About Adolescents / Teenagers Therapy

Q. How Long Does Therapy Last?

A. Most therapies do not have a set time length. Some problems resolve very quickly. Others are more complex and take longer. Usually, therapy will last at least three months if you go once a week. For some problems, you might be in therapy for a year. Even though therapy can take a long time, you should notice progress.

Q. Will I Feel Uncomfortable Talking About My Problems?

A. It is normal to feel awkward talking about sensitive things. The uncomfortable feeling means that you are trying something new. As you get used to meeting with your therapist or group, you should get more confident.

Q. What If I Don't Like My Therapist?

A. Having a good relationship with your therapist is one of the most important parts of therapy. Sometimes people just do not get along well with a therapist, and you should know in the first session or two. If you don't like your therapist, it is OK to try a different one.

Here are the top 10 reasons teens go to therapy:

  • Depression

    Mood disorders often start during the teen years. And if left untreated, depression can last into adulthood. If your teen seems irritable, sad, and withdrawn, talk to your pediatrician. An accurate diagnosis and early intervention are key components to effective treatment.

  • Anxiety Disorders

    While it’s normal for teens to worry sometimes, some teens experience intense anxiety. Whether your teen has difficulty speaking in front of the class, or she constantly worries bad things are going to happen, therapy could help her learn how to manage her symptoms.

  • Behavior Problems

    Suspensions from school, repeat curfew violations, and aggressive behavior may be symptoms of more serious problems. A therapist could help uncover potential mental health issues, skill deficits, or social problems that may be driving your teen’s behavior.

  • Substance Abuse Issues

    Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol can become serious problems for teenagers. A substance abuse counselor can assess your teen’s substance use and help determine the most appropriate course of treatment. Individual therapy, group therapy, detox, or residential treatment may be options depending on the severity of a teen’s problems.

  • Stress

    Teenagers can get stressed out. Whether it’s the pressure to perform well on an exam or concerns over what to do after high school, stress can take a serious toll. Therapy can help a teen learn skills to manage stress successfully—and that’s something that will serve them well throughout their lives.

  • School and Social-Related Issues

    Bullies, failing grades, cliques, and teacher-related issues are just a few of the social-related problems many teens experience. Teens often aren’t sure where to turn for help. Therapy can provide teens with support and give them skills that will help them navigate high school successfully.

  • Legal Problems

    Stealing, underage drinking, or fighting are just a few of the reasons teens get into trouble with the law. Sometimes, they’re mandated by probation—or their parents—to receive counseling. Therapy can help a teen learn how to make healthier choices so that further legal issues can be prevented.

  • Low Self-Esteem

    While most teens struggle with self-confidence issues at one time or another, some experience serious self-esteem issues. When those issues are left unaddressed, teens are at a higher risk of problems such as substance abuse and academic failure. Therapy can help boost a teen’s self-esteem.

  • Trauma

    Whether it’s a near-death experience or a sexual assault, traumatic events can have a lifelong impact on a teen. Therapy can increase resilience and reduce the impact the traumatic event has on a teen’s life. Early intervention can be the key to helping a teen recover from traumatic circumstances.

  • Grief

    Teens deal with grief a little differently than adults and the loss of a loved one can be especially difficult during adolescence. Individual, family, or group therapy can help teens sort out their feelings and make sense of their loss. 

Q. Why Do Teens Have Mental Health Problems?

A. Mental health problems can be caused by many different things. Some common causes include"

  • Medical conditions. Some medical conditions can make you think, feel, or act strangely. If you go to a doctor or psychiatrist for a mental health problem, they will first check whether a medical condition could be not causing the problem.
  • Violence. When something bad happens to a person, or they see something bad happen, they can develop a mental health problem.

  • Stress. Everybody gets stressed out. Some stress can be helpful (like motivating you to study for a test). But too much stress can cause problems.
  • Losing a relationship. If someone close to you dies, moves away, or doesn't want to be friends anymore, it is normal to feel sad or lonely. Usually these feelings get better over time. But sometimes they worsen, or affect other parts of your life.

Q. What Are the Types of Therapy for Teens?

A. There are three main types of therapy for teens: individual, group, and family. Sometimes, people will do combinations of therapy, such as individual and group therapy. The type of therapy you have depends on the problem(s). Here are some details on each:

  • Individual Therapy. In individual therapy, you meet with a therapist alone to talk about your problems. Each session lasts about 50 minutes. The therapist may ask you to identify your feelings about the problems. And you might get "homework" that will help you work through the problems. Everything you say in therapy is confidential, unless the therapist has good reason to believe you might hurt yourself or someone else. Sometimes, it can be helpful for your therapist to talk to your parents or your school counselor about a problem.

  • Group Therapy. Group therapy allows you to see how other teens handle their problems. You will also practice new ways to handle your own problems. Starting out in a new group can be a little scary because you don't know the other people. But after a few sessions, you will probably feel more comfortable. Usually, there are about five people in each group with one or two leaders. The group leaders will bring up topics and ask questions. But you are free to ask your own questions and get answers from the group. Group therapy sessions usually last about 90 minutes.

  • Family Therapy. With family therapy, you and your parents (and sometimes your brothers and sisters) go to therapy together. Because everybody is there, you can work on problems that affect the family. The therapist will discourage interrupting, and make sure everyone gets to voice their concerns.

Is therapy the right treatment?

If you're questioning treatment for your teen, err on the side of caution and contact a professional. If your teen isn't interested in therapy, however, don't worry. Many teens are hesitant to talk to someone. Encourage your teen to try therapy for a few sessions and then, you might allow him to make the decision about whether to continue.

If your teen outright refuses counseling, you can be the one to talk to a therapist. You may be able to gain new ideas and skills for helping your teen cope better.

How Can Parents Help?

You can do things to help your child get the most from therapy. Here are some of them:

Find a therapist you and your teenager feel comfortable with. Your child's health care team can help you find someone.

Take your teenager to all the appointments. Change takes time. It takes many therapy visits for your child to learn new skills and keep them up.

Meet with your teenager's therapist. Ask what to do when your child shows problems at home. Ask how to help your child do well.

Spend time with your teenager. Play, cook, read, or laugh together. Do this every day, even if it's only for a few minutes.

Parent with patience and warmth. Use kind words, even when you need to correct your child. Show love. Give praise when your child is doing well or trying hard.

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