

Adolescents face a great challenge in their early adolescence. Many biological and psychological changes occur during this phase for which many adolescents are not prepared enough to cope with, which often puts them under stress. During these teen years, the hormonal and physical changes of puberty usually mean people start noticing an increase in sexual feelings. Part of that involves better understanding of their own sexual feelings and who they are attracted to. A sexually healthy person is someone who makes decisions about sexual health that are in line with her or his personal identities, goals, values, and beliefs.

gay teen struggling with sexuality

How Do I Know If My Adolescent Is Struggling with Issues Related to Their Sexuality?

Communication is of utmost importance. Asking questions while remaining unconditionally loving and accepting is ideal. However, if conversation isn’t comfortable for parent or child, the offer for an adolescent to speak with someone is also a way to open the door for an adolescent to be given the opportunity to explore their sexuality.

Be aware of symptoms of anxiety and/or depression identified by Psychology Today that can occur during times of transition in adolescents such as:

  • Mood instability
  • Feelings of sadness and melancholy
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Social anxiety
  • Fatigue, insomnia, or hypersomnia
  • Feelings of hopelessness and indecisiveness
  • Substance use

How Will Counseling Help?

A therapist can assist an adolescent in exploring their own feelings related to sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual behavior in a healthy way. Acceptance and validation of self and the various changes that take place during adolescence are necessary in order for the state of physical, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality.

Ultimately, adolescent youth must decide for themselves what makes them happy and fulfilled. Counseling can help give adolescents an unbiased environment in which to explore what makes them feel best, as well as how to accept themselves and be comfortable with sharing who they are with others. Counseling helps adolescents by providing empathy, non-judgmental listening, and supported, directed conversation with a highly trained adult.


Discussions involving sex in a broad context can begin early in the home and the pediatrician’s office. Providers can start talking about peer relationships during early and late childhood. By asking these questions at a young age, kids can more easily transition to discussing other relationships when they are older.

Using accurate names for body parts among young children sends the message that discussions about sex and sexuality are not so embarrassing that they have to be disguised with aliases.

Ask questions and monitor what your children and teens are viewing via social media and other entertainment outlets. These modes of communication have a powerful effect on teen sexual behavior and choices. Children and youth are more vulnerable to media influences because they are less able to separate factual information from fiction.

Parents are the most important determinant of their child’s behavior. Parents must provide rules for their children in a supportive, non-punitive way. Providing unconditional love and nurturance to children with high expectations and appropriate boundaries has been shown to have better outcomes with respect to children and teens engaging in risky behaviors.


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