“My teenager is moody and withdrawn and pushes me away or yells when I ask what’s wrong… is this normal, or should I ask for help?”
That’s a very real and common problem, especially with scary statistics on adolescent Mental Health. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 1 in three teenagers has anxiety disorders affecting their self-esteem and everyday life.
The World Health Organization reports that one in seven teenagers from 10 to 19 have mental disorders and that suicide is one of the leading causes of death for this age group.
So, if your child is in trouble, listen to your instincts to “find a teen counselor near me.” You’re not overreacting.
Even if there is no immediate risk for self-harm, the teenage years are a critical time when they learn how to cope with problems, express their emotions, build healthy relationships, and develop self-esteem. If they don’t get help when they need it—and start to believe that they’re alone, unworthy, or helpless—they will bring this emotional baggage into their adult life.
This article will help you understand teen mental health and how to find a teen counselor. We will tackle:
- common mental health problems of teens, and what can cause them
- signs that your teen needs counseling
- how to find the right counselor
- what to expect from counseling, and how to support your teen
What are some signs that my teen needs help?
What looks like typical surly teen behavior can hide a deeper psychological issue that needs immediate attention. Does your child show one or more of these types of behaviors?
Most teens feel uncomfortable or refuse to open up when you ask them if they’re depressed, but you can detect their “emotional state” in what they say on social media or the words they use in day-to-day conversation.
- Loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Irritability, easily annoyed or angered
- Frustration over seemingly simple problems
- Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, or guilt
- Fixation on failures, with a tendency to self-blame and over-criticize oneself
- Low self-esteem
- Extreme self-consciousness over what other people say or think about them
- Extreme sensitivity, especially in situations of conflict, rejection, or failure
- Self-defeating or suicidal thoughts
You may notice this behavior at home, but ask other family members, their teachers (or any adults in the teen’s school), friends, or other community members about what they observe.
- Irregular sleep patterns (insomnia, oversleeping, or waking up tired even after sleeping
- Eating problems (refusing to eat, overeating, or purging after a meal)
- Social isolation
- Defiant or aggressive behavior
- Rebellious or compulsive behavior
- Over-fixation or obsession, to the point that it interferes with routine and life
- Sexually acting out
- Experimentation or regular use of substances such as drugs or alcohol
- Academic problems (misses homework, cuts class, or gets into trouble)
- Any sudden change in usual behavior or personality, i.e., a very talkative child is noticeably quieter and secretive)
- Disturbing posts on social media (very angry or sad posts, frequent references to death or tragedy, fixation on tragic characters or events)
Do note that physical appearance is not a reliable indicator of a teen’s mental health. They may look happy and healthy but still have emotional issues. On the other hand, depression and sadness can reflect in their body language and their body image.
- Shows sadness and insecurity: unable to meet people’s eyes, look at the ground often, etc.)
- Refuses or avoids affection
- Loss of interest in hygiene and self-care
- Shows signs of cutting or other self-harm
Why are teens vulnerable to depression and mental health issues?
Don’t blame yourself or your teen if they are showing signs of mental health problems. There are many factors.
For example, some conditions like depression have physical factors, such as hormonal imbalances or chemical imbalances in the brain.
Some studies show that teens are now more vulnerable to anxiety or eating disorders because of pressure from social media. They see influencers and their perfectly curated pictures of seemingly perfect lives and wonder: “Why am I not like that?”
Many teenagers were also profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the lockdowns all over the world forced them into isolation at an age when they most needed interaction with peers.
These factors — along with academic pressures like trying to get into a good college, social pressures to fit in, questions about gender identity, or more general questions about what they want to do with their life — can create a “perfect storm.”
Rather than blaming yourself, consider this experience to understand teens and why it’s important not to brush off problems as “usual moody teen behavior.” Instead, teenagers need support and understanding, especially during a mental health crisis.
What are the benefits of seeking teen counseling?
Seeking the help of a mental health professional is not a sign of weakness, nor is it something to be ashamed about. It is the bravest and most loving thing a parent can do for their child, providing several benefits over “just dealing with things at home.”
Mental health professionals have the training and tools to identify the problem and provide the proper support.
If your child fractured his leg, would you try to treat it yourself at home? No, you would seek medical advice right away. The same is valid for mental health issues. Even if you can’t “see” the problem, it doesn’t mean it’s not real, and teen counselors know how to handle it and help your child.
Teens may feel more comfortable opening up to someone outside of the family.
