How Do I Know If My Child Needs Teen Counseling?

Updated October 5, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Just as it is with child therapy, teen counseling is specifically directed towards a particular age group. Adolescence, often referred to as the teenage years, is a specific period of development. During this period of development, adolescent children encounter several changes that are psychological, emotional, physical, and social.

A lot goes on in a child’s body that impacts a teen’s behavior. If you find that your teen is showing warning signs of substance abuse problems, behavioral issues, or other serious problems and are looking for ways to help support your teen, you can easily get started with therapy through online counseling services.

Learn whether your teen would benefit from teen counseling.

Are you seeing uncharacteristic behavior or significant changes in your teen? Are you worried about the teens your child considers their friends? These could be warning signs that your child needs professional help, and you may need someone to talk to. Do you find yourself wondering, “How do I know if my teenager needs counseling?” No matter what you’re dealing with, it never hurts to get professional medical advice when it comes to raising teens.

Psychological and emotional changes that occur during adolescence include but are not limited to the following:

  • Adolescents may demonstrate strong feelings and intense emotions; moods may seem unpredictable, and these emotions may lead to increased parent/child conflict during the teenage years. The adolescent brain continues to learn how to control and express emotion. While teens may have difficulty controlling their behavior during this time, their behavior will change as their brains mature.
  • Adolescent children may misread facial expressions and body language, making it difficult for them to retrieve information from others they talk to, and this may lead to the development of sensitivity.
  • Teens often equate success to their appearance. Self-esteem in adolescence is often linked to how the teen believes they look and what their friends think about their appearance. This may lead to feelings of self-consciousness and comparison in teens.
  • During adolescence, teens seem to make more rash decisions and act without thinking. They have a difficult time with decision-making and continue to learn that their actions have consequences.
  • Some adolescents engage in risky decision-making. Risky decision-making may lead to issues with substance use and abuse.
  • Teens may also decide to engage in sexual relationships. Based on their emotional and brain development, adolescents have a stronger need to find love relationships and often associate love with sex.
  • Children making the transition to becoming adolescents have experienced puberty which involves the onset of a girl's menstrual cycle and a boy's ability to make sperm. Essentially, both adolescent boys and girls can now create babies.

Social changes during adolescence may lead to the need for teen mental health care also. These social changes include but are not limited to the following:

  • Adolescent children are trying to find out who they are and where they fit or belong in the world. To achieve identity, young people may try new clothes, music, art, friendships, and media.
  • During adolescence, teenagers often strive for more independence and may want to go places and spend time with different people. This may lead to changes in the family and changes in friendships.
  • Teens begin to take on more responsibility both at home and at school.
  • Sometimes the need for independence and the requirement to be more responsible leads to more arguments with parents and younger siblings. It could also lead to arguments with teachers.
  • Teenagers often look for new experiences including risky experiences. Some teens change their friend groups during this phase of life. Boundaries must be set but developing teen needs to be able to express themselves and their individuality. Because the brain is not fully developed, the adolescent child may struggle with thinking through consequences.
  • The adolescent child might start to engage in romantic relationships or go on dates.
  • The media, including the internet and social media, can influence how your child communicates with friends and how they learn about the world.
  • Social media becomes a big part of an adolescent's life and often teenagers can engage in activities on social media that may not be appropriate.

These are all problems that can be improved with counseling.

Adolescents are essentially moving through this important period toward adulthood. Adolescence is a pivotal time of understanding and development where teens seek their identity, and they seek acceptance. Most teenagers can move through adolescence with very little difficulty. Arguments with parents are inevitable and friends will come and go, however, sometimes young people find it difficult and experience more extreme circumstances such as bullying or drug use. Although several very typical changes occur in adolescence, sometimes, teenagers require some help navigating the changes. Sometimes parents also need professional help navigating all of the changes. For teens and their parents, it always helps to have someone to talk to in addition to friends.

