As a formative time of physical, emotional, and cognitive changes, teenagers may be especially vulnerable to the challenges they encounter in themselves and the world around them. Those who experience mental health conditions may also face discrimination among their peers and have other health problems that impact their well-being. Such issues, if unresolved, may carry over into their adult years.
Whether it’s individual therapy, family therapy, or sessions with a certified life coach for teens, there are many approaches to therapy aimed at addressing concerns that manifest during adolescence. As teenagers navigate the new complexities of their emotions and cognitive abilities, they may benefit from learning coping skills to meet the challenges they face. If you are a therapist who plans to assist teenagers at any point in your career, it could be helpful to review some of the concerns that typically apply to adolescents. In this article, we’ll discuss common problems teens face and how therapy can help prevent these issues from following them into adulthood.
Making Mental Health A Priority
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders are listed among the main causes of illness and disability in teenagers. UNICEF estimates that in 2019 alone, one in seven adolescents experienced a mental health disorder, amounting to 166 million teenagers worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) declared that it saw an increase of around 40% in reported symptoms of depression in adolescents in the 10 years before the pandemic. With the onset of the pandemic, a mental health crisis was declared by the United States Surgeon General.
Such findings have led experts to conclude that failing to address the concerns that may arise in adolescence can have wide-ranging repercussions, extending into adulthood and possibly leading to mental health crises, such as suicide—the fourth leading cause of death among teenagers aged 15-19.
Mental health challenges can also make adolescents more vulnerable to discrimination from their peers and others, affecting their ability to concentrate on their schoolwork. When linked with risk-taking behaviors like substance use, which are prominent among teens, the need to prioritize mental health at this age seems especially pertinent.
Cognitive And Developmental Changes
While they grow up, teens undergo many cognitive and developmental changes that often influence their emotions and behavior. This can make it a challenging time not only for teens but also for the adults in their lives. At the same time, each child develops at their own pace and in their own unique ways. During the period of adolescence, a young person’s thinking processes undergo various changes, affecting their:
- Abstract thinking abilities which enable the consideration of possibilities and decision-making skills
- Reasoning from principles that enable deductive thinking and forming their own ideas about a subject or situation
- Ability to consider different points of view
- Awareness of the thinking process itself
While many adolescents can apply complex reasoning to their school assignments, they may not necessarily be able to problem-solve in their personal lives. Moreover, they might encounter difficulty in handling the challenging emotions that can accompany their evolving cognitive abilities.
Finding Therapy For Teens
A parent or guardian may come to a therapist for help with addressing concerns involving their adolescent child, or the child may come as a referral. It’s often the case that a school counselor, teacher, or other education professional is the first to notice and recommend therapy when they perceive a student might benefit from it. In some instances, a teen might request to speak to someone on their own. Once the need for therapy has been established, the search for the right provider can begin.
Kinds Of Therapy Available
A search for “therapists for teens near me” yields many results. Listings may include options such as family counseling, individual counseling, or sessions with a teen therapist in person or through another modality, like online therapy. You may find recommendations in your area, for example, or advice on how to find a suitable teen therapist for a specific age group. Let’s explore the different forms of therapy available to teens.
A family therapist works with the entire family unit, helping them with issues like productive communication and conflict resolution. Therapists can provide a more neutral, objective environment in which individual members can express their viewpoints and gain more awareness of their behaviors. With the guidance of the therapist, family members can come up with possible solutions on how to move forward as a stronger unit.
The role of a family therapist may also involve negotiating amounts of independence and responsibility for teens to find a balance. They might also help family members understand mood swings or a mental health condition, such as depression, that a teenager may be experiencing. As adults in the family gain more perspective, they may grow in their ability to support their teen during struggles with concerns related to well-being and mental health.
In some cases, family therapy alone may not suffice, and a teenager could also benefit from individual therapy.
Individual Therapy For Teens
Whereas a family therapist works with the family unit and its dynamics, individual therapy can help a teenager navigate specific issues and concerns. As the therapeutic relationship develops between the client and their therapist, many specific concerns affecting the teenager may be addressed, including:
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Self-esteem issues
- Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety disorders
- Substance use disorder*
- Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)
- Gender dysphoria and identity
- Minority stress
*While the term ‘substance abuse’ may still be found online and in older publications, it is no longer included in the DSM-5, as it has been replaced by ‘substance use disorder.’
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Teens
As one of the most evidence-based psychotherapeutic interventions, cognitive behavioral therapy has proven beneficial for addressing a wide range of mental health conditions. CBT works by focusing on the connection between an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. As teens learn how to identify their unhelpful thoughts, they can replace them with more positive ways of thinking, thereby helping them shift their feelings and unwanted behaviors.
Adapted to the needs of adolescents, CBT emphasizes the collaborative aspect of the therapeutic relationship. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “the main focus in CBT for adolescents is the identification and modification of depressogenic or anxious thinking patterns and teaching skills in problem-solving, anxiety management and similar skills that will help the adolescent in dealing with challenging situations.”
Life Coaching For Teens
A certified teen life coach can offer a more goal-oriented approach to issues that some adolescents face. By focusing on goals for the future and exploring what may be keeping the teen from achieving them, a teen life coach may employ a structured plan for establishing and meeting goals.
By design, life coaching tends to be more future-oriented in that it examines present behaviors in light of future goals. This type of therapy may be helpful for teens who are struggling to find their passions in life and what they want for themselves. It can also be useful for those seeking ways to develop the motivation needed to achieve their goals. Life coaches may assist with issues such as time management and provide teens with new and effective ways to cope with various stressors.
Online Therapy For Therapists
If you provide therapy to others, you may also need support in fostering your own well-being and mental health. Therapy with a licensed professional can be conducted in person or through another modality. If going to appointments presents a challenge due to your demanding schedule, it’s possible to have sessions online and/or by phone. A platform such as BetterHelp can connect you with a therapist who is available by video conference, phone call, or in-app messaging. This may be especially useful after a challenging session with one of your own clients and may bring both personal and professional benefits.
The Efficacy Of Online Therapy
If you are considering online therapy, it might be useful to learn more about its efficacy when compared to traditional, in-person therapy. According to a meta-analysis reported by the National Institute of Health (NIH), therapy is just as effective when delivered through videoconferencing as it is when offered in person. Researchers concluded that the efficacy of online therapy is most pronounced when CBT is utilized to treat affective disorders, also known as mood disorders. CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is a therapeutic approach that focuses on a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. As individuals learn how to think more productively, they can adopt healthier behaviors.
As a transitional and formative period of physical, emotional, and cognitive changes, teenagers may encounter many challenges on the road to adulthood. The rise in mental health concerns in the last few years has also led many experts to declare a mental health crisis among adolescents. Those who experience mental health conditions may face discrimination from their peers, health problems, and other issues impacting their well-being. Therapy options may include family counseling, individual counseling, or sessions with a teen therapist in person or online. If you are a therapist, you may also need support in cultivating your own well-being and mental health, so considering therapy might be beneficial. To get started on your own therapy journey, you can connect with a BetterHelp therapist whenever you feel