Psychotherapy for Teen Depression
Teens are often reticent to discuss their emotional issues with a parent. Sometimes a teen will feel more open to sharing about a sensitive issue with a therapist. Knowing that the topics discussed will remain confidential offers the teen a safe space to open up and talk about the problems they are having at school, in relationships, or within the family.
Psychotherapy offers an opportunity for the adolescent to gain clarity about the feelings or interpersonal conflicts they are experiencing that may be contributing to the crippling depression. The therapist can guide the teen to explore his or her feelings, providing an accepting environment where they will not be judged. This connection with the therapist gives the teen a sense they are not alone with their problems, as well as actionable steps the teen can take to make positive changes.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a short-term form of psychotherapy that can offer rapid symptoms reduction. It works by helping the teen recognize negative self-messaging that fuel the feelings of low self-worth, despair, and hopelessness. During CBT once the thought distortions are identified the teen is then guided toward replacing them with reframed thoughts that are healthy, rational, and constructive. Once the cognitive distortions are addressed, a therapist can guide the teen toward generating new solutions.
Psychodynamic therapy. Psychodynamic psychotherapy offers a more intensive exploration of past emotional issues or trauma that might be influencing the depressed mood. The teen may harbor deep emotional struggles and conflicts as a result of childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma. This longer term therapy provides the time and space for the therapist to help draw the painful issues to the surface so they can be discussed openly, processed, and eventually healed.
Family therapy. Family-focused therapy is often provided along with another form of one-on-one psychotherapy. These sessions include family members, allowing the teen to open up and discuss their struggles with them. The therapist uses various exercises for the family to engage in to help elicit honest discussion while guiding the family towards more effective communication skills.
When Antidepressants Are Indicated
When a teen is diagnosed with depression the physician will weigh the pros and cons of including antidepressants in the treatment plan. In some cases, it will be necessary for the teen to begin antidepressant drug therapy. The medication is prescribed for a defined period of time in conjunction with psychotherapy. Antidepressants may help reduce the symptoms of depression, including sadness, crying, irritability, and worry. The drugs do not work for everyone, however, and selecting the most effective option may take some trial and error initially. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants for teens are Prozac and Lexapro.