Even if your child shares some things with you, they may edit themselves because they don’t want to worry you. Teen counselors provide a safe and comfortable environment where teens can talk without fear of being judged or “burdening” somebody with their problems.
Teen counselors use a therapeutic approach and are not just “someone to talk to.”
While counseling sessions may seem like teens are just sharing random memories and feelings, it’s actually part of a treatment plan that includes analyzing, processing, and learning healthy coping mechanisms.
Cognitive behavioral Therapy, in particular, helps teens identify unhelpful ways of thinking or behavior and how they can distort their perceptions of reality. Then, they learn how to break the patterns, calm themselves, and use a problem-solving approach.
In this way, talk therapy leads to substantial changes in behavior and even a change in mindset.
Teen therapists are specifically trained to deal with adolescent issues.
Some parents will approach a pastor or a teacher and ask them to advise their troubled teenagers. While this certainly won’t hurt, it can’t replace seeking the help of a qualified mental health professional.
Experienced therapists not only have a degree and license but have spent years working with adolescents. As a result, they know the most effective treatment for common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, mood disorders, eating disorders, etc.
And more importantly, therapists will know when your child needs immediate help and can use a combination of techniques — individual therapy, group therapy, or even medication — that can make a big difference in a teen’s life.
How can I convince my child to get teen therapy?
In some situations, parents need to intervene immediately — such as when there is a risk of self-harm or behaviors that can affect health and safety (i.e, eating disorders, juvenile crime, substance use).
But otherwise, it’s usually better if the teen agrees to counseling sessions and understands the benefits. Then, instead of feeling that they’re being forced to open up with a stranger, they will see therapy as a step forward — and sometimes, believe “I am not alone” or “I can get help. Life won’t always be this hard” is already very empowering.
Of course, the challenge lies in making teens feel that seeing a teen therapist is a good idea. Here are some tips.
- If your child says, “I don’t need therapy!” try to understand why they don’t want to go. Do they feel that you are judging them or their behavior? Are they afraid of being labeled as “crazy” by their peers? Explain that nothing is “wrong” with them and you are not trying to fix their flaws. Instead, therapy is a safe place where they can process their feelings and find ways to deal with stressful situations they face in everyday life.
- If your child says, “This is my private life, and I don’t want to talk to anyone,” then assure them of patient confidentiality. One of the most common reasons teens refuses counseling is that they’re afraid that parents will discover their secrets. Tell them that patient confidentiality is part of a psychologist’s professional ethics and that you will respect that too. Also, you and the therapist are not “ganging up” on them but giving additional support.
- If your child says, “Don’t worry, I can figure it out on my own,” they may think that teen counseling is a sign of being over-emotional or incompetent. Tell them that even if you know, they’re intelligent and capable, even adults will need help — and there is nothing wrong with admitting that.
How do I choose the best teen therapist near me?
Make sure the counselor is a licensed mental health professional and board-certified with several years of experience in helping teens.
Beyond that, getting a “good match” and finding a counselor to build rapport with your teen, reassuring you of a safe environment and an effective treatment plan, is essential.
At the first appointment, you can also ask specific questions like:
- What kind of approach will you use? Why do you think this therapy works for my child’s particular situation or needs?
- What does a treatment plan usually look like?
- What will happen in a typical session?
- Have you worked with teens with similar conditions? What was the outcome?
What are the different kinds of teen counseling?
There are many approaches to teen therapy, and your counselor may use one or a combination of techniques to deal with your child’s particular situation.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
This form of psychotherapy focuses on showing a teen the connection between thoughts, behavior, and emotions. For example, if a teen feels awkward or anxious in social situations, they may avoid making friends or even school requirements like group work. They may think, “Other people are laughing at me” or “I am going to mess up.”
CBT therapy helps teach them to identify those patterns of negative thoughts and feelings and change the way they interpret their environment and experiences. In addition, CBT aims to help your child learn positive responses to stress and replace dysfunctional thoughts with healthier “core beliefs.”
Very often, a troubled teenager is affected by situations in the home environment. This includes conflicts with family members, unhealthy family dynamics or generational trauma, or particular crises like a divorce or death in the family.
In family therapy, the teen and the parents or caregivers enter counseling. Your therapist may use different techniques like role-playing or modeling managing conflict or communication.
Family therapy helps reduce conflict, heal past trauma, improve communication, and develop connections and healthy boundaries.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
One of the goals of teen counseling is to help a teen feel accepted for who they are. Part of that is making them more comfortable with their thoughts and emotions.
