How Does Therapy Help Teens?

by Robyn Tamanaha, LMFT

During these formative years, teenagers are developing their identity, exploring their place in the world, and where they stand in situations and with other people.  Each of these on their own, and altogether, can be stressful, overwhelming, and confusing. Therapy can help teenagers make sense of their inner and outer worlds, and how all of it fits together.

What does therapy help?

  • How they view themselves: It’s normal and natural for teens to feel unsure about themselves. For some, low self-esteem can affect their mood and hinder their growth. Therapy can assist with increasing their self-confidence by decreasing the negative beliefs they have about themselves, and helping them learn and practice strategies to manage their mood.
  • School Stress: For some, school stress is related to academics and achievement.  For others, school stress involves difficulty being at school, which can range from disinterest to nervousness.  For some, it’s all of the above.  Therapy can help teens cope with their distress, which can lead to improved grades or less anxiety about grades.  Therapy can also assist with finding out the root cause of a teenager’s difficulty or disinterest in being at school and problem-solving ways to get through it.
  • Family Difficulty or Conflict: As a parent/guardian of a teenager, you may be noticing a shift in personality; who your teen is may be very different from who they were as a child. You may notice your teen interacting with you differently. Maybe it seems like they’re isolating or starting fights more often. Maybe you don’t feel as close as you once did to your child. Therapy can assist the family to encourage a healthy level of independence for the teen, create more positive interactions in the household, and implement effective communication skills.
  • Friends and Relationships: The social realm can be the largest area of a teenager’s life. Social media gives teenagers constant access to their peers even after they leave school. Because teens can consistently interact with peers, whether it be in-person or on social media, it is likely that teenagers experience the social realm more intensely.  Other teens might feel left out or disconnected from their peers, either because they’re not included in these interactions or because they’re the target for criticism or ridicule. Teens want to portray themselves in a way that is accepted by their peers, or up to par with what they see on social media, which causes a lot of pressure.  Therapy can assist in working through the struggle for acceptance, exploring an experience with being teased or bullied, how to make friends, learning about healthy relationships, and how to make decisions when it comes to peer pressure.
  • New Challenges, Changes, and Stressors: Sometimes, life happens. Whether it be expected or unexpected, a teenager may experience something new and not know how to navigate it. This can include parents’ separation or divorce, moving to a new area, starting a new school, experiencing their first break up, a death, coming out or being outed as LGBTQ+, etc.  Therapy can assist with exploring how the challenge, change, or stressor affected them and can also help teens brainstorm ways to move forward.

 When should a teen go to therapy?

If you’re noticing that your teen is struggling with at least one of the areas above, therapy would be beneficial.  Starting therapy immediately can equip the teen with tools and strategies at the onset of a challenge. In some instances, such as an upcoming or expected change or stressor, beginning therapy prior to it or as soon as this change or stressor occurs is beneficial because they can explore their thoughts and feelings as it occurs, as opposed to feeling overwhelmed by the accumulation of it.

Don’t wait to get the help you need.  If you would like to take the next step towards finding a therapist, contact Ethera to get matched with a provider.

 

About the Author:  Robyn Tamanaha is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, writer, and podcaster. She has a private practice in Orange County, CA and is the host of the podcast Books Between Sessions.