What Are the Uses of Psychotherapy for Teenagers?

Christina Hall

The uses of psychotherapy for teenagers stems from the hypothesis that early identification and treatment of mental illness can reduce the risk of mental conditions being left untreated and leading to psychological crisis. Most mental health diagnoses, like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia, can be diagnosed as early as middle childhood. If a child has a genetic predisposition for a specific mental illness, the harsh reality of the teenage years can exacerbate symptoms, often times leading to severe emotional distress. Psychotherapy for teenagers is used to help mitigate the special circumstances that are present in patients who are still transitioning to adulthood. Teen psychotherapy is used primarily as a non-invasive, medically-sound approach to heal from existing childhood trauma and to create an atmosphere of open dialogue between professionals and also among teenagers themselves.

A psychotherapist working with a teen.
A psychotherapist working with a teen.

Perhaps the most important use of psychotherapy for teenagers is combating the growing teenage suicide rate. There are thousands of teenage suicides around the world each year; it is the third overall leading cause of death for patients that are 15 to 24 years of age and the sixth overall leading cause of death for patients who are between the ages of 5 and 15. Feelings that contribute to depressive and anxious disorders that commonly lead to suicide are often times intensified during the teenage years. Pressure to succeed, self-doubt, and low self-esteem are three of the most commonly reported stressprs in teenage patients who are at risk. As psychotherapy for teenagers becomes more common, psychologists hope that mental illness is recognized and treated in the majority of cases before it leads to the untimely death of young patients.

Psychotherapy for teenagers can improve quality of life quite dramatically in some cases. Teenagers who are withdrawn and find themselves incapable of interacting socially on a regular basis respond well to many cognitive behavioral therapies and psychological medications. Teenagers and their caregivers who are dealing with serious behavioral issues like violence against other teens or family members and running away have also been helped in many instances from early mental health intervention. The use of psychological treatments can be a catalyst to keep teenagers emotionally stable, often times keeping them out of trouble at school or with the law. Many proponents of psychotherapy for teenagers say that better mental health screenings and subsequent treatment at juvenile delinquent centers will help decrease violence and adult prison overcrowding.

Addressing mental health issues when patients are in their teenage years may help protect them from serious medical disorders as well. Evidence suggests that the diagnosis of a mental condition, like depression, increases the probability that a patient will develop subsequent health problems, like diabetes and heart disease. If a teen gets her depression under control at a young age, she can reduce the likelihood of further health issues.

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