You can see the value of ACT when you understand how the teenage brain manages emotions. Two parts of the brain control all emotions: the amygdala and the pre-frontal complex. However, the amygdala and the pre-frontal complex are not fully formed and are going through rapid changes during the teenage years.
So while your teen’s hormonal changes are making emotions shoot through the roof, the parts of the brain that are supposed to control them are also in flux. Thus, teens can feel very overwhelmed and may even ask, “What’s wrong with me?” or hate themselves for feeling a certain way.
Teen counseling that uses ACT will help them face their emotions, articulate them, and find healthy ways of expressing them. It also helps them identify values and distinguish thoughts (which can sometimes be based on fear or anger) from reality — allowing them to make more rational choices or choose more positive interpretations.
Interpersonal therapy (IP)
It is common for teenagers to struggle with forming healthy relationships. They may feel awkward and self-conscious, or some may have experiences with being bullied or ostracized. However, since social life is critical to healthy adolescent development, this can lead to feelings of depression.
Interpersonal therapy for teenagers focuses on how to improve relationships, specifically to manage and treat depression. It is generally given to teens aged 12 to 18, especially those who say they cannot make friends or feel alone.
Typically, this form of therapy will help teenagers understand issues that prevent them from forming and maintaining good relationships. They can identify fears and learn how to manage them; they are taught how to communicate — which, in turn, reduces stress from interacting with others.
What can I expect during teen therapy?
The decision to go into teen therapy is already a significant milestone, and you should be proud of your child for making that positive choice. However, that first session is only the beginning, and you may wonder what to expect — and how you can support your child through the journey.
Usually, a therapy session lasts about 45 minutes. Then, your teen will enter the room (whether it’s a physical clinic, or if it’s online counseling, a virtual private room) and speak to their therapist in private.
Depending on the situation, the therapist may ask to speak with you for a few minutes after the appointment or request a special session. Because of patient confidentiality (and to build and protect the teen’s trust), you will not be told what your teen said during previous sessions.
However, teen therapists may ask questions to understand the family environment or about behaviors at home or in school. This will help them understand the context of what your teen is going through.
They may also inform you about activities or “homework” that they have given your teen — maybe some more positive behaviors to try or questions they want them to consider.
As parents, you can remind your teen about what their therapist asked them to do and reinforce and praise behaviors that show that your teen has made progress.
How long will it take for teen therapy to work?
However, teen therapy takes time. It may take several sessions before you can see changes, and there will be victories and setbacks. Sometimes, you can see a lot of progress, and then a situation can trigger emotions and old behaviors…, and you may feel that you’re back to Square 1.
You have to be patient with the process. If you look stressed or frustrated, your teen will pick it up, which may make them feel pressured to “get better” or pretend to be.
If you are concerned, it’s better to request the therapist for a private session where you can discuss how things are going and the treatment plan.
While they may not be able to give you a definite answer (after all, mental health issues are often multi-layered and not something that can be “cured” but managed), they can tell you what to expect and what you can do at home.
How much does teen counseling cost?
The cost of therapy depends on the provider and the number of sessions your teen may need. This may or may not be covered by insurance, although some prescription medications may be.
If you are worried about the cost of teen counseling, one affordable option is to get online therapy. While the prices also vary depending on the website, they will generally be lower than a face-to-face session held in a clinic.
Online therapy can also reduce other related costs, such as transportation or having to take a leave from work so you can accompany your teen to the clinic.
Supporting teenagers now helps them become independent, happy adults
Teens have their whole life ahead of them, and they need to face this future with confidence and hope.
One of the most significant benefits of therapy isn’t just solving the problem they have right now but giving them the experience that whatever problem they face, they can find a positive and productive way of dealing with it.
They learn more about themselves. They are taught to reach out to others for help and support. They have self-esteem, resilience, and the right emotional tools to deal with stress and conflict.
For parents, this is also a chance to become closer to their teens. By recognizing that they need help and doing what you can to ensure they get it, they learn that they can trust and rely on you.
So, don’t think of a diagnosis of mental health problems as a sign of doom and gloom. While finding out that your child is emotionally or mentally unwell is scary, remember that teenagers are amazingly resilient.
Interventions at this age are often very successful, and many teens diagnosed with mental health problems or depressive episodes have gone on to lead happy successful adult lives.
Getting help is the first step.
The post Get Help and Support: How to Find a Teen Therapist Near You appeared first on Rest Equation.