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6 Signs Your Teen Needs to See a Therapist

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Adolescence is undeniably one of the most challenging periods in life. Even more so for teens now-a-days.  With stressors such as social media, bullying, and unending social pressures, anyone might have difficulty.  Some teens can navigate this time effectively, while others may need some help.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly one out of five teenagers has a diagnosable mental health disorder.

This period of life can have a significant impact on your child’s future. The sooner mental health issues are addressed, the greater are chances that your teen will grow into a healthy and happy adult.

These 6 signs may indicate your teen should speak to a therapist:

Self Harm

If you have noticed that your teen has been engaging in an excessive risk-taking, chronic drinking, drug abuse or has been cutting himself/herself, consider these behaviors as serious red flags.   These behaviors always imply some serious unbearable emotional pain and mental imbalance that often require a professional help.  Self-Harm is frequently a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder, which can be rooted in a traumatic experience.  If you’re noticing this in your child, it definitely warrants a conversation to inquire if anything has happened to him/her.

Social Isolation or Change of Friends

Is your child avoiding his/her friends and social functions? Have you noticed that he/she has no friends at all anymore or they have changed friend groups completely? Are they angry at all of their friends? These behaviors may be normal in adolescence. Nevertheless, if they last for a longer period of time, it may be a good decision to seek a help from a therapist.

Home and School Struggles

Difficulties at home and in school in a teenager that was a well-adjusted and happy child are almost always a signal that your teen needs to see a therapist. If your child is avoiding school,  their school performance has changed, they are acting out in school, or they seem to be under more stress than usual, see your child’s health provider for advice.

Sleep Pattern Changes

Dramatic changes in your child’s sleep habits such as insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping more than usual) may be signs that he or she suffers from depression or some other mental health issue.  Your teen might be struggling with anxiety and/or depression, which can have a significant impact on sleep quality.  Finding ways to cope with the anxiety and depression can drastically increase sleep, which is SO important during those developmental  years.

Angry and Irritable Behavior

Angry/Irritable behavior can be somewhat normal in a teen.  This is because the body is going through many hormonal changes.  However, if the change in mood