Maybe he is just acting out and whatever is bothering him will soon pass. Maybe she is so depressed because her boyfriend broke up with her last week. Parents often ponder, “How to know if my teen needs therapy” because they are worried about their child.
Yes, the teen years are angst-filled roller coaster rides. Yes, teens struggle with very real problems that can be deeply troubling. Being bullied, trouble maintaining friendships, academic pressures, gender identity issues, major life events like changing schools, parents divorcing, or a death in the family. All of these are heavy for a young person, and not all teens are equipped to cope adequately.
So, should your teen be in therapy? Well, what does your gut instinct tell you?
A parent with a strong sense that their teen is struggling with a mental health challenge should definitely act on that. No one knows your child as you do. To get a better understanding of when to take your teenager to a therapist, keep reading.
6 Signs Your Teen Needs Therapy
Mental Health America reports that 15.8% of youth experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. A shocking 32% of teens struggle with an anxiety disorder, states the NIH. It is clear there are a lot of young people suffering.
Recent events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, have only increased the sense of fear and stress in our teens. They are on the cusp of adulthood and all this can’t help but have a deep impact on their mental health.
If your teen has displayed any of the following signs, he or she may benefit from the help of a therapist. Warning signs of a mental health concern include:
- Significant Changes in Eating or Sleeping Habits. One of the most telling signs that a teen is struggling is when a routine or habit suddenly changes. If your teen appears to be losing or gaining a lot of weight in a short time, that should be a concern. If the teenager is sleeping way more than before or is battling insomnia, that, too, is a concerning sign. Both are common symptoms of depression.
- Sudden Drop in Grades. Whether your teen is a scholastic superstar or an average student, a drop in grades is a warning sign. All kids will have fluctuations in their grades from time to time. But when there is a steep decline in a quarter or semester’s time, something else may be going on.
- Isolating from friends and family. A teen that is spending most of their free time alone in their room may be suffering from depression or social anxiety. Depression causes the person to lose interest in usual activities, among other worrisome symptoms. A teen with social anxiety avoids social settings so they won’t be judged or possibly ridiculed.
- Extreme mood swings. Most teens express moodiness, as it is a symptom of hormonal fluctuations. Sometimes a teen’s mood shifts are dramatic and extreme, from mania to depression, for instance. If so, this could be a sign of bipolar disorder.
- Engages in Self-Destructive Behaviors. Teens that engage in behaviors that are harmful to themselves are in need of help. If your child is engaging in self-harming behaviors, substance abuse, or high-risk behaviors, they will benefit from therapy.
- Obsessed with death. Suicide is now the second-highest cause of preventable death among people aged 10-34. Do not minimize the words of a teen who is obsessed with death and talks about wanting to die. This is a cry for help.
Parents who are tuned in to their kids are likely to be the first to notice any changes in their behavior. Keeping a high degree of awareness helps you spot the signs of any possible trouble.
What Should the Teen Expect in Therapy?
Teen therapy may be conducted in one-on-one sessions, family therapy sessions, or a mix of both. It helps if the teen has an idea of what to expect in therapy, as that helps reduce anxiety.
Inform your teen that you believe he or she will gain useful tips when talking things out with a therapist. Explain to them that they can feel free to discuss anything at all with the therapist, and it will remain confidential. Of course, the therapist will break that if they believe the teen’s life, or someone else’s, is in jeopardy.
Therapy sessions last about fifty minutes and are held in a relaxed, comfortable setting. The goal of the therapist is to provide a safe place for the teen to share their authentic feelings and their problems.
The therapist will conduct an intake interview during which he or she will assess the presenting symptoms and concerns and arrive at a diagnosis. After that, the therapist works with the teen to provide guidance and actionable steps that help them resolve the problem.
When Outpatient Therapy Isn’t Enough
For most teens struggling with a mental health issue, outpatient therapy is sufficient to help them. In some cases, they will also be prescribed medication, and some teens may also be referred to a support group.
For teens whose symptoms or problems continue to worsen, there is a higher level of care available. These are residential programs where the teen will reside for a period of time. The residential mental health programs provide a more intensive approach to treatment, with more activities and therapy involved. There are also academic tutors assigned to the teen so they don’t fall behind in their schoolwork.
Parents who ask, “How to know if my teen needs therapy” are simply showing concern for their child’s wellbeing. Kudos to you. If after reading this you believe your teen would benefit from therapy, go ahead and take that next step.
BNI Treatment Centers Residential Teen Mental Health Treatment
BNI Treatment Centers is a doctor-owned and operated, teen-focused residential mental health program. If your teen needs a more intensive approach to their mental health challenge, reach out to our team today at (888) 522-1504.