Should Your Teenager Be Seeing a Therapist?

Teen in Therapy

A better question is, “Why shouldn’t my teenager see a therapist?” According to the National Alliance on Mental Health’s statistics listed in a Good Therapy article, the number of people living with mental health conditions is shockingly high.

Since we’re discussing children in particular, it’s imperative you know that one in every six children between the ages of six and 17 experience and/or live with a mental health disorder and these manifest in many ways.

Think if it this way – if your teen is in high school with six classes a day, and there are 24 students in each class, that’s 144 teens your teen is with each day.

If one in every six of those students is suffering from a mental health issue, that’s a full class of students – 24 of them, in fact.

Teen in Therapy

I repeat, why shouldn’t your teen see a therapist? if you believe your teen is living with or suffering from a mental health condition or they could simply benefit from having someone to talk to, there is no reason your child shouldn’t see a therapist.

While none of my own children sees a therapist, I am completely open to the concept should I see a need or should on of my kids ask to see one. I’ve been seeing my own therapist for the past year, and I cannot express to you how helpful her presence in my life has been since I began seeing her.

I’ve lived with anxiety since our then four-year-old son suffered from an unprovoked grand mal seizure in 2019, and my therapist has provided invaluable tools to help me manage my anxiety.

Teen in Therapy

Signs Your Teen Could Benefit From Therapy

No two teens are the same, but there are some signs your teen might benefit from therapy that fall into a general category. In many instances, you might notice that your teen seems withdrawn, upset, has made ample changes to his or her life that allow them to cope with things going on, or they are struggling in school or sports.

While none of this alone indicates your child needs a therapist, each of these things is a potential sign that your teen is struggling. Your teen might seem anxious, overwhelmed, upset, easily angered or frustrated, or they might even seem depressed.

Depression is a sensitive subject. It doesn’t manifest the same way in every person it touches, but it does touch them so deeply. Some people are so good at hiding the darkness inside of them that the people who are closest to them don’t even know they’re struggling.

In the past, the world has associated depression with the inability to get out of bed and function, and it seems obvious when someone is suffering from it. The truth is that sometimes the people who seem the most together, the happiest, and the most full of life are the people who struggle the most on the inside.

If you suspect your teen is struggling, it may not be the darkness you need to look for.

Teen in Therapy

Things to Look for In Your Teen

Mental health issues are not general. They span a myriad of emotions, feelings, and they all look different. There will be times in your teen’s life when they feel one or more of the emotion’s I’m going to describe.

This does not mean that they need a therapist or that there is anything going on with their mental health. It merely means that your teen is normal.

It’s when these things are long-lasting, they’re experiencing more than one or two, and different aspects of their lives are suffering. 

Is Your Teen…

1. Overwhelmed? Stress is difficult, and it tends to manifest itself in a feeling of being overwhelmed. The simple idea of doing even the smallest things can seem so overwhelming to someone who is stressed, and your teen is not immune to this kind of feeling.

2. Angry? Listen, feeling angry is perfectly normal. However, feeling it in fits that are overwhelming and don’t pass – or happen more and more frequently – are a cause for concern.

3. Fatigued? We are all exhausted. The world demands entirely too much of everyone. School is more demanding and difficult than ever. Sports no longer have seasons so much as they require teens to spend more time than every working on their skills and practicing. Sleep is difficult, and the pressures of life are often too much. If your teen is fatigued all the time, you might think it’s this. And it might be. But it might be a sign your teen is stressed, overwhelmed, or living with a mental health issue.

4. Having intrusive thoughts? These thoughts come out of nowhere, and they don’t go away. They’re difficult to deal with, they have a long-lasting effect, and they cause a great deal of anxiety.

5. No longer interested? If your teen suddenly finds themselves apathetic and uninterested in life, it’s not a good sign. Do they find no pleasure in things that they once loved? Does doing things they loved in the past seem absolutely uninteresting?

6. Hopeless? If your teen suddenly doesn’t feel any motivation, and they don’t feel hopeful about the future, it might be a sign of depression or another mental health issue.

7. Suddenly socially withdrawn? This is a difficult one because everyone needs time alone to recharge their social batteries. However, if your normally social teen suddenly cuts themselves off from their friends and all social instances, it might be a sign. Additionally, if your teen is suddenly distressed at the thought of being social, it might indicate there is a bigger issue at hand.

Teen in Therapy

How Might a Therapist Help My Teen?

