When children reach adolescence, relationships, romantic or otherwise, can be a point of significant strife. Relationships between parents and children are crucial to healthy development, but may become strained by the many ups and downs of adolescent life. For example, most teenagers worry about romantic relationships, however, for some teenagers, worrying about relationships may excessively drain their energy and make it difficult to enjoy life.
Many mental health issues that teens face can be attributed in part to the social pressures and stress of adolescent life. As a result, teens may experience any of the following: generalized anxiety, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), poor self-esteem, oppositional defeasance issues and substance abuse.
Experimentation with alcohol and drugs is fairly common among adolescents and can lead to serious developmental, social, and behavioral issues. When I work with teens together the teen and I develop therapy goals in a collaborative process.
Many times, the main goals are to help the young person to find new and healthy ways to cope with the stress or conditions that may have led to depression, anxiety and substance use.
Many types of therapy emphasize talking and thinking about feelings and experiences, which can be particularly challenging for teens. For each teen, I create a highly-individualized treatment plan that works to address problems that may be occurring at school, home, or in friendship circles. I do not subscribe to the “one size fits all” theory. Therefore, I use a variety of treatment modalities. My therapeutic approaches, include teaching mindfulness therapy. Each teen
Teens of any age may feel uncomfortable, afraid, or ashamed about communicating what they are experiencing to an adult they do not know. If you are a parent or caregiver, these tips can help when talking to children about therapy and mental health treatment:
Find a good time to talk and assure them that they are not in trouble. Listen actively. Take your teen’s concerns, experiences, and emotions seriously.Try to be open, authentic, and relaxed. Talk about how common the issues they are experiencing may be. Explain that the role of a therapist is to provide help and support. Explain that a confidentiality agreement can be negotiated so children—especially adolescents—have a safe space to share details privately, while acknowledging that you will be alerted if there are any threats to their safety.
When looking for a therapist it is important to find someone with specialized training and experience in working with teens and teens issues. When I work with teens I also include sessions with the family. Family therapy, in which multiple family members may attend sessions together, as well as independently, if necessary. I may include treatments designed to address parenting skills, such as parent-child interaction therapy. These treatments may be useful when a teen’s behavior becomes difficult to manage.
Many prominent bodies of research highlight the efficacy of a combined treatment approach, or the use of both medication and therapy when medication is prescribed by a psychiatrist for a mental health issue. In fact, the American Psychological Association’s Practice Guidelines Regarding Psychologists’ Involvement in Pharmacological Issues encourages, whenever possible, to include psychotherapy when medication is prescribed. The efficacy of medication increases when combined with psychotherapy
Many mental health professionals argue that medication is overprescribed as a “quick fix,” while therapy, which may teach a person long-term coping strategies and self-management, is not encouraged enough. If your teen is prescribed an antidepressant, antipsychotic, anxiolytic, stimulant, or other psychotropic drug, consider finding a therapist or counselor to pair with the drug treatment.
Thomas Kessler, LMFT, RAS
Marriage & Family Therapist and Registered Addiction Specialist