Choosing a Therapist for a Troubled Teen

Finding a therapist for a teenager can be a tremendous challenge. However, therapy can make the difference between good mental health and increased mental health problems. With so many different types of therapists and therapy available, being willing to invest the time and to research options can be life-changing for a teenager.

What Is Evidence-Based Treatment?

 Evidence-based therapy means that a treatment has been deemed effective based on scientific data and research. Therapists typically draw from a number of evidence-based modalities when determining which treatment methods best fit their patient and their preferences.

The evidence-based treatment that therapists use is backed by data determining the effectiveness for various mental health issues. Hence, therapists can pick and choose the modalities that are best for each patient based on scientific research.

Moreover, different modalities have different approaches, with some focused more on specific goals along the path of recovery. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is built around setting and achieving goals. This type of therapy is helpful for more easily monitoring a teen’s progress forward.

What Are Experiential Therapies?

 Teens benefit greatly from hands-on therapies that allow them to experience and learn healthy coping tools in different settings, including the outdoors. Experiential therapy can be done in groups and is reinforced by the real-life situations and problem-solving opportunities that arise during the activities. Some examples of experiential therapies include:

  • Equine-Assisted Therapy – Evidence-based treatment that involves riding horses
  • Music Therapy – Using music and musical experiences to heal
  • Nature Therapy – Experiencing growth through gardening and horticulture
  • Adventure Therapy – Outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing, paddle boarding, rope courses, and kayaking that offer opportunities to build collaboration and self-confidence.

Compassion-Based Therapy

Compassion is a powerful tool in healing. While therapy has always been built around compassion for the human condition, the concept of compassion-based therapy is relatively new. This approach teaches teens to develop self-compassion while also developing compassion for others. For teens who are self-critical and often blame themselves, self-compassion can be very empowering.

When teens learn to be compassionate with themselves, their behaviors, and their mental health challenges, they take giant leaps toward healing negative self-talk, shame, and underlying self-esteem issues. Compassion doesn’t mean telling yourself that your past behaviors were okay, but rather forgiving yourself, acknowledging responsibility, and knowing that your behaviors do not define you.

The Importance of Treating the Whole Family

Another essential facet when choosing a therapist for a teen is considering participating in family therapy. When a teen is suffering, the entire family needs to be involved in order to support change and healing. Many teens will benefit from having both an individual therapist and a family therapist—or an individual therapist who is trained to bring the family into the process as needed.

Just about every family could benefit from therapy in order to improve communication and maximize interpersonal relationship skills. However, within a family where there is a mental health issue, there is an even greater need to discuss challenges and identify how family members can interact in more helpful ways.

Teen Involvement in Choosing a Therapist

 When teens participate in choosing a therapist, they are more likely to take ownership of the process. Moreover, it’s important for them to feel that they can connect with their therapist, since the quality of the client-therapist relationship directly affects outcomes. Furthermore, when parents take their teen’s opinion into account in selecting a therapist, teens feel heard and valued.

Teens can read therapist biographies online and look at providers’ websites to gain insights about what the therapist’s methods and beliefs are. In addition, reading about different treatment modalities can help give teens a sense of understanding and control over their treatment, at a time when they may be feeling confused and powerless. Taking this all-important first step can transform a teen’s life.

If you have any questions related to choosing a therapist for your teen, please reach out to Teen Rehab. We are here to help you find the right fit for your family to achieve lasting recovery for your son or daughter. 



Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash