Teenage years are notoriously challenging. Hormonal fluctuations, school-related stress, social struggles, and difficult family events such as a divorce or death in the family can result in strong emotions. Things like slamming doors and moodiness may be nothing more than age-related angst as your teen works through this complex stage of development.
However, if your teen begins to exhibit the signs of a mental health disorder or psychiatric crisis, it’s essential to take them to a mental health provider for evaluation. Therapy is an effective method to help guide them through a difficult chapter in their life. Read on to learn how parents can support their teen while they are in therapy.
Most common mental health challenges for teens
Although experiencing powerful feelings is a common characteristic of adolescence, it seems that teens today are grappling with ever-increasing mental health challenges. The most common include:
Anxiety disorders feature excessive worry and stress. There are several subtypes of anxiety disorder, with these being the most common among teens:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety
- Trauma disorder
- Panic disorder
Depression features a cluster of symptoms that persist for more than two weeks. These include:
- Persistent sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair
- Sleep problems
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Suicidal thoughts.
Eating disorders include bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder. The most common symptoms are:
- Unhealthy relationship with food or eating habits
- Weight gain or loss
- Body dysmorphia
- Using food to fulfill emotional void
Other issues teens struggle with are self-harming behaviors, substance abuse, and gender identity struggles.
Benefits of therapy for teens
When a teen is experiencing a mental health issue, they are in need of professional support and guidance. Psychotherapy provides a safe and confidential outlet for teens to discuss their struggles with a licensed professional.
Their therapist has a number of therapeutic techniques they can use, depending on your teen’s primary diagnosis. The process of talk therapy, along with exercises or homework assignments, can help your teen make progress in overcoming the core issues that are causing the emotional distress.
Some of the key benefits of therapy for teens include:
- Your teen feels heard.
- Your teen can work through their struggles with relationships, school, or family openly, knowing the sessions will remain confidential.
- Your teen learns new ways to manage stress.
- Your teen can work on personal issues, like low self-esteem or gender
- Your teen is able to work through traumatic experiences.
- Your teen can process loss and grief after the death of a loved one.
- Your teen can explore the underlying reasons for experimenting with substances.
- Your teen may be referred to a higher level of care if their therapist determines that it’s in their best interest.
How to support teens
When a parent makes the decision to enroll a teen in psychotherapy, there are several actions they can take to provide additional support:
- Be available for your teen: Your teen should feel free to talk to you and discuss their thoughts and feelings as they progress in therapy.
- Encourage positive self-talk: As your teen works on making positive changes in therapy, remind them to shift away from negative self-talk and toward acknowledging their strengths.
- Encourage the teen to complete therapy assignments: Even though your teen may complain about yet another homework assignment, remind them that their efforts can help them move forward in the therapeutic process.
- Avoid prying: It may be tempting to inquire about what was discussed in a therapy session but resist this urge. Allow your teen to own that special time with their
- Touch base: Every so often, check in with your teen and ask how therapy is going. Encourage patience, as making meaningful changes takes time.
- Be willing to participate: The therapist is likely to request that parents join their teens in some of the sessions. Be ready and willing to participate in these family sessions.
Teens can gain much more out of the therapeutic experience when their parents are supportive and available. Help your teen by being there for them every step of the way.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.