As most of us can recall, the teenage years are a turbulent time. Teens are often spread thin by school work, homework, extracurricular activities, home life, part time jobs, puberty, relationships, and peer pressure. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that one in five teenagers struggle with their mental health. More alarming still is the fact that only 20% of those with poor mental health seek help. This is largely due to the fact that therapy and other mental health support is seen as a last resort, instead of the preventative measure it should be. Since 50% of all diagnosed mental illnesses begin by age 14, teen mental health should instead be widely discussed, with support available for all teens.
Top ways teens benefit from therapy.
- Therapy helps your teen build confidence and self-esteem - Working with a therapist helps adolescents learn how to manage emotions, set boundaries with others, and communicate more clearly with peers, parents, and teachers. All of this builds confidence in other areas such as schoolwork, sportsmanship, and social relationships. Therapy can also help teens work through complex issues, such as family conflict or bullying. Through therapy, teens can develop greater self-esteem and self-awareness.
- Therapy helps teens develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress and adversity - Teens who struggle with peer pressure, depression, anxiety, ADHD, or other learning disorders will often turn to substances as a way to cope before seeking help from parents or counselors. Alcohol, smoking, or vaping are accessible in high school and even junior high. In contrast, therapy provides a safe place to share feelings and fears without judgment. This creates an environment where a teen can work with a therapist on building healthy coping mechanisms. Even if substance use has already occurred, it's never too late to start learning healthy coping skills.
- Therapy helps teens improve communication skills and promotes healthy relationships - It's easy to forget that teens are not adults, even though they may look like them. Their brains are still developing, and because of this, they lack many communication and judgment skills. These are incredibly important skills, along with learning how to set healthy boundaries and how to say "no" without guilt. Teens who work with therapists and counselors tend to do better in school and have better social relationships.
How to know if your teen needs therapy
Therapy has suffered a negative stigma for years, but thanks to the powerful work that many people are doing, it is becoming more widely appreciated. Unfortunately, the ACLU reports that there is a serious lack of counselors in the public school system. So it's more important than ever for parents to be aware of their child’s mental health. Here are some things to look out for:
- Signs of depression and anxiety - These can include changes in behavior, changes in appetite, sleeping more or less than usual, loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, declining grades, and mood swings.
- Times of high stress - Teens often experience many stressors at once. Juggling schoolwork with extracurricular activities and social life while developing into an adult is a lot to handle. Bullying and peer pressure also add a lot of stress. If your teen has a busy schedule or is dealing with bullying, therapy is a great way to help them through it. Here are more reasons why your teen could be facing more stress than they can handle on their own: recent change in homes or schools, change in routine, coming out as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, a chronic illness, change in family dynamics (i.e. parents separated or divorced, parent remarried, changes in custody), grieving the loss of a loved one or end of a friendship, recent or frequent moving, foster care, learning disabilities, or ADHD or autism diagnosis.
- Experiencing trauma - Even if your teen insists that they're "okay" after experiencing a traumatic event (such as a car crash, sexual assault, a shooting, or others), the effects of a traumatic experience can resurface unexpectedly - even years later. Seeking therapy right away gives your teen the best chance to heal from the traumatic experience and develop the coping skills they need to continue healing in the future.
Parenting a teenager is one of the most difficult parts of the parenting journey. The decision to have your teen see a therapist should not be viewed as a failure of parenting, but as a helpful addition to the support network for your child. If you or someone you know is looking for mental health support for a teenager, Medens Health has licensed therapists and psychologists ready to help! We offer therapy for teens in California and Nevada —reach out to us by phone or text at (833) 624-5400, or by filling out our online contact form.