Adolescent Therapy: Helping Young People Navigate the Struggle
During the adolescent years, a person’s brain is rapidly growing and changing. These changes can present a unique set of complications to a child’s emotional and mental development. At this age, young people start to face numerous stressors and expectations from school, home life, and the introduction of a newfound sense of self.
It has been determined that 50% of all lifelong mental illnesses begin by age 14. That means that the symptoms of mental illness can start to make themselves apparent during the teenage years.
Given the inherent difficulties of this stage of development, it can be very difficult to differentiate between normal teenage angst and desire for autonomy, from actual disordered behavior.
Be aware of the warning signs:
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
- Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
- Changes in sleeping patterns including oversleeping or insomnia
- Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations in which a person experiences or senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
- Physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
- Intense concern with weight gain or physical appearance
You may think that these are typical teenage behaviors at times, and you’d be correct. When these problematic behaviors become habitual it may be time to seek professional help.
Because mental health exists on a spectrum, assessment from a mental health professional can help provide valuable insight into your child and determine whether exhibited behavior is typical or if their behavior is the result of a mental disorder.
Being a Teenager Is Stressful.
Adolescence is an experience that everyone shares and can relate to in some capacity. This doesn’t make the experience any less difficult. Changes in brain chemistry during this stage also bring along physiological changes that can lead to feelings of awkwardness and alienation. On top of these changes, teenagers may also feel pressure to live up to standards determined by their parents, teachers, and society as a whole.
Along with these factors, the newfound prevalence of social media may be to blame for many mental health hardships. It would appear on the outside that everyone on Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter is having the best day ever, all the time.
Of course, we know that this is almost never the case. Separating reality from the deceptive nature of social media can be a lot for a child to process. This pressure is often internalized and can lead to mental health difficulties.
Previous generations have experienced this phenomenon through idealized versions of beauty on television and different forms of media. Still, the ever-present nature of social media has led to increased difficulty in separating fact from fiction. Today’s teens do not only see the impossible beauty standards portrayed by celebrities, but they’re also seeing the curated online personas of their classmates and peers.
Not to mention the unique set of hardships that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented modern life. COVID has led to an increased sense of isolation for everyone, but this can be especially hard on teens. Many schools and services have switched to a completely remote model of communication and teaching that limits or eliminates face-to-face human interaction.
Peer socialization during the adolescent years is very important as it helps children develop the interpersonal skills that they will carry with them through their personal and professional lives. In high school, a child learns the importance of listening to and learning from many different people and personalities. Mental health struggles may make themselves more apparent as we all attempt to navigate isolation and develop a “new normal.”
Adolescent vs. Adult Therapy
Interactions with adolescents differ greatly from interactions with adults. Because of this, the approach to the treatment of adolescents facing mental health issues must differ greatly from the treatment of adults facing similar issues.
For example, an adult may notice mental health issues developing and reach out for help on their own. In contrast, teenagers will seldom seek mental health counseling on their own and are often dragged into treatment against their will. This goes along with the natural rebellion that coincides with the desire for self-autonomy.
The building of rapport between adolescent and counselor is crucial to forming a solid foundation for the success of mental health therapy. Our counselors strive to form an environment where adolescent clients can be honest and open about their feelings and troubles.
We make it clear to your child that we’re here to be a partner in their journey towards mental health and clarity and not a dictator. We believe that positive changes in thinking can only occur when trust is established.
What is adolescent therapy?
Adolescent therapy is counseling from a certified healthcare professional that helps to identify and address the underlying issues that may cause behavioral difficulties in teens. To achieve this, mental health professionals aim to build trust by stressing honesty and engagement as opposed to dictation. By cultivating an atmosphere of trust, adolescent therapy can help teens build a solid foundation for future success and lasting positive change.
How do I find a therapist for my teenager?
Trust is key when it comes to addressing the unique and delicate issues that your teenager may be experiencing. It is important to pick a therapist that is not only properly accredited but is also equipped with the proper therapeutic skills necessary to assist your child in reaching developmental milestones. Our licensed therapists at SUN Behavioral are here to provide guidance. Please contact us at 302-604-5600 for more information.
How do I know if my child needs counseling?
Adolescence can be the most difficult period in a child’s development. It’s often very difficult for parents to differentiate between normal teenage angst or desires for self-autonomy, and actual disordered behavior.If your child is exhibiting any of the following behaviors, it may be time to seek professional help:
- Low interest in things and activities that your child used to enjoy
- Lethargy or increased amount of sleep
- Insomnia or decrease in sleeping
- Increased self-isolation or unwillingness to engage in social activities
- Fear of gaining weight or constant exercise and dieting
- Thoughts of suicide or engagement in self-harm (e.g., cutting or burning skin)
- Smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Periods of highly elevated energy or “manic” behavior
You may say to yourself, but these are things normal teenagers do at times. And you’d be right, which is what makes diagnosis by a professional so important. Mental health exists on a gradient, and assessment by a professional can determine whether such behavior may simply be a phase or the result of a more serious underlying condition.
What is the most common psychological problem in adolescence?
Some of the most common issues teenagers and adolescents face may include mood, anxiety, attention, and behavior disorders. The root of many issues may be due to social stressors, isolation, or substance abuse. While these issues are common, they are treatable.
Seeking Care with SUN Delaware
Here at SUN Delaware, our Adolescent Outpatient Program is designed for young people who need treatment for mental, emotional, or substance use problems. It’s for teens who may be transitioning from inpatient care or need more intensive treatment than traditional outpatient programs can offer. SUN’s team of experts is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, partnering with teens and their families to help them map their journey to improved health and happiness.
We currently provide care for adolescents starting at age 13 and some 12-year-old children depending on their clinical presentation.
This evidence-based program helps our most vulnerable patients learn how to identify and change distorted thinking, communicate effectively in relationships, and regain control of their lives as they transition to young adulthood.
It is important to be aware that your child’s struggles with mental health issues are not your fault. Seeking professional therapeutic help for your child does not mean that you’ve failed or done anything wrong. It shows a commitment to providing your child and family with all the tools they need to succeed.
As a parent, watching your child suffer from mental health hardship can be an incredibly difficult experience. When it comes to tackling these sensitive issues, you’re not alone.
At SUN, our master’s level clinicians are equipped with the skills necessary to guide your child
towards mental health and clarity. If your child is struggling, we can help. Please call us today at 302-604-5600.