I’m not a teenager anymore, and I did not see a therapist when I was one. But at the tender age of 39, I have been seeing my therapist for one year.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve learned so much from my therapist, whose method relies heavily on me learning more about myself. One way my therapist has helped with my anxiety is by providing me with the tools to, in the moments of anxiety, ask myself how I can lower my anxiety level.

She has me give it a number – one through ten. Once I’ve assigned a number (which helps me determine how severe my anxiety is in the moment), she then has me visual the number and has me ask myself if there is anything I can do or stop doing in that moment that might help my anxiety level drop.

She’s adamant that I cannot make my anxiety go away completely, but even a single digit drop is less – and that’s positive. In my pre-therapy mind, I looked for ways to make my anxiety go away completely.

The key is not to try to remove it from my life, but to learn to minimize it, embrace it and then let it go, and even to allow myself scheduled time to feel anxious about something for a certain amount of time before letting it go and moving on. There are so many tools available to those who seek therapy.

Every therapist is different, and every patient is different. But the key is finding a therapist who can help you learn more about yourself, set goals and achieve them, and feel healthier. Your child’s therapist can provide this.

Teen in Therapy

Does My Teen Need Therapy Or Is This Normal Behavior?

Teens are…weird. They have a lot going on in their lives, and they sometimes show that in some strange ways. Of course, you know your child. You know what might be normal teenage behavior, and you know what might be normal behavior for your own child.

If you are unsure if your teen’s behavior is normal, ask yourself if your teen is doing well at school, has friends, and is confiding in you. Keep in mind that it’s normal for your teen to have conflicts with friends and even stop confiding in you about everything from time to time.

But if your teens grades are down, friends don’t exist, and he or she is not talking to you at all, it might be a problem.

The best thing you can do at this point is try to speak with your teen about it. There is always a chance your teen might not respond to your conversation, but letting them know you are there is a good first step. Following that, discuss your concerns with his or her pediatrician. In most cases, the pediatrician can tell you whether your teen’s behavior is normal or if there might be a cause for concern.

The most important thing to remember in this case is that every child is different. You know your child. You know their nuances and their personality. If it seems off to you, chances are good that it is off. Before you panic, talk to your teen, talk to the pediatrician, and come up with a game plan.

Teen in Therapy

Ask Your Teen About Therapy

The one thing that many parents forget is that their teen might have an opinion. Of course, that opinion might not be favorable, but you might also be surprised.

Your teen might welcome the idea of therapy. If they don’t, there’s always room for negotiation. I find that when I want someone in my house to try something they’re not interested in trying, a good negotiation works wonders. For example, if you feel your teen needs a therapist, work out a deal.

They’ll give it six weeks of therapy – but really trying and not just going because you’re asking. If, at the end of six weeks, they don’t feel better, they don’t have to go back. Or they can try a new therapist, or whatever.

Perhaps you can convince them to try six weeks of therapy in exchange for something they’ve been wanting. The end goal might be what convinces your teen to go to therapy, but it’s shocking how quickly they might realize they enjoy that time in the office. I’ll be upfront with you about my own therapy.

I didn’t want to go. I put it off for years, but my husband was adamant that he’d like me to try. He knows me better than I know myself.

When my anxiety began to grow so bad that even leaving the house for a few hours to go on a dinner date with him filled me with anxiety, he sat me down.

He made valid points, asked me to give it a shot for him and the kids, and to give it a few weeks before giving up. I was convinced I’d hate it, it wouldn’t work, and I’d be miserable – and I loved it. I felt instantly lighter and better, and I’m so thankful. Talk to your teen.

Teen in Therapy

How to Find a Good Therapist

There are different considerations for you to make. First, you want to consider finding a therapist who is in your insurance network and takes your insurance. Perhaps you’re not worried about the financial aspect, and that’s fine, too. Your pediatrician is the best resource for finding a therapist for your teen.

Additionally, read reviews, ask for recommendations, and use word of mouth. Keep in mind that many people don’t discuss therapy. You might have a difficult time finding parents willing to share that their teens are in therapy. Start with your pediatrician.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that your teen might not mesh well with the first therapist you try. They might need to see a few before finding a therapist that they feel comfortable with . Don’t let this discourage either of you. Therapy is a personal place. Your teen should feel comfortable, and they should never feel judged.

Therapy is meant to help your teen, not make them feel worse. If your teen seems unhappy with their therapist, don’t hesitate to search for a new one. It might help to discuss this with your teen from the start so you’re both on the same page.

Additional Resources for Dealing with Kids and Their Mental Health

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