Just as adults benefit from various types of psychotherapy, teens often need support and guidance from a therapist as well. It’s important to normalize therapy and to reassure your teenager that speaking with a therapist is healthy and normal. There are countless reasons for an adolescent to seek help from a mental health professional.
Psychotherapy helps teenagers in many ways: receiving emotional support, conflict resolution, better understanding their feelings and struggles, and trying out new solutions to old problems. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: “As part of the initial assessment, a qualified mental health professional or child and adolescent psychiatrist will determine the need for psychotherapy. This decision will be based on such things as the child’s current problems, history, level of development, ability to cooperate with treatment, and what interventions are most likely to help with the presenting concerns.”
Techniques may include art therapy, role play, therapy games, group discussion and more. The goals for therapy may be specific (acting less violent, improving listening skills with their parents & teachers) or more general (creating healthy habits, making friends).
Psychotherapy for teens
Therapy has been proven to help guide adolescents through important developmental changes and times of transition. Therapists can help teens develop problem solving skills, deal with behavioral issues and learn to express themselves in a healthy, safe way. Seeking a therapist is especially beneficial for adolescents who have recently experienced some type of loss, such as divorce or after a recent death in the family. It may be difficult for parents and children to connect on a deeper, emotional level during challenging times. A therapist can help you interact and communicate in a more constructive, understanding way.
Common reasons why adolescents may benefit from therapy:
- Abandonment Issues
- Adoption/Foster Care
- Defiant Behavior
- Depression & Anxiety
- Sexual Abuse
- Socialization Skills
During adolescence, the brain will go through significant developmental changes. “Adolescents’ developing brains, along with hormonal changes, make them more prone to depression and sometimes more likely to engage in risky and thrill-seeking behaviors than either younger children or adults. These and other factors underscore the importance of meeting the mental, social, and emotional health needs of this age group.”
- Prolonged Sadness
- Excessive worry
- Change in mood or personality
- Substance Abuse
- Eating Disorder Behavior
Reasons Why Teens Seek Therapy for Themselves
- A safe place to discuss private matters
- A professional who understands the adolescent mind and can offer guidance on life’s challenges
- An opportunity to talk about problems and concerns rather than holding them in
- A trusted person to “vent” their frustrations and fears without judgement
Tips for Talking to Adolescents about Therapy
Adolescents may feel afraid to confide in an adult that they do not know. These tips from GoodTherapy.org may help parents and caregivers talk to children about psychotherapy:
- Let them know they are not in trouble.
- Practice active listening.
- Take them seriously.
- Stay open, authentic, and relaxed.
- Normalize the issue they are experiencing.
- Explain that the therapist is there for help and support.
- Explain confidentiality. Let children—especially teens—know therapy gives them a safe and private space to share. Acknowledge you will be alerted if there are threats to their safety.