STEPHEN MESSER, PH.D.

Dr. Messer has extensive training and experience working with adolescents in a multitude of settings, from home and school settings, to academic medical center inpatient units and specialty outpatient clinics. He understands the many potential sources of stressors and difficulties confronting young people and strives to learn more with each additional client and family, as well through his commitment to life-long professional education. Most importantly for his clients, Dr. Messer has a keen appreciation and respect for how each adolescent is unique and resilient, developing in a complicated world. This often means challenging relationships with families and friends, teachers and schools, and sometimes involves experiencing harsh realities and even traumatic events. However, he also knows and respects that often the most effective resources and strongest supporters of adolescents, are the adults in the very families, schools, and communities in which they struggle. Working together is usually the most powerful way toward success. This means teaming-up with the families and teachers who genuinely love, encourage, and support them. Dr. Messer enjoys working with adolescent youth, yearning to make sense of their place in their unique world and watching them maximize their potential strengths despite obstacles. He is committed to devoting as much of his time and energy as feasible, helping young people and their families feel and get along better as quickly as possible while supporting and guiding their plans, goals, and dreams for the future. 

Dr. Messer utilizes a variety of techniques to assess, support, and intervene in the psychological lives of adolescents and their families. Practically, he engages the majority of time with the youth in individual therapy sessions. Accurate assessment and diagnosis are critical for the most effective therapy plans. This involves the sensitive discussion of the adolescent’s expectations and understanding of therapy and the kinds of activities that define the work we will be doing together, and the positive changes that come from therapy. Depending on the presenting problem, parents may be involved in some sessions, to share their observations, feelings, and thoughts, and make suggestions on how family interactions might be contributing to the problems, and how they may be changed for the better. Dr. Messer will develop and share a personalized therapeutic approach, one that is tailored to the presenting problems and most likely to result in successful outcomes. For adolescents experiencing emotional (e.g., anxiety, depression) or behavioral (e.g., defiance, distractibility, substance use) problems, he will apply techniques to help the young person identify and express their current feelings, their thoughts and beliefs about why they feel and react in particular ways and certain situations, and reflect upon the consequences of their behaviors and interactions with others. For adolescents experiencing behavioral problems, parents may be asked to participate in sessions, practicing parenting skills including positive discipline and encouragement, through rehearsal, practice, and the provision of feedback. Dr. Messer utilizes an integrative therapy approach with adolescents and families, guided by research-informed strategies when available, particularly the therapeutic models of the broad cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) family (e.g., ACT, DBT, Motivational Interviewing), and relational/interpersonal approaches (e.g., Interpersonal, Emotion-focused, & Psychodynamic Therapies). The aim is to flexibly use the most appropriate strategy and techniques, at particular times in therapy, that will result in the most positive outcomes possible for the unique adolescent and their family.