Therapy for Adolescents

Should Your Teenager See a Therapist?

Should Your Teenager See a Therapist?

Therapy may be appropriate if you've found that "adolescence" has become a difficult time for your teenager and your family. Adolescence is a developmental stage where individuals face important issues such as identity, independence, morality, and choice. This period can also be a time of physical growth and changes, during which adjustment is needed, yet answers seem sparse.

As young people transition from being teenagers into becoming adults, emotional issues flair. These can include poor self-image, anxiety, depression, aggression, and withdrawal. They can easily become targets of bullying or abuse and/or susceptible to substance abuse and addictions.

Because of a typical teenager's need for independence, most young people seem to benefit from psychotherapy. This is because the process of discussing their issues outside the framework of their family system allows them to feel in control of things. They also respond well to the relationship with the therapist, who is an adult with a genuine interest in them and their happiness.

Signs to Look for -That Therapy May Be of Benefit
    • Abuse – Physical, Sexual, Verbal
    • Abusing drugs or alcohol
    • Aggression
    • Anxiety
    • Being secretive
    • Crying often or for long periods of time
    • Death or loss of a loved one or pet
    • Defiance
    • Depression
    • Destroying things
    • Difficulties in school
    • Difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks
    • Eating issues – not eating or over-eating
    • Family conflict – arguments, violence, divorce, etc.
    • Increased irritability
    • Isolating
    • Lying
    • Making self deprecating comments
    • Meltdowns
    • Not wanting to go to school
    • Obsessing or worrying often
    • Overly busy
    • Peer pressures
    • Power struggles
    • Procrastination
    • Self-harming – cutting, scratching, hitting, etc.
    • Stealing
    • Trouble with friends or no friends
    Therapeutic Treatment for Teenagers

    The formal mental health term for "therapy" is actually psychotherapy - and psychotherapy is a type of psychiatric treatment that involves interactions and conversations between a trained therapist and a client. When psychotherapy is used to treat adolescents, it can help them deal with trauma, modify behavior, resolve problems, and learn to make positive and lasting life changes.

    Of the many types of psychotherapy that have proven beneficial for adolescents, the following are the approaches we feel have the best potential to address most problems faced by young people today. It's important to state that in some cases, the best results may come from combining psychotherapy with medication prescribed by a doctor.

    Talk therapy

    This type of therapy is the quintessential form of therapy, where the therapist works to help the child express themselves verbally. Talk therapy is best suited for children with good language skills.

    Click here to read more about Talk Therapy

    CBT - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

    This type of therapy is typically helpful with children who are depressed, anxious, or having problems coping with stressful situations. Click here to read about CBT.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy restructures negative thoughts into more positive, effective ways of thinking. CBT works on stress management strategies, relaxation training, practicing coping skills, and other forms of treatment.

    Click here to read more about CBT


    The symptoms of mental health issues seem to diminish faster with children than with adults. Adolescents may be able to undergo rapid change more easily than adults. Perhaps due to the child's age, it seems that a trauma, anxiety, or a phobia has had less time to take hold throughout a young person's mind and body. It is significant that EMDR seems to help teens move in positive directions. EMDR is also a useful approach with younger, less verbal children. Even though it is administered therapeutically, the process itself can seem like a game – a game played between therapist and teen. When teens are having fun, they are potentially more open to being in a therapist's office. Click here to read about EMDR.

    Click here to read more about EMDR

    Art Therapy

    Art therapy is the therapeutic method used to stimulate communication between the client and therapist through the use and interpretation of art mediums. Therapists select appropriate interventions and art materials that suit the needs, goals, and objectives of the client. The principle purpose of art therapy is to combine psychotherapy and the creative process in helping the client deal with problematic issues, achieve insight, cope with trauma, eliminate negative behaviors, improve relationships, and become happier.

    Art therapy is a creative and enjoyable activity that helps establish rapport between the client and therapist, puts the client at ease, provides an additional form of communication on difficult subjects and allows for a vehicle for self-expression. Art therapy stimulates creative thinking and exploration, boosts ego, and provides an outlet for emotions.

    Assessing elements in artwork can help therapists understand how well a client is understanding and applying therapeutic principles and practices.

    Click here to read more about Art Therapy

    Preparing Your Teen for Therapy

    You may be concerned that your adolescent will become upset when told of an upcoming visit with a therapist. Although this is sometimes the case, it's important to be honest about the session and why your teen will be going. The issue will come up during the session, but it's important for you to prepare him or her for it.

    Explain to your young person that this type of visit to the doctor doesn't involve a physical exam or shots. You may also want to stress that this type of doctor talks a little bit, listens a lot, and will help them solve their problems and feel better. Young people might feel reassured to learn that the therapist will be helping the parents and other family members too.

    Giving adolescents this kind of information before the first appointment can help set the tone, prevent him or her from feeling singled out or isolated, and provide reassurance that the family will be working together on the problem.

    Consider These Suggestions for Helping the Process:
    • • Talk with your adolescent as often as they would like to.
    • • Show extra patience, affection, and acts of kindness – especially during troubled times.
    • • Don't be afraid to set your own boundaries and take care of your own physical and emotional needs – setting an example for your young person.
    • • Ask for suggestions and help from other family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, doctors, etc.
    • • Plan and hold family meetings to discuss appropriate details of therapy and your adolescent's involvement and progress.
    • • Plan and hold family activities that focus on your young person and issues he or she is working on – such as favorite hobbies, meals, treats, games, entertainment, etc.
    • • Communicate frequently with the therapist and ask for specific tips and strategies to help your unique situation.
    • • Be open to the recommendations you get from the therapist and the feedback you get from your adolescent.
    • • Respect the relationship between your young person and the therapist and discuss any negative feelings about it if they arise.

teenagers needing therapy

“Everybody has talent, it’s just a matter of moving around until you’ve discovered what it is.” - George Lucas