Counseling for Teens

Teenage life is a wild ride. We help teens navigate through the tough moments and confidently stay on track.

The teenage years are a time of rapid growth, exploration, development, and identity formation. Constantly exposed to evolving friendships, school influences, media sources, activities, sports, and diverse perspectives from people around them, teenagers work to develop their personalities and interests while simultaneously challenging the status quo with a desire to stand out. Exploring the question of “Who am I?” while absorbing peer pressures can feel like an emotional roller coaster. Managing the ups and downs can often be uncomfortable and confusing, but with the support of a trusted therapist, teens can build skills for healthy coping, strengthen their sense of identity and self-esteem, and learn how to navigate complex challenges.

Teens also commonly feel like they are stuck in a transitional phase as they pursue their adult-like desires to be independent while simultaneously still needing to have some dependence on their parents or guardians. This is often very frustrating for teens and can also take a toll on the family unit as a whole. Teens may begin to distance themselves from their parents or guardians and may shy away from sharing emotional experiences with family members. Although this is a normal part of adolescence, it can cause teens to feel misunderstood, isolated, and as if they have no one to talk to. Therapy can be the ideal safe outlet for teens to process everything on their minds without fear of any judgment, consequences, or awkwardness.

Above all, building a strong relationship with a supportive therapist allows teens to feel like they always have someone on their side. At River Oaks Psychology, we work hard to remind people that they are never alone, which is especially important for teens.

Therapy can help teens by:

  • Allowing for a consistent, non-judgmental space
  • Creating a positive connection to a trusted adult
  • Increasing feelings of interpersonal trust and protection
  • Building confidence and self-esteem as teens grow up
  • Balancing time for school, homework, friends, and other obligations
  • Managing the pressure to do well in sports or extracurricular exhibiting
  • Processing thoughts and feelings related to next steps after high school
  • Exploring friendships or learning skills for making friends
  • Understanding safe dating practices and signs of a healthy relationship
  • Helping to understand and overcome challenges within a family
  • Developing skills and strategies for handling school challenges
  • Confronting issues such as bullying or peer pressure
  • Talking about sensitive issues like puberty in a safe space
  • Overcoming school challenges such as academic concerns
  • Fostering a healthy grieving process after experiencing a loss
  • Addressing emotional challenges such as outbursts or panic attacks
  • Creating behavior plans to help a teen control behavioral impulses
  • Assessing for early signs of anxiety or depression developing
  • Improving communication skills and learning how to speak up
  • Confronting shyness, insecurities, or difficulty in social settings
  • Adjusting to changes in routine, such as after a family divorce

We can help teens answer:

  • What should I do after high school?
  • Why are my parents fighting all the time?
  • Why is it so hard to make friends?
  • Why does it feel like I don’t fit in?
  • How can I build greater self-confidence?
  • How do I know what I want to do with my life?
  • Why don’t my parents understand me?
  • Why am I not interested in things I used to like?
  • Why does going to school make me feel so anxious?
  • Why do I suddenly have concerns about my body?
  • Why does learning to drive make me feel so stressed?
  • Why don’t my teachers understand that I’m trying my best?
  • How can I get more sleep and actually feel like I have energy?
  • How can I talk to my parents about my mental health?
  • How can I tell my friends that I don’t want to do certain things?
  • Why do I feel like I’m always getting in trouble?
  • How can I get rid of my social anxiety and make friends?
  • Why do I feel so tired in the mornings?
  • How can I survive school when I hate it so much?
  • Why is it so hard to trust people?
  • Why are other kids at school so mean?
  • Why did someone I love leave me?

How do I know if my teen needs therapy?

For most parents, it can be confusing to understand how or why your teen may benefit from counseling. Most parents wonder, is therapy really necessary? We recognize that making a decision about therapy for a teenager can be daunting, but we are here to help. Most commonly, we tell parents that every teen can benefit from therapy even in the absence of a “problem” that you’re noticing. In other words, therapy can be helpful for every teen simply because it increases their support system and provides another adult role model in a teen’s life. There is no need to have an identifiable behavior problem or emotional issue to benefit from counseling.

Therefore, if you are debating whether or not therapy is necessary for your teen, remember there is no need to reach a certain unhappiness threshold in order for therapy to be helpful. Sometimes, therapy can be helpful for a teenager simply to maintain positive mental health or to encourage the continued use of healthy coping skills.

Some signs that may indicate a need for counseling include:

  • Feeling anxious, depressed, irritable or generally upset
  • Feeling irritable or disengaged from others
  • Poor academic performance or other changes in performance
  • Making quick decisions without understanding consequences
  • Socially withdrawing or spending excessive time alone
  • Struggling with time management or balancing multiple roles
  • Having panic attacks or strong anxiety interfering with daily life
  • Trouble sleeping, feeling abnormally fatigued
  • Frequent emotional breakdowns or frequent crying
  • Showing signs of low self-esteem or negative self-perceptions
  • Showing signs of disordered eating, skipping meals, or body image concerns
  • Frequently talking negatively about themselves or others
  • Fighting with siblings, parents, or other family members
  • Difficulty getting along with peers or struggling to make friends
  • Struggling with peer pressure, bullying, or other negative social influences
  • Difficulty listening to rules or instructions from parents/guardians
  • Difficulty listening to school teachers or other adults
  • General behavior concerns at school, home, or other environments
  • Feeling upset about life changes (family divorce, a new home, a new school, etc.)
  • General problems with learning or maintaining focus
  • Struggling with a tendency to experiment with alcohol or other substances
  • Feeling emotionally overwhelmed by stress of any kind

Teens and Telehealth

Telehealth is often an excellent choice for teenagers for many reasons.

