- Teen counseling offers similar benefits to other forms of counseling. It differs by focusing on the unique ways a teen’s developmental stage affects their mental health.
- Teenagers don’t need to be in crisis to benefit from counseling. It can be a preventative measure that can keep emotional or behavioral challenges from escalating.
- From peer pressure and social media to academic and social stressors, teen counseling can help your child navigate whatever challenges impact their well-being.
Being a teenager has never been easy. We can all probably recall the discomfort and awkwardness of those years spent experimenting with identity and figuring out who we wanted to be.
If you’re parenting a teen today, you know that the stressors they face are unlike anything the world has seen before. Today’s adolescents are coming of age at a time of unprecedented upheaval due to a global pandemic and widespread civil and financial unrest. Since their brains and bodies are still developing, teens don’t yet have the coping tools to successfully navigate these stressors. And on top of the typical academic, family, and social pressures of teen life, there’s a mental health crisis affecting young people at alarming rates.
Fortunately, your teen doesn’t have to face these challenges alone. If, like many parents, you’re concerned about your child’s mental and emotional well-being, speaking with a professional can help. Teen counseling services are designed to help young people navigate life’s challenges and provide a safe, confidential space to process big emotions and practice coping skills.
What is teen counseling?
On the surface, teen counseling looks a lot like individual counseling for adults. It involves a one-on-one conversation between the therapist and the client and provides many of the same benefits.
Where it differs is that teen counseling reflects the unique ways a teen’s mental health is affected by their developmental stage. Children and adolescents can face many of the same mental health challenges adults can.
But they’re also moving through a transition between childhood and adulthood while dealing with things like peer pressure and social media. All teens, even those without a mental health condition, need support as they navigate this uncharted territory. And teen counseling is one way that young people can learn to identify and express their feelings, develop healthy coping strategies, and build self-esteem.
How does teen counseling work?
Similar to other forms of counseling, like family therapy or group therapy, teen counseling begins with an assessment. The therapist will speak with the parent(s) and child (typically both individually and separately) to learn about current challenges, understand the teen’s history, and set some initial goals for treatment.
The first several sessions will focus on establishing a connection and building a trusting relationship. Some teens are understandably skeptical about opening up to a new adult. They might wonder if the counselor will repeat what’s said in the session to their parents. So teen counselors take time to discuss expectations about privacy at the outset of treatment so that both teens and parents understand what will and will not be shared.
There aren’t universal rules about whether a therapist shares information about the content of the session with a teen’s parent — unless the therapist believes there’s a risk of harm to the teen or someone else. Aside from that, everyone involved — teen, parent(s), and therapist — will come to a decision about what will be kept private and what will be shared.
As the process evolves, the therapist will introduce activities and exercises to address specific issues and support the teen in learning new coping strategies and problem-solving skills.
What kinds of issues are commonly addressed in teen counseling?
Teen counseling is designed to address a wide range of issues, including:
- Academic stress, perfectionism, and performance anxiety
- Sexuality and gender identity
- Social and peer pressure
- Compulsive behavior
- Parental separation and divorce
- Bullying and cyberbullying
- Anxiety disorders and depression
- Self-esteem and body image concerns
- Grief and loss
- Substance misuse and addiction
- Trauma and stress
- Truancy and school refusal
- Eating disorders
- Family conflicts and communication problems
- Suicidal thoughts
Why early intervention makes a difference for teens
Sometimes, even the most typical teen behavior can leave a parent wondering if there’s cause for concern. But if your child is struggling consistently, talking to a professional can help.
Your child doesn’t need to be in crisis or have an acute mental health condition to benefit from counseling. On the contrary, seeking support before things escalate can help prevent greater harm down the road.
Left untreated, a young person’s mental health challenges will likely worsen as they enter adulthood. However, research shows that early intervention can help prevent more serious issues from developing in the future. These preventative efforts are most effective when schools, communities, families, and providers work together to support youth mental health.
In addition to teen counseling, your child may benefit from speaking with their school counselor or attending community-based mental health programming.
Supporting teens through the counseling journey
As you prepare to talk about counseling with your teen, one of the most important things you can do is normalize seeking help. For example, if you see your own therapist or counselor, talk to them about your experience. Let your child know that asking for support isn’t a sign of weakness and that many other teens struggle with their mental health. Emphasize that it takes strength and courage to open up and talk about your challenges.
If your teen is resistant to going to counseling, listen to their concerns and offer some understanding and encouragement. Reassure them that you’ll collaborate with their counselor and follow through on their recommendations. Let your teen know that you, your teen, and the therapist will work together on a plan that you can all agree on in order for you (the parent) to stay in the loop while maintaining your teen’s privacy.
Finding a teen counselor with help from Path
Teen counseling can go a long way in preventing more severe challenges in adulthood and helping your child to thrive in the present. But sadly, historically long wait times have made this support difficult to access for many families.
That’s why at Path, we’re committed to helping parents quickly and easily find a counselor who takes their insurance and specializes in working with young adults. Path’s network of 5000+ therapists means your teen can be seen this week.
Plus, our online therapy platform is designed to help young adults access care from the comfort of home, using the technology they’re already familiar with. To learn more about how Path can help you find support for your teen, check out our website.