Should My Teenager See a Therapist?

Reviewed on 7/8/2021
when teenagers should see a therapist
Learn about when your teen should see a therapist and how therapy can help them cope with mental health problems

Teenagers are not immune to mental health issues. In fact, at least 1 out of 5 teens deal with problems that can negatively impact the way they feel, act, and learn.

But how do you know when your teenager needs to work out problems with your help, and when they need to get professional help?

You know your own teen the best. If your teen is dealing with bullying, a divorce, having trouble concentrating on schoolwork. dealing with a recent breakup, etc., and having trouble getting through the day, a therapist may be able to help.

What problems can therapists help with?

Therapists can help your teen cope with feelings such as:

They can also help teens with conditions such as:

How can I talk to my teen about the need for therapy?

Teens often need therapy when they can’t cope with their problems on their own. And many times, they may not fully realize the impact their mental health is having on their life and thus not understand why they need to see a therapist.

As a parent, you can try to help your teen see why it’s important to get help. In many ways, seeing a therapist for mental health issues is like going to a doctor for a physical injury. If they were to break their leg, for example, they would go to an orthopedic doctor. Similarly, if they are dealing with depression, a mental health professional can help them develop the tools they need to solve their problems in a healthy way.

What are different types of therapy?

During their first visit, your teen’s therapist will talk with them, listen to their problems, and discuss with you how they plan to go about the therapy sessions.

Depending on the problem, the therapist may suggest one of three main types of therapies for teens, or a combination of these therapies. 

1. Individual therapy

In individual therapy, your teen meets with a therapist alone at each session. The therapist may encourage them to talk about their problems and ask questions, such as how they feel about the problem. They may ask your teen to do some homework in the form of activities.

Many teens do not feel comfortable talking about their problems in front of their families. Individual therapy sessions therefore play an important role in understanding their true feelings. Therapists usually do not divulge details of what is discussed in each session with you unless there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Each individual therapy session typically lasts about 50 minutes.

2. Group therapy

A group therapy session usually consists of about five people with a group leader. The group leader picks up a few topics and seeks the opinion of each teen in the group by asking questions. Your teen is also encouraged to ask questions, which are answered by other teens in the group.

Group therapy helps your teen connect with other teens who are dealing with similar problems. It allows them to see how others handle difficult situations. In the first few initial sessions, don’t be worried if your teen is uncomfortable. It may take them some time to settle in.

Each session of group therapy typically takes around 90 minutes.

3. Family therapy

Family therapy is usually designed for teens who are dealing with depression or anxiety due to problems at home, such as conflicts within the family or the impact of a family member’s substance abuse on the teen or entire family.

During family therapy sessions, the therapist calls your teen along with you and your family members, whether individually or as a group. They listen to each member of the family and identify each of their challenges as well as how they are handling them. The therapist sets goals for each individual and the family as a whole and encourages everybody to work on ways to achieve them.

Each family therapy session typically takes about 50 minutes to an hour.

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References
Medline Plus. Teen Mental Health. https://medlineplus.gov/teenmentalhealth.html

Kids Health. Taking Your Child to a Therapist. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/finding-therapist.html

WebMD. Therapy for Teens: What to Expect. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/therapy-for-teens

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