  • Teens are more skilled in electronic devices today than ever before. They have grown up feeling comfortable on screen. It’s their world, their knowledge base, and their digital playground. When therapists meet tech-savvy teens on screen, it’s comparable to stepping out of a foreign role and truly shifting gears to speak the language of the patient.
  • Online therapy allows teens to feel more comfortable in therapy. For many teens, going to a traditional office setting brings anxiety and discomfort. Going to an unfamiliar location, waiting in a waiting room, and then entering a small office to talk with a therapist is usually not the best way for a teenager to feel comfortable. In contrast, virtually bringing therapy into a teen’s home environment usually makes the process easier. When teens feel comfortable online at home, we are able to gain a clearer understanding of who they are and how we can help them.
  • Online therapy allows teens to “show and tell” about their homes and lives. It can be very therapeutic for teens to show a therapist their home or let the therapist see their bedrooms, school projects, the family living room, Christmas tree, Halloween pumpkins, and so on. It helps to feel “seen” and “understood,” building stronger trust in the therapeutic relationship.
  • Online therapy can provide teens greater independence without having to rely on a parent or guardian to drive them to a traditional office. Most teens are tech-savvy enough to log on to a computer, tablet, or phone and access a link to their therapy appointment. This increased independence and ability to take ownership over their wellness can help improve their confidence and self-esteem. It also helps to foster a lifelong commitment to taking their mental health and wellness into their own hands.
  • Online therapy allows teens to grab a favorite pillow, cozy blanket, or any other personal comfort items. Need low-lighting or a bright-lit space? Your choice! Want to stay in pajamas? Totally fine – we never judge. This type of personalization is not possible when visiting an office. We encourage kids to gather whatever they need to make sessions feel as comfortable as possible.

How does Informed Consent work for teens?

For all minors under 18 serving as “the patient” – whether for individual therapy or family therapy – we require informed consent from a designated parent/guardian with custodial rights. This means the designated parent/guardian with custody will be signing our electronic paperwork prior to the onset of treatment.

In addition, the designated parent/guardian will be listed as the teen’s Emergency Contact, and will also be considered as the one financially responsible. The credit card provided in the patient portal must belong to the parent/guardian.

If circumstances suggest that custodial rights may be in question (including but not limited to, if a minor has divorced parents/guardians, if a minor is not living with parents/guardians, if a minor is in foster care, among other circumstances), documentation of holding custodial rights must be provided (uploaded to the patient portal) prior to the onset of treatment. In a case where custody is split 50/50 between two people, consent to the minor’s therapy is required from both people. Proof of custody includes, but is not limited to: a custody order or affidavit of parenting agreements.

Are there any exceptions?

In some cases, depending on age and circumstances, a teenager may be able to provide their own informed consent without permission from a parent/guardian. However, these laws vary from state to state and you will need to check with us prior to the onset of treatment if you would like to explore this option. Unless there is legitimate reasoning for seeking treatment without informed consent from a parent/guardian with custodial rights, we ask all teens to include their parents/guardians in the process of setting up services. If, however, the therapist verifies that a teenager will be able to provide informed consent independently, the teen would be responsible for all payments and all practice policies would apply. The teen would still be required to list an adult as their Emergency Contact (like all patients regardless of age), but it would not necessarily need to be a parent/guardian in a case like this.

Can parents/guardians receive updates on how therapy is going?

YES. Parents/guardians with custodial rights are legally entitled to some information about their teen’s therapy. At the same time, some teens may need to discuss sensitive information with their therapist that they do not want their parents/guardians to know about. We will inform you of the information which may be provided to parents/guardians and which issues are more appropriately kept confidential between the patient and therapist.

It is common for some parents/guardians to worry about conversations happening between their teen and the therapist without their knowledge and some parents/guardians fear that “secrets” will undermine their relationship with their teen. However, we ask that parents/guardians remember how critical it is for a teenager to feel safe openly disclosing their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to a therapist without fear of consequences. When teens can openly share personal experiences in therapy, their relationship with others, including their parents/guardians, will likely improve.

At River Oaks Psychology, we do our very best to respect what teens feel most comfortable with while simultaneously honoring parents/guardians and their right to know general information about treatment.

Can parents/guardians participate in sessions?

YES. While some teens prefer to have therapy without parents/guardians present, others would like their parents/guardians to be present, and we are happy to include them. We may also ask parents/guardians or other adults responsible for a teen’s welfare to become involved the treatment process with or without the patient present if we feel this is necessary for effective treatment. Sometimes this is necessary to gain further information and perspectives regarding behaviors, living arrangements, parenting styles, school experiences, and other matters.

Most importantly, we want all parents/guardians to know that we are accessible and happy to communicate with you at any point during the treatment process. We recognize how important your teenager’s wellness is to you, and we are committed to making this process as positive as possible for your family.

If you have any questions, concerns, or general thoughts about the process, we encourage you to contact us.