The benefits of therapy are undeniable. Increased positive moods, lowered stress levels, the establishment of coping skills, and feelings of empowerment are just a few of the countless benefits experienced from regular therapy sessions. Children and adults of all ages can reap the benefits of one-on-one or group-based therapy, but teenagers are of a particular age where they arguably could benefit the most. Between the rapid growth of both their minds and bodies and their inevitable social, personal and familial challenges, teenagers are required to tackle a significant amount of complex issues during their adolescence. Therapy provides a non-biased, clinically backed support system that can help them navigate both positive and negative experiences.
Experiencing A Major Life Event
Outside of some of the more common life events like entering high school, moving, or getting their first job, a major change can be a great reason to pursue therapy. Some examples of major life changes are the divorcing of parents and/or change in the familial structure, loss of a pet, death of a family member, an ended relationship, or even simply experiencing a pandemic. When such drastic life changes take place, they can wreak havoc on a teenager’s nervous system. A correlation between major life events and their controllability has also been shown to have a large impact on teenagers. If the major life event is viewed as within their control, it is significantly less likely to have a negative impact on their psyche. In contrast, life events that are perceived as out of their control tend to be more damaging (Aggarwal, 2007). Therapy can help provide unique coping skills that can guide teenagers through these changes, whether they are within their scope of control or not.
Significant Changes in Sleep or Eating Patterns
A change in sleep or eating patterns is another sign that can be difficult to differentiate from the normal ebbs and flows that teenagers experience as they grow. A significant enough change in either of these behaviors requires action as it is one of the more common side effects of suffering from depression. Noticeable weight loss or weight gain in a short period of time is one way that this may manifest itself. For sleep, a significant increase in the time spent in bed can be another potential warning sign. Cases of insomnia are especially vital as lack of sleep can interrupt the processes of growth and development in teenagers. In general, any large and abrupt change in a teenager’s routine is reason enough to consider introducing therapy.
For teens that tend to be outgoing or have an active social life, a shift towards isolation is typically a telltale sign that something is awry in your teen’s life. Isolation can stem from bullying, depression, anxiety, or a host of other struggles. The loss of interest in day-to-day activities that once excited your teen is one of the usual signs that something is going on. Especially with the significance of Covid-19 and the emergence of social media, teenagers in current times are faced with challenges that have not existed for prior generations (Loades 2020). As a result, feelings of loneliness or unreliability may be exacerbated. Some of the usual indicators that your teen is withdrawing are frequent canceling of plans, dreading social activities, anxiety and/or panic attacks, spending significant amounts of time in their bedroom, or avoidance of others in general. Any of these listed reasons can be cause for concern, especially if they are continuing over a period of weeks to months. If any of these behavioral changes are observed, reaching out to a therapist may be necessary.
Negative Changes in Behavior and/or School
Lowered grades, skipping classes, or a pessimistic demeanor that did not previously exist are warning signs that should not be ignored. Most often, these kinds of drastic changes are a result of an ongoing struggle. The occasional dip in grades can be viewed as normal but a steep decline is a warning sign. Observing their usual patterns in academics and being aware of any changes is key to catching potential red flags quickly. In many cases, teens feel uncomfortable sharing the reasoning for these types of shifts and may even respond with anger when asked about it. Therapy can be incredibly beneficial in cases such as this as the teen has a neutral party to share their experiences with. In some cases, a drop in grades can be correlated to positive changes such as a new friend group or even a budding relationship. Even so, therapy can help your teen balance their needs and assist them in prioritizing aspects of their life that will benefit them both presently and in the future.
Significant Mood Swings
Although mood swings can be normal in teenagers, largely resulting from the influx of hormonal changes, drastic mood swings can be cause for concern. A traditional view of teenagers has painted them as highly emotional beings with erratic behaviors as a result of their rapid biological changes. More recent studies are showing us that there is far more of this to blame on external factors than previously believed (Guyer, 2016). Notably, the presence of social media has introduced a new challenge for teenage mood regulation. If you notice your teenager spends a significant amount of time on social media platforms daily, it may be a contributing factor to their mood swings. Social media is now viewed as a type of addiction. In a study done on the relationship between self-control and Instagram addiction, it was observed that teenagers felt disconnected from the world around them and suffered a decrease in learning achievement as well as interest in their usual activities (Anna, 2020). When heavily focused on the experience of others, teenagers can lose regard for their own lives. This is an emerging societal issue that is one of the many reasons to consider therapy for your teen.
How To Approach The Conversation
Some teenagers may initially resist the suggestion of therapy. Often this can stem from a place of defensiveness, as many teenagers, as well as adults, believe that therapy is only necessary in cases of mental illness. In reality, therapy is an incredible tool that can help mitigate potential future struggles and can be viewed as a preventative measure. When introducing the idea of therapy to your teen, having an open conversation can be an effective approach. Studies have shown that teenagers heavily value being able to engage in therapy at the time of their own choosing (Kazdin, 1982). If your teen offers resistance to the idea, it can be beneficial to offer alternative suggestions such as group therapy or family therapy. By being provided options, teenagers can experience a higher sense of autonomy.
Though therapy is proven beneficial and has the ability to drastically improve the mental well-being of teenagers, in some cases this is not enough. Residential mental health programs are available for severe cases in which a more intensive approach is needed. Teenagers suffering from issues such as suicidal ideation or substance abuse are often candidates for such an approach. For the majority of teens, outpatient therapy is sufficient and will prove massively beneficial when kept consistent.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.