A good therapist trained in understanding the typical development of adolescents can help parents and the adolescent navigate this period. An online therapist who is trained in adolescent development and issues can prove beneficial and accepting during a counseling session. Therapy/counseling may encourage an understanding of the adolescent and the developmental aspects of this stage in life.

Typical human development, especially the developmental period called adolescence, can affect a person's behavior and state of mind, but it is not always negative. An ethical and caring online therapist can engage the adolescent in the positive aspects of growing, help them deal with the negative aspects of growing up, and provide them with useful coping skills. Counseling is a process of learning and listening to help teenagers and parents.

Issues that are often encountered in therapy and counseling for adolescents include but are not limited to the following teen problems:

  • Personality and identity growth
  • Independence or distance between parents or guardians
  • Increased arguments between parents and adolescents
  • Puberty or physical and emotional changes
  • Building new and intense relationships
  • Awareness and understanding of problems such as parents fighting or getting divorced
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Stress
  • Risky behaviors
  • Bullying
  • Depression
  • Positive use of social media

The teen years are also a time when youth may experiment with drugs or alcohol. Medical reviewers confirm that most teens will not become addicted, however, any signs of teenagers' substance abuse should be taken seriously.

Any of these issues and others may have a profound effect on an adolescent or teens as they transition into adulthood. Some parents may wonder if talking to a therapist is worth considering for their teen. The truth is that almost any teen can benefit from talking to a therapist. Therapy can help them work through perhaps one of the first anxious moments of their lives as well as give them the tools to control such anxious feelings later on.

Topics Discussed in Teen Counseling

In the first counseling session or the first few sessions, your teen can usually expect counselors to talk through the teen’s life, including an overview of their upbringing, school, friends, family life, activities, etc. Later, therapists will usually try to identify areas of concern and work through them. Counselors provide support and treat any mental health concerns, including learning disabilities, behavioral concerns, anxiety disorders, autism, and other mental health problems. Many mental health issues could be covered in teen therapy, including depression, stress, and self-harm behaviors. Abuse and neglect can also be noted through counseling sessions or brief observations, as well as eating disorders and addictions. However, there is always some form of therapy session available for those who have other issues.

If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, please reach out for professional help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.

There is no mental health problem too complex or too simple to be expressed and discussed during teen therapy sessions. To many teens, everything is monumental or serious. When a teen has their first experience with something difficult they may be unsure how to resolve it themselves, and therapy can help.

Some topics that teens are encouraged to discuss can include parental divorce, the death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, poverty, domestic violence, bullying, unrealistic responsibilities or expectations, sexual disease control, and other mental health problems.

Teen Counseling Options

Your counseling options depend on your child's situation or circumstances. A school counselor can be a great option for a teen, particularly when the areas of concern are school related. There are also various types of art therapies that can allow teens to express and treat their issues indirectly through some kind of creative task, such as painting or drawing.

Learn whether your teen would benefit from teen counseling.

For concerns stemming from more traumatic events, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) has been proven to be highly effective.

For certain serious mental health concerns—such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, or anxiety disorders—your teen may need to see a psychiatrist who can provide medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Often, a therapist will not be able to make a diagnosis or write a prescription, so a psychiatrist will typically be necessary to provide those services.

You can also consider reaching out to an organization like a teen therapy center, where your teen can receive tailored treatment. There are typically a variety of services available at a teen therapy center, including family therapy, individual therapy, and group therapy. Group therapy is one of the most useful services provided by a teen therapy center as it allows the teen to work with a therapist while discussing their concerns with other teens free of judgment.

Talk therapies are more common and helpful treatments for teenagers overall. Look for counselors who use only high-quality sources of research and the latest evidence-based research. Certified counselors will be able to retrieve information and provide peer-reviewed studies as performed by board-certified physicians and medical reviewers to help you and your child with specific issues.

These types of therapies can be found anywhere, but for your convenience, your teen can also speak with a qualified mental health professional through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. The licensed therapists at BetterHelp know how to help you with coping skills so that you can support your teen in helpful ways. You can also utilize helpful tools and resources that will allow you to learn about mental health topics outside of sessions.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.