What does behavioral health therapy look like for teens?

Teenagers may need or seek out therapy for a variety of reasons. They may be facing stressors that include their normal growing bodies and hormones, school issues, family dynamics, or personal struggles such as anxiety or depression. When dealing with these stressors it can become difficult to continue handling everything alone or within the family unit. Therapy can be a resource for teenagers that can allow them learn how to cope with and manage stressors, as well as learn new skills to improve problem solving or communication. Teens will often go to therapy after deciding on their own that it would help, but it is sometimes the caregiver who choses that the teenager would benefit from therapy. In either case, it may be helpful to explain to your teen what to expect from therapy and what will happen in the treatment room. Below you will find an outline of what a therapy session might look like for your teen.

Talking. Your therapist is going to encourage your teen to talk about their emotions and experiences. They will explain the bounds of confidentiality and that everything they talk about will be held in confidence unless they are unsafe. Understanding that their information cannot be shared will oftentimes make teens feel better about opening up to their therapist. Your teen’s therapist will allow your teen to control the conversation and will not force them to talk about anything that they do not feel ready to talk about.

Establish goals. At the beginning of therapy, you, your teen, and the therapist will discuss the concerns that led to you seeking therapy. After understanding the concerns, your teen will discuss goals that they would like to work on in session. Their goal may be to decrease symptoms of a mental health disorder or to develop skills to manage a specific concern such as peer interactions. The goals that are established for will be the framework for what is discussed in sessions.

Evidence-based strategies. While in therapy, your teen’s therapist will use strategies that were researched and deemed effective for certain concerns brought into treatment. These strategies will help your teen understand their experiences and emotions, as well as learn and develop new skills. Through worksheets, games, and other creative avenues, your teenager will work towards their goals.

Opportunity for practice. In sessions, your therapist will provide a safe space for your teen to practice skills without fear of judgement. Your therapist will be able to role-play certain situations with your teen to allow them to understand how to react and build confidence. Your therapist will help you build on your strengths and use those strengths in situations that are practiced.

Parental involvement. Therapy is most effective when the entire family is involved, especially if the concerns are related to family dynamics that are occurring within the home. Your therapist will encourage you as the caregiver to be involved by participating in sessions or having family therapy sessions with your teen.

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