Therapy Isn’t Helping My Troubled Teen

One of the first suggestions parents hear when they have a troubled teen is to seek out one or more types of therapy. Therapy can be hugely beneficial for teens struggling with their mental health or behavioral problems. Concerns often arise because parents feel as though therapy isn’t helping their teens alter their behaviors and attitudes. Perhaps the best next step should be to understand better what therapy is, what it should be, and how you can work with your teen’s therapist to get the most out of the sessions.

Just what should therapy help with?

What is the first image that pops into your mind when you think about therapy? Is it someone on a couch, tissues in hand, spilling their struggles to a listening therapist across the room? While some sessions may look like this, with some therapists, the reality is quite different. There are several types of therapy, and the one that will best benefit your teen may differ from the one that you find beneficial.

There is often a misconception that going to therapy will be the ultimate solution to all of the mental wellness and behavioral concerns you are struggling with. In truth, therapy is not designed to fix you or be the direct cause of changed behavior. Therapy helps teens, and adults, better understand how they can relate to the world around them. With an understanding of how you fit into the world and how the world works, you can then start to work on building coping skills and coping strategies to help you.

These healthy coping skills and strategies can improve behaviors and mental health.

Broadly speaking, the role of a therapist is to help teens understand the world around them and their own mind and how it approaches each problem. They will learn coping tools and learn how to solve the problems in their life better. Therapists are not there to provide a quick fix or provide advice to solve problems.

How can you tell if therapy isn’t working for your teen?

If your teen has been going to therapy for several weeks and even months, and there has been no change in their mental health or their behavior, it could be that this type of therapy is not working for them.

Here are a few signs that therapy may not be working for your teen.

  •       Your teen feels that he’s being judged by his therapist and doesn’t feel comfortable fully opening up.
  •       He may feel worse between each of his therapy sessions and start to make excuses not to go or express that he is dreading his new appointment.
  •       There’s been a complete lack of any type of progress since he started going to therapy.

Be sure to speak with your teen’s therapist for their evaluation of how they feel that the sessions are going. It’s important to remember that your teen’s therapist may not be able to share many of the details of their sessions with you. But they should be able to tell you whether they feel like any progress is being made that you are not yet aware of.

Next steps to help your teen

What should your next steps be? How can you help your teen get the most out of therapy? The answer may be as simple as switching therapists. Your teen’s therapist may be highly qualified to work with teens and may be a great person to work with, but there may not be the right type of connection between therapist and teen. This is why having an honest conversation with your teen’s therapist is again important. If the therapist doesn’t feel like there is a good connection with your teen, they will be open about this with you. It can sometimes take a bit of time to find the best therapist.

If your teen and his therapist appear to have a good connection, switching therapists now would likely only further delay his progress. It would be better to communicate with the therapist to find out how your teen can get the most out of his therapy. The therapist may have a few suggestions based on their previous experience working with teenagers.

  •       Is the type of therapy your teen is getting the right type of therapy to help address his needs? As an example, it could be that talk therapy isn’t the right choice for your teen. If your teen has a history of trauma, he may benefit from a different type of therapy or by adding an additional type of therapy. Remember that sometimes adding holistic options that include other types of wellness, such as yoga or outdoor activities, can make a world of difference for someone struggling.
  •       Evaluate and reevaluate your goals and expectations from the therapy that your teen is getting. Your teen may be building a strong collection of coping skills that you aren’t aware of because it’s not yet being seen in any type of behavioral changes. Sometimes we get into the mindset of therapy being a quick fix for the struggles we’re having. But it can take time.
  •       Speak with your teen and ask him how he feels that therapy is working for him. It may be best to have this discussion away from therapy so that he can speak honestly and openly about how he feels about his therapist and the sessions.
  •       Get your teen additional support outside of his sessions with his therapist. This may include support groups, support from other adults in his life, and reaching out to get more intensive therapeutic options like an in-patient treatment center.

Communication is the most important factor in your relationship with your teen and his therapist. Communicate openly with your teen and encourage him to be honest when he speaks with his therapist. Working together you’ll have a much better chance of helping your teen to get the most out of his therapy sessions.

If you’re looking for more guidance and insight into types of therapeutic and treatment options for teens, visit our blog. At HelpYourTeenNow we’re focused on guiding troubled teens and parents to the right type of resources.

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