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Mental Health Services and Therapy for Teens: A Guide to Getting Started 

mental health therapy for teens in connecticut

Psychological therapy, commonly referred to as “psychotherapy” or “therapy,” is designed to treat mental health conditions and help people better manage symptoms of mental illness. For younger populations, therapy can help adolescents overcome difficult emotions, manage behaviors, cope with triggers, and in turn learn to function well at home, in school, and in their community.

It is not uncommon for youth to struggle with their mental health. In fact, an estimated 50 percent of mental illnesses begin by the age of 14, while 75 percent surface by the age of 24. Adolescence is a prime time for symptoms of mental health problems to emerge, as teenagers are going through such a dynamic period of brain development. As a parent, you can help your teen by encouraging open, honest, judgement-free conversations about mental health at home. If you believe your teen is struggling and in need of help, rest assured there are mental health services available for teens.

It may not always be apparent when a teen is in need of mental health therapy, as the signs of mental illness can overlap with wavering teenage behaviors. You may be able to recognize a need for therapy if your teenager is struggling to handle their emotions, behaving outside their norm, or is having trouble getting through the day. Be sure to ask your teen questions and keep tabs on their mental health. If your teen has shown any signs of a mental health disorder, explore your options below.

Recommended Types of Mental Health Services for Teens

Mental health disorders are numerous and wide-ranging. While we often cite disorders like depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it’s important to remember that every mental health condition is unique. Every teenager has a different experience with mental health, and different symptoms as a result. To that end, each teenager can benefit from different therapy methods. 

It’s also important to note that different types of therapies have been proven effective for different mental health disorders. So, the right therapy approach for your teen will depend on their individual needs—including medical history, past experiences, academic background, family situation, and more. Sometimes, teenagers can also benefit from multiple modalities of mental health therapy.

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to mental health treatment for youth, there are evidence-based therapies and services recommended for this age group. Below we outline the commonly recommended types of mental health services for teens and youth.

  • Individualized Therapy: When most people think of “therapy,” individual therapy comes to mind. This involves one-on-one sessions between a client and a licensed therapist, in a safe and confidential environment. Clients are given the opportunity to explore their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, memories, traumas, and challenges with their therapist. They may also set personal goals for recovery, for life, and for their overall health. Individualized therapy may also be referred to as psychotherapy or counseling, but the main goal is the same: to help a client develop an understanding of themselves, and work towards a desired change.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy, as its name implies, is a form of psychotherapy in a larger, group setting. A clinician (or multiple clinicians) lead a group of people in discussing different topics relating to mental health. Typically, such as in a youth recovery center, the group is made up of peers of the same age and gender. They are encouraged to share their experiences and create conversations, with the ultimate goal of improving social connections, communication skills, and their overall understanding of mental health.
  • Family Therapy: Family therapy is a type of treatment that benefits the client as well as their family members. This is particularly important for adolescents and young adults struggling with mental health. Family therapy focuses on helping family members – such as parents and siblings – improve communication and trust within the family, and teaches them how to support their teen in recovery.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is an evidence-based therapy method that focuses on improving a teen’s thought patterns. Teens struggling with mental health will often have distorted, confused, or unhealthy ways of thinking, and CBT can help get to the root of those thoughts. CBT can also help teens learn to identify the negative thought patterns that lead to their symptoms, and replace them with more positive feelings and behaviors.
  • Dialectal Behavioral Therapy: Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy used to treat teenagers and young adults that are facing more severe mental health and substance use problems. DBT teaches clients how to regulate emotions, effectively cope with stress, communicate with others, and improve relationships. 
  • Child Behavior Therapy: Child behavior therapy is designed to help children overcome problematic thoughts and negative behaviors that may be enabled in their home environment. This therapy often involves family members, teaching them how to reinforce positive behaviors and reduce unwanted behaviors at home.
  • Motivational Interviewing: Motivational interviewing is a type of therapy that helps teenagers find the motivation they need to change their behaviors. It is often used to address substance use disorders, as well as manage mental health disorders. According to research, motivational interviewing has been found to work well with individuals who enter therapy unengaged, diffident, or unprepared for change.
  • Contingency Management: Contingency Management (CM) is a type of behavioral therapy intervention used for teens struggling with substance use disorders. This type of therapy utilizes positive reinforcement to encourage healthy behaviors and decrease drug and alcohol use.
  • Medication-Assisted Therapy: Medication assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications to help treat substance use disorders and prevent drug overdoses. For teens and young adults, it is often used in combination with counseling and the behavioral therapies above to provide a holistic and integrated treatment approach. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), “Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat these disorders, and for some people struggling with addiction, MAT can help sustain recovery.”

The Importance of Mental Health Therapy for Teens

As a parent, you may feel conflicted or devastated at the thought of your teenager struggling with mental illness. It is important to recognize that you are not alone. Amidst a global pandemic and mental health crisis, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other disorders are no longer uncommon in teens. Still, it is critical to get your child the help they need to function and feel good as they navigate life ahead.

Today, mental health disorders can be treated and managed effectively – especially at a young age. However, it is up to you, as a parent, to seek the help that your teen needs and deserves. Talk to your child’s doctor, coaches, teachers, therapist, and even other family members to better understand your child’s needs. Meet with a treatment professional to discuss your options and next steps. Most importantly, have open and honest conversations with your child about mental health and your own concerns. Combined, these conversations can begin the road to recovery for your child.

According to the CDC, “Childhood mental disorders can be treated and managed. There are many treatment options based on the best and most current medical evidence… Early diagnosis and appropriate services for children and their families can make a difference in the lives of children with mental disorders.”

If you would like to speak with a professional about mental health treatment for teens, or learn about the mental health services available to your family, you can always reach out to Turnbridge for support. Turnbridge is a recognized mental health treatment center for adolescents, young adults, and their family members. Contact us today by calling 877-581-1793 or explore our programs online.