When Talk Therapy Doesn’t Cut It — How to Help The Teen You Love

The teen years represent a significant period of change in a person’s life. People enter puberty between the ages of 10 and 16. The brain produces hormones that trigger emotional and physical responses, causing mood swings and significant physical developments.

While teens are grappling with their hormones and their physical development, they’re also seeking independence. For some teens, it’s frustrating to feel like they’re treated like a child when they’re craving independence. For others, it’s frustrating to be treated as an adult when they’re confused and uncertain about who they are. Depending on your teen’s challenges, talk therapy might not be enough to help them navigate their teen years. Read on to explore some other ways you can help your teen make it through the journey to adulthood.

Pursue a professional diagnosis.


Hormonal changes, developmental changes, self-esteem issues, bullying, peer pressure, and life circumstances can all affect your teen. However, some challenges teens face stem from medical conditions, which is why you shouldn’t make assumptions about the root cause of your teen’s issues.

Your pediatrician can refer you to specialists who can determine whether your teen has health issues. Common mental health issues affecting teenagers include attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and conduct disorder. Verifying the source of behavior issues ensures you take appropriate steps to treat their condition and provide your teen with the life skills needed to thrive.

Appropriate treatment plans may include cognitive behavior therapy, family therapy, and medication.

Consider a change of scenery.


Sometimes, the challenges teens face are environmental. Perhaps you’re divorced from your teen’s other biological parent, and one of you has a new partner. Changes in the home environment could significantly impact your teen’s mental state and prompt unhealthy behaviors. You may be able to address these issues by changing your custody arrangement or starting family therapy.

Your teen may be depressed because of issues at school. Perhaps their school doesn’t offer courses they need for their career goals, or other students bully them. Bullying and depression can lead to substance abuse and suicidal ideation in young adults. Bullying about weight can lead to eating disorders. Although you can’t guarantee a new school will resolve all your teen’s issues, you may be able to improve their situation by transferring them to a new school.

Invest in residential treatment.


Young people may benefit from attending a residential treatment center for teenagers. These residential programs customize their treatment plans for each teenager. Their clinical team includes psychiatrists, therapists, case managers, nurses, and pediatricians. Their mental health and medical staff work together to ensure the treatment plan meets each client’s specific needs. Residential programs also offer 24-hour care for teens with ADHD, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, and self-harm behaviors, such as substance use disorders and eating disorders.

Residential programs offer young adults a safe venue to eliminate environmental triggers and receive appropriate mental health care. The treatment team also prepares an aftercare program to ensure your teen’s continued success when they return home.

Embrace experiential therapy.


Experiential therapy promotes action instead of talk. Sometimes, teens fail to thrive in talk therapy because they have a hard time expressing their feelings. Experiential therapy offers an outlet for their thoughts and emotions and can offer insight into their struggles. Popular examples of experiential therapy include creative writing, art therapy, drama, and music therapy. Creative teens can use these artistic outlets to express themselves.

Other types of experiential therapy include recreational activities, such as hiking, gardening, and swimming. Active teens may prefer sports therapy and can participate in yoga, surfing, and martial arts. Teens can also use meditation and somatic therapy to address their mental health issues.

Raising teens can be challenging. Helping your teen involves determining the root of their challenges. Depending on the cause of their issues, they may benefit from environmental changes or medication. Teens can also benefit from attending residential treatment programs or pursuing experiential therapy.