Are you curious about mental health therapy for teens but scared of the stigma?
Well, here’s a damning fact: we are well into the 21st century, with decades of progress in psychiatric medicine, and nearly half of the American workforce still believes that seeking therapy is a sign of weakness.
Research tells us that psychotherapy – a set of guided conversations and exercises between a trained professional and a client/patient – is one of the most effective forms of treatment for the majority of mental health issues that we face. Yet despite growing rates of depression, anxiety, and psychosis, most people either do not get the help they need or do not seek it out, to begin with.
We must do better, especially for our children. The attitudes we take on regarding health, both mental and physical, often reflect in our offspring. The fact is that despite the fear of peer pressure, teens are overwhelmingly influenced by their parents and rely on their parents to be positive role models. Furthermore, teens are struggling.
Rates for anxiety and depression are higher than ever as awareness around mental health issues continues to soar. Yet instead of seeking treatment, many teens with mental health issues become susceptible to other, more maladaptive forms of coping. They may develop self-esteem issues and eating disorders, struggle with substance use, or fall into an online rabbit hole of scams or even hate speech marketed as a form of “self-improvement.”
Many teenagers need help, and therapy for teens can be one of these forms of help. Here’s what parents should know.
Does Therapy for Teens Work?
Yes. There is ample research specifically on the topics of adolescent mental healthcare and the efficacy of talk therapy protocols as treatment modalities for teen patients. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy see as much success in teens as they do in adults, in addition to specialized forms of therapy applied to various diagnoses, such as EMDR, exposure therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.
One particular type of therapy that may be more effective for adolescent patients is family therapy. There are different forms of family therapy, but each focuses on addressing issues within a family unit or even a small subsection of a community, rather than focusing solely on an individual.
Family therapy programs center around the idea that treating a patient’s symptoms in isolation is not enough when the root cause or major contributing factors to their condition are still present at home. Family therapy can help parents and other relatives better understand their loved one’s condition, discover interpersonal issues that may be contributing to their mental malady, and improve communication skills between teens and parents alike.
Therapists understand that parents play a vital role in a teen’s therapeutic process. Individual therapy sessions can help teens immensely, but it’s the parent who has the most influence and plays the greatest role in a teen’s behavioral and mental development. Family therapy helps explore this dynamic and utilize it in the best interests of the teen and parents alike.
Does Your Teen Need a Diagnosis to Go to Therapy?
One of the most common misconceptions about therapy is that it is only needed when prescribed by a professional. Although a formal psychological evaluation can help and therapeutic services are more likely to be covered by certain insurance policies if you receive a referral from a professional first, it’s also important to note that you don’t need to wait for a problem to be diagnosed before you can decide to seek someone to talk to, whether you’re an adult or a teen.
Everyone who thinks they might benefit from therapy should ultimately go to therapy. A therapist can help you improve your focus and productivity, address emotional problems at their root, figure out why you struggle with intimacy or have other common relationship issues, and can help you identify and replace maladaptive coping skills with healthier methods of coping regardless of your lack of a specific diagnosis or mental health issue.
Should you feel the need to visit a therapist every time you feel upset or anxious? If it helps you feel better, yes.
On the other hand, there are also circumstances under which a therapist’s help is more than just optional but a necessary part of a long-term recovery and treatment process.
When Should a Teen Go to Therapy?
Teens may get a referral from a mental health professional (a psychiatrist or psychologist) or their primary care physician if they struggle with the following:
These include a wide range of behaviors that may involve acting out aggressively towards others, or showing signs of unprompted rage, extreme narcissism or disregard for others (seeming lack of empathy and compassion), recurring relationship problems, and even recurring legal issues (frequently vandalizing, getting caught stealing, drunk driving or speeding, exhibitionism, substance use, and so on).
Sadness and depression are two very different things, and it’s important for parents to be able to tell the difference. Sadness comes and goes, but depression lingers for weeks at a time, seeping into everything a teen does to the point that they struggle with things they used to excel at or have an easy time with and no longer feel any interest in old hobbies or activities they used to enjoy.
Depression can be brought on by anything or by nothing at all. Some teens begin to struggle with symptoms of depression after a triggering event, such as a breakup or the loss of a loved one. Others may develop depression over time without a clear origin or cause. Not talking about it makes it worse.
Some teens are naturally more anxious than others. But an anxiety disorder can be debilitating, affecting a teen’s personal life, academic life, and future career.
Anxiety disorder symptoms can be manageable at times, but without structure or positive coping mechanisms, teens can fall into maladaptive coping habits and develop other comorbid problems. If your teen is frequently struggling with doubt, fear, and low self-esteem, they may be facing daily anxious thoughts and have no way of dealing with them.
Get Therapy for Teens at Visions Treatment Centers
Therapy for teens can go a long way towards helping a teen understand why they might feel the way they sometimes do and can help them develop the tools they need to combat negative thoughts and emotions, improve their behavior, and lead a more fulfilling life. Support your teen in getting the help they might need.
For more information about therapy for teens and teen mental health services, contact Visions Treatment Centers.