Therapist for socially struggling anxious 13 year old boy

My son has always struggled socially.  He's talkative and goofy and has kids that he calls friends, but they often aren't nice to him,  and he's on the outside of his peer group being teased or deserted. An after school teacher spotted it years ago and mentioned that he struggles with his emotions and with reading social cues, She suggested a therapist and I didn't listen at the time. Now I wish I had. He just started middle school and already has been targeted by some bullies, and instead of navigating, he seems to be digging a deeper hole. He most prefers to be home alone playing video games. We've tried the kaiser groups, and boy scouts, and karate classes, through the years but he has always lost interest and asked to stop. I'm looking for a therapist that he can meet with and talk to.  It's hard to put my finger on the exact problem. I thought it was ADHD, another therapist said it was anxiety... help.

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We left it until freshman year.  My son's video game playing and staying home had by then gotten worse: anxiety about leaving the house and extreme social anxiety.  If I could do it over again, I would do anything that gets him out of the house and/or off the computer regularly, or else on the computer together.  He must be lonely.  If you can find an activity that is 1:1 with a grownup :  Chess?  Drums?  Therapist was hard to find, but was key to getting better.

Hello. I relate to many parts of your post. My 8th grader also has real troubles with (but is getting better at) reading facial expressions, body language and social cues. I credit the improvement to weekly group (zoom) sessions w Susan Diamond (sue at diamondlanguage dot com). We had a couple of long and helpful talks/interviews w her before our child started working with her (and 3-4 other same-gendered peers each week) so that she had a sense of their needs. It’s been a long road, and our son doesn’t enjoy the sessions, but our family feels our child has finally (hopefully) turned a corner which is an amazing relief. 
I suggest reaching out to Susan and, in addition,  perhaps consider getting an (expensive, sorry) assessment. That was how we learned our child has not only social challenges but confirmed, and gave a name to, a math deficiency we had long suspected. It also told us that our child did not have some challenges we had suspected, which was a relief. If interested, we worked with Clearwater Communication in Oakland. 
Wishing you luck and answers and an easier time for your child w their peers. I know it’s hard. Sending hugs. 

Hello, It is always difficult to see your child struggle.  

Have you considered having him assessed by a neuropsychologist to see if he is on the Spectrum?  Many parents that I've met have found relief in finally understanding their child's differences.  I learned so much once I had the Neuropsych Eval report for my son.  It contained many recommendations that I have found useful over the years.  

Instead of a therapist, I’d suggest a social skills group! That will help him with the skills for making and keeping friends, conversations, dealing with bullies or teasing.

This is so hard. We have been in the same spot with our younger son-trying to pinpoint why he seems to struggle to make real friends. There are some great recommendations here already. I wanted to also suggest looking into a small school with more social supports. You didn't mention what kind of school he is in but in our search to help our son we found that he was struggling at a large public school with almost no caring adults on the playground to guide better social behaviors. We ended up switching our son to a smaller private school and have had some early success that we hope continues. 

Since you are having trouble putting your finger on the issue, and not sure where to go next and how to navigate the care landscape, consider talking to Annette Hess. She provides parental guidance to parents and families to determine whether, and what kind, of therapy your child would benefit from, and provide referrals to services and therapists from there. I was in a similar situation with my child and she advised me on assessments (to ascertain what kind of help and support we might need) and gave me recommendations for who to go to next.


I don't have a solution, but I, too, have a 12 (almost 13 year old) and I have been searching for social skills groups.  I would be happy to connect and collaborate sometime if interested.  Thanks! :)

Scott Weber LCSW is located in Albany and is a wonderful therapist for both Individuals and families. He has helped us immeasurably. He can be reached at (510) 926-9852 scottaweberlcsw [at]

This sounds very much like my 13-year-old son. We recently completed a neuropsych evaluation and learned that a lot of these things (e.g., ADHD, anxiety, OCD, autism) can be interrelated. My son struggles with peer relationships and feeling like people don't understand him, which can then lead to isolation, anxiety, and OCD-like behaviors. He also doesn't recognize the signs of anxiety until they are at a 10 so just started working with a therapist to help him identify the signs and practice anxiety-reducing strategies. Where he has the most fun and success is playing online video games with his friends. It's a safer environment where the expectations are clear, no physical contact, and he's admired for his skills. Next, we want to get him into a social skills group with peers. We are at the very beginning stages and recently learned that he's on the spectrum so are fairly new to all of this, but happy to chat if helpful. Please feel free to reach out.