Counseling for Teens

Why is Teen Therapy Helpful?

Adolescence is a time filled with physical, social, neurological, and psychological changes. Many of these changes are exciting but something these changes are overwhelming. Teens are resilient and adaptive when it comes to the demands and stressors in their lives but some times they need some helpful guidance along the way.

It is normal as teens begin to grow older that they go through a phase where they want to differentiate from their parents to find their own identify. This usually looks like bids for more independence and privacy. We understand that it can be alarming to suddenly lose all communication with your child. We help family’s open up those lines of communication with their teens in new creative ways. Although, the teenage years bring about expected changes, if you are seeing concerning signs with your teenager finding a specialist that is knowledgeable on teens issues can bring some relief.

Happy teen girl laying peacefully in purple flower

Teen Therapy is a Powerful Tool

I have worked within the public school system for many years now and from my experience I have seen first hand that mental health concerns are more prevalent than ever. The teens today are struggling differently than we saw previous generations. Maybe we can blame technology and social media and the disconnection it breeds. Whatever the catalyst, our youth today are struggling and therapy can be a powerful tool to help them navigate and grow.

Therapy can Support Teens Addressing Issues such as:

  • Depressed mood and hopelessness
  • Self-harm behaviors (cutting, burning)
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors
  • Social Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Substance use and alcohol use
  • Body Image issues
  • Eating Disorders
  • Self-esteem and Self-concept
  • Sexual orientation and Identify exploration
  • Grief and loss
  • Major life transitions

These issues can have a significant impact on the teen’s ability to thrive if left untreated. Therapeutic intervention is a great way for a teen to open up and learn how to put their emotional experience, that at times can feel so confusing, into words. As Teens begin working through the different parts of themselves where they might be harboring shame or embarrassment it can be extremely healing and improve emotional intelligence. It is never too early to begin working on these issues and early intervention has demonstrated greater outcomes.

What to expect from Teen Therapy

Many times teens are brought to therapy involuntarily, so it is really important at Mind Garden Counseling that we meet the teen where they are. The beginning of treatment is spent establishing a trusting therapeutic relationship and providing a space where the individual can feel seen, heard, understood, and validated in their experience. In our experience, once teens establish trust and look at the therapist as a safe and predictable person they will be more opened engaging in treatment interventions and processing their emotions.

Under the California State Law, children who are 12 years of age and older may consent to their own mental health treatment. With that being said, most often parents are actively involved in the treatment process and can play a key role in the reinforcing and supporting the teens at home. Many of the teens we work with want their parents to be involved in the process and sometimes even some family therapy work is warranted. In establishing a trusting relationship it is important that the teens know sessions are confidential.  Sharing certain information without the teens permission can be harmful to the therapeutic relationship. I know as a parent it can make you feel uneasy about not knowing everything that is happening in therapy. I want to assure you that you are instilling your trust in a professional that truly has your child’s best interest at heart. Information will be shared with parents if there is ever risk of self harm or harm to others to ensure the client’s safety. If a teen client is ever engaging in risky behaviors the therapist always encourages honesty and offers assistance in helping facilitate a conversation between the teen and the family.


Helping your Teen thrive is my top priority. Treatment begins with identifying measurable and realistic treatment goals. This is a collaborative process between the therapist, the teen, and often times the family. Here are some examples of potential treatment goals:

  • Identifying unhelpful thinking patterns
  • Learning to challenge negative self-talk and thinking
  • Identifying coping strategies to assist in emotion regulation
  • Learning healthy boundaries in relationships and on social media
  • Increasing motivation in school
  • Repairing relationships with family members
  • Education and development of healthy habits (e.g. sleep hygiene, eating, exercise)
  • Decreasing self-harming behaviors
  • Identifying emotional triggers

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

When working with teens the primary treatment modality used is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is one of the strongest research based treatments. CBT focuses on education about how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interconnected. Treatment moves into helping teens identify and challenge negative thought patterns. Teens will learn to identifying and learn more adaptive thinking patterns to assist them in living happier and healthier lives.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Another very helpful treatment modality is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), another type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The main goals of DBT are teaching people how to live in the present moment, develop healthy coping strategies when stressed, regulate emotions, and improve relationships with others. DBT teaches teens skills of distress tolerance, radical acceptance, and mindfulness techniques all tools to assist them in self-soothing.

Strength Based Approach

Additional treatment modalities that are helpful are Strength Based Approaches which focuses on an individuals self-determination and internal strengths. Teens begin to see themselves as resourceful, resilient, and the agent of change.

Motivational Interviewing 

Motivational Interviewing is another helpful counseling approach for eliciting behavior change by helping the individual explore and resolve ambivalence to change.

Exposure Response Prevention 

Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) can be extremely helpful for those teens struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Anxiety Disorder, and extreme avoidance. This therapeutic intervention encourages the client to face their fears slowly and they learn to let obsessive thoughts occur without neutralizing them with compulsive behaviors. Exposures confront one’s fears repeatedly until the fear subsides due to habituation.

Mindfulness Based Practices

Lastly, Mindfulness Based approaches assist in teaching teens how to be present focused and to observe rather than to react to one’s emotions or thoughts. Teens develop more emotional intelligence and self awareness as they become more present in the moment to moment experience.

I am truly inspired by the work I do with teens and I would love to take the journey with you and your family in helping your teen make real change in their life. Please reach out for more information through a free 15 minute phone consultation Today!