Teen Counseling Overview

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated May 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Being a teenager can come with a unique set of challenges. Many people may experience stress and feel pressured during adolescence due to heavy academic workloads, discovering their identity, or keeping up with social life.

Some teenagers may experience bullying or peer pressure, and others may question their gender or sexual identity as they navigate relationships for the first time. Other adolescents might be diagnosed with a condition or mental health challenges during the teenage years with distressing symptoms. Counseling often seeks to help these individuals discover their place in the world and learn more about themselves through the process of counseling with licensed counselors.

Gain professional insight into common adolescent challenges

Why should I consider teen counseling for my child?

Young adults and teens often go through many significant mental, physical, emotional, and physiological changes, which can feel challenging to cope with. Their brains are in the process of becoming fully formed, so they may struggle with decision-making, time management, and understanding their emotions. It is vital to know the adolescent age range to better understand their physical and biological experiences.

Hormonal and bodily changes occur during the three distinct phases in the adolescent age range that could feel unfamiliar or overwhelming. With many internal and external changes from childhood, added stressors might cause young people to feel overwhelmed. Additionally, young people often utilize social media. Social media has been linked to social comparison and lowered self-esteem in young people. 

If your child reaches a point where they feel difficulty handling school, social, or family stress, participating in teen counseling with licensed mental health professionals through counseling sessions may be beneficial. Despite this, many young people do not know that counseling is an option or might have heard mental health myths at school that deter them from wanting to try. 

Parents may consider teen counseling services after they notice their children struggling with academics, self-esteem, or behavioral issues. Dropping grades or a significant precipitating event may also signify that your child could benefit from counseling. 

Before discussing the subject of teen mental health counseling with your child, consider allowing them to have a voice in the conversation. They might feel defensive or confused when you bring it up. Ask them how they'd feel speaking to a professional and if they want to help choose a counselor. You might also consider asking them when they'd feel most comfortable attending counseling and how often they want to go. 

Chronic conditions, disordered eating, and other behaviors that could place them in immediate danger require careful assessment from trained therapists. It is especially important to be aware of suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and other potentially dangerous behaviors that can be a serious risk to the health of the child and those around them. Consequently, it is necessary to identify the individual needs of each individual in order to provide them with the most supportive therapy.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. Support is available 24/7.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Although you may have the "final word", including your child in choosing a suitable counselor might make the prospect of counseling sound more comforting to them. You can also explain the therapeutic process and how teen counseling could benefit them. If you see a counselor yourself, explain how therapy benefits you and lead by example.

Expectations for parents

As a parent, knowing what to expect from teen counseling can be beneficial. The process may look slightly different from adult counselor. 

Young people may receive benefits from teenage counseling

You might not be invited to your child's first session with their counselor. Parents often act as their child's representatives regarding medical decision-making. Although clauses may not apply to minors in counseling, a counselor might ask a parent to agree to specific contracts before treating their child. In some cases, a therapist may not offer information to you if they believe it could harm the minor. A counselor's job is to build a strong therapeutic relationship with their adolescent patient and help them become independent by setting goals and measuring progress. One's age is an important factor in determining the type of therapy they receive. It is also important to keep in mind that progress will be slow, and they may need more than a few sessions before seeing positive changes.

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo

Understanding the teen's issue at its core

The type of therapy used in treating teen mental health conditions may depend on the precipitating problem. If you want your child to attend counseling because they're struggling academically, the counselor may find underlying causes or other concerns to work through first. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of talk therapy that helps individuals learn skills to cope with stress, manage emotions, and improve communication. It is sometimes used to treat those with eating disorders or other mental health challenges.

Often, establishing rapport and trust is essential in counseling. After the initial intake session (with or without the parents), the counselor may spend the next session getting to know them. The counselor could ask questions about their likes and interests, as well as their family history. If the teen has a health history of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or eating disorders, the counselor may ask what treatments or coping skills they’ve tried in the past.

