The last two years have been significantly impactful to adolescents’ mental health. From having to adjust to online learning and readjust to in-person instruction to spending months isolated from their peers to relearning socialization during a pandemic, teens have struggled mentally and emotionally at some level. Research has demonstrated that the pandemic not only added challenges but exasperated pre-existing issues for youth.
They have had to deal with much uncertainty and global upheaval during a developmental stage that is challenging and often confusing to navigate. Adolescence marks a critical time for identity and autonomy development. Having a safe space to explore identity, difficult emotions, and make sense of complex thoughts can address many issues and benefit a teen’s overall sense of well-being.
There are several different approaches for teens in therapy that have demonstrated effectiveness, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Psychodynamic therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for teens has shown great improvements in treating symptoms of anxiety and depression while Psychodynamic therapy helps bring to light the underlying motivations behind thoughts, feelings, and actions to generate greater insight. An integrative approach is more often indicated to address different aspects.
Therapy should not be the last resort when issues have reached their peak, which is, unfortunately, when most seek professional help. Whether a teen qualifies for a diagnosis or not isn’t the only factor worth considering. There are many benefits for teens in therapy, even in the absence of a disorder.
4 Benefits of Therapy for Teens
1. Stress Management & Emotional Regulation Tools
Therapy provides teens a place to process challenges and learn how to better understand, identify, and regulate complex emotions. Teens face a variety of stressors ranging from academic performance, college applications, social inclusion needs, and more. When speaking to unbiased mental health professionals, teens get to talk about such stressors more openly and authentically. Through unpacking the pressure, teens learn more helpful ways to approach stressors and self-regulate during difficult periods.
2. Identity & Autonomy Development
Engaging in therapy can help teens foster a sense of identity through self-exploration and values clarification. It provides the chance to find their voice and reflect on what they want to build for themselves. Through this process, teens can learn about self-accountability, motivation, and self-care. The therapist inquires about the framework in which the teen sees themselves, others, and the world to foster a deeper self-awareness while addressing cognitive distortions and blocks to embracing individuality.
3. Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills
By observing and identifying patterns, teens can better understand their relational style and needs in relationships. Therapy can help build perspective, establish healthy boundaries, and cultivate meaningful connections with others. In addition, it provides teens with an opportunity to process emotions regarding relationship challenges and learn conflict resolution tools.
4. Building Self-esteem & Self-efficacy
Therapy is not just a place to discuss problems; it’s also a place to explore strengths and positive attributes. Through this process, teens can build confidence and trust in themselves to set and achieve goals. The therapist will not solve a teen’s problems for them but instead, walk them through the process of finding resolution themselves. In this way, teens feel empowered in their ability to problem-solve and work through issues while feeling supported.
Overall, therapy serves as a great avenue for teens to engage in self-expression and learn the proper tools to cultivate a sense of balance, paving the road toward becoming well-adjusted young adults.
Finding a therapist who is the right fit is essential for successful outcomes. It’s crucial that teens feel comfortable being open with their therapist without feeling judged. Choosing a therapist is a deeply personal decision; it’s helpful to have teens involved in the consultation process when considering which therapist to choose.