web analytics
Skip to main content

Therapy exercises for teenagers can include journaling for self-expression, mindfulness meditation to reduce stress, and deep breathing exercises for anxiety management. Art therapy can help process emotions, while cognitive-behavioral activities like challenging negative thoughts promote healthier thinking patterns. Physical activities such as yoga also support mental well-being. Incorporating therapy exercises into long-term treatment can setup healthy habits for teen recovery.

While a recent report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that about one in five teens struggles with some form of behavioral, developmental, or emotional health issue in the US, not all receive the kind of care they need.

Therapeutic methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have proven to be a breakthrough in the treatment of common conditions such as teen depression and anxiety, but helping teens continue to reap the benefits of therapy in the long-term is just as crucial as managing and reducing symptoms in treatment.

Therapy exercises for teenagers like journaling, mindfulness meditation, and art therapy provide effective ways to manage stress and develop healthier coping mechanisms for life. This article explores some of the most helpful therapy exercises for teenagers.

Therapy Exercises for Teenagers

Therapy exercises can help teens learn to manage and resolve inner turmoil, untangle interpersonal conflicts, and find healthy ways to express themselves and address their frustrations or negative emotions.

For example, in art therapy, teens express complex emotions and experiences nonverbally, fostering self-awareness and emotional regulation. Cognitive-behavioral therapy exercises, such as journaling or thought restructuring, provide practical tools for teens to challenge negative thought patterns and develop healthier coping strategies. Here are some therapy exercises for teenagers:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Exercises

Cognitive behavioral therapy exercises translate the basic tenets and lessons learned through CBT into actionable exercises that help teens step away from harmful or negative thoughts and analyse them constructively and positively. Journaling is often recommended as a therapy exercise because all it requires is a pen, journal, and consistency.

Journaling daily or once a week gives you something to look back on to track your progress in approaching things that bothered you or preoccupied you in weeks past. It also provides an outlet to give shape to your thoughts and review them from a different perspective.

Other effective CBT exercises include recognizing and letting a mental script – such as a catastrophized “what if” scenario – play out to the end, and then consider whether such fear is reasonable or an element of your anxiety. Exposure and response prevention – through controlled means, and within a framework established or approved by your psychiatrist or therapist – can also help dismantle negative thoughts and disaster spirals.

2. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness exercises have existed for thousands of years, often as contemplative meditation and prayers of gratitude.

Taking the moment to appreciate life’s gifts, pleasures, or happy coincidences can be healthy – as is using breathing exercises, physical movement, or verbal exercises to calm down, manage stress, or stop yourself from entering a negative spiral.

Effective mindfulness and relaxation techniques can include breathing exercises, intentional and controlled movements such as yoga and tai chi, body scanning (lying down and focusing intently on the feelings and sensations in each part of your body, one part at a time), or walking meditation (focusing on the slow and controlled movement of a walk, feeling the sensation of touch and balance in each step, and remaining aware of the subtleties of your gait).

3. Physical Activity and Movement

Not all forms of therapeutic physical activity need to be slow, controlled and focused on tiny nuances. Expressive movements, collaborative sports, and weight training can be therapeutic and significantly improve mood and mental well-being.

A key aspect to consider is that the mental benefits of exercise and movement are best reaped through consistent activity. Find something you enjoy, whether roller derby, jazz dance, martial arts, or weekend hikes through the wilderness.

4. Expressive Arts Therapy

Physical, verbal, and literary expressions can help us manage stress, reduce feelings of anxiety or depression, and re-examine our thoughts in a positive light. However, there are non-physical and non-verbal ways to process negative emotions healthily, such as visual or auditory arts.

Making music, playing music, drawing, painting, crafting, sculpting, or otherwise finding a way to express your creativity and uniqueness and project it into the world can be a fantastic outlet for stress and a useful tool in therapy.

Art therapy usually combines the tools of non-verbal expression with the guiding hand of a therapist to process difficult experiences or negative thoughts and reframe them positively or foster a more positive presence of mind.

5. Social Skills Training

Prosocial behavior is often a strong marker for improved mental well-being, self-esteem, and mental health. Having healthy and strong relationships, whether platonic or romantic, can also help us deal with stressors and improve our mental resilience.

But forming and fostering those bonds takes social skills that some teens have trouble developing, whether due to their mental health or other developmental issues.

Social skills training can be a fundamental part of a comprehensive treatment plan for long-term mental well-being. It helps teens forge and retain healthy interpersonal relationships with supportive, empathic, and kind people. These training sessions can include practice conversations, learning to pick up certain social cues, focusing on manners and customs, or learning to be mindful and considerate of the needs of others.

6. Building Self-Esteem and Confidence

Therapy exercises for building self-esteem and confidence range from building up conversational skills to fostering a specific hobby and encouraging self-improvement through skill building, whether it’s a life skill such as cooking or self-defense or an expressive art like drawing while learning to cope with failure or frustration, pick things back up after a setback, and accepting the ups and downs within the process of learning.

Small steps taken to show teens that they can continue to learn, grow, and develop as they become adults can inspire great confidence.

7. Family Therapy Exercises

Many therapy exercises require the involvement of other teens, let alone therapists and other mental health professionals. Group activities, sports, and communication skills are interpersonal. However, teens in therapy can also benefit from involving their family members in the therapy process. Family therapy exercises include positive reinforcement, incorporating soft start-ups in conversation, and body language mindfulness.

Residential Treatment for Teens in Southern California

Struggling with emotional and behavioral challenges during adolescence can feel isolating and overwhelming. We want to help teens out of that dark place and into the light. Visions Treatment Centers offer specialized programs designed to help teens navigate their negative thoughts and behaviors through actionable therapeutic exercises and long-term stress management tools, including helpful coping habits. Discover how our expert care can make a difference in your teen’s life with us at Visions.


Incorporating therapy exercises like journaling, mindfulness meditation, and art therapy can help teens manage stress and develop healthier coping mechanisms. These exercises not only alleviate immediate symptoms but also foster long-term mental well-being and resilience. Teens can set themselves up for a brighter future by working on these exercises.