The counselor may collaborate with you and your teen

As the parent, the counselor may speak to you about some of the concerns brought up in counseling, especially those related to severe mental health conditions, depending on their policies. As you collaborate with the counselor, you may choose to have open discussions with your child and improve dynamics at home. This can be a great way to measure progress, as you are the first people to notice changes in behavior and attitude. Some therapists may run a therapy session for you and your teenager in two separate session environments so you both can work on moving forward together.

Try to respect their aloofness by not openly discussing their information with them without consent. If you want to learn more, ask your teen if they're open to talking to you about what they learned in the session; communication is vital in helping them.

How to find a counselor for your teen

Where do I find teen counseling near me? When looking for licensed counselors for counseling services, you might meet with your teen's primary care physician or pediatrician and discuss a potential referral to a psychologist or other accredited mental health professionals in your area. In many cases, mental health professionals may offer a free consultation to evaluate the child’s overall mental health condition.

You might also consider several types of mental health professionals or specialists, including:
  • Counselors
  • Social workers
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Behavioral experts
  • Online counselors 
  • School counselors 

Each option may have a different cost, specialty, or expertise level. For example, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medications for mental health concerns and provides medication management services. For many people, medication and counseling may be an appropriate combination for mental health treatment. 

While seeking mental health support for your child, you can start your search online and call the professionals that stand out to you. You can ask about any concerns you have and discuss factors like the counselor's availability, whether they accept insurance, and your potential out-of-network benefits or out-of-pocket costs with insurance coverage. Some health insurance plans may help cover in-person counseling or online counseling services.

How to prepare your child

When you first talk to your child about counseling, they may feel resistant. It can be normal to resist what they're uncomfortable with. You might consider the following techniques to help them become open to the idea of teen counseling.

Let your teen lead

Most people struggle when decisions are made for them without their input. Before telling them to start therapy, provide them with information about the counseling process and treatment goals and ask them if they think counseling sessions could benefit them. You might pass along mental health resources and information about live sessions or in-person visits versus online counseling platforms. 

Let them know that you support them, no matter what. If they decide to try counseling themselves, they may be more likely to approach it with an open mind.

Include them in the counseling process

As your child moves towards young adulthood, consider allowing them to help you choose a therapist and let them decide when to schedule their first session. Many therapists also offer family therapy and group therapy sessions, which can include both the teen and other families in attendance. 

You might also let them see the research behind why you think mental health services are valuable choices. If they feel like you're a team, they may be more likely to follow through with your suggestion.

Going to counseling as a parent

Knowing how to react when your child has trouble coping or adjusting to life as they transition to adulthood can be challenging. If this is the case for you, there are many ways to seek help, including therapist-assisted parenting teenagers tips.

A professional counselor may teach you more about your child's mental health condition and potentially help you through any resultant mental health issues you may be experiencing. Caring for your mental health may teach healthy coping strategies to your child and reduce stigmas around seeking mental health support. Studies show that online therapy programs can help parents learn strategies for parenting teenage girls and boys who are experiencing complicated emotions related to mental health issues.  One study published in Internet Interventions—a peer-reviewed scientific journal—found that an online parenting platform was effective in helping parents recognize symptoms of depression and anxiety in their teens. This recognition lets the parents know when to step in and seek help for their children.  

The report posits that therapist-assisted interventions can help parents motivate their children to continue treatment and that parents can be a valuable support team for their children while receiving mental health care. This form of treatment uses therapist-assisted videoconferencing and interactive educational resources to reinforce critical topics or concepts.

iStock/SDI Productions
Gain professional insight into common adolescent challenges

A qualified mental health professional can help your child learn positive coping skills when they experience complicated emotions. If you're ready to try online counseling, consider an online therapist through a platform like BetterHelp for those over 18. As long as you have a reliable internet connection, BetterHelp can provide various online therapy methods and counselor options. If you hope to sign your child up for online counseling, TeenCounseling is available to those ages 13-19. 


Can a minor sign of trouble, such as slipping grades or pushing parents away, mean that your child needs mental health support? Knowing where to start looking for help can be difficult. By encouraging your child to visit a counselor specializing in young adults, you may be able to get them the support they need to handle teenage life.  

If you're facing challenges related to your teenager's struggles, therapy is also available for parents. Consider reaching out online or in your area to get started.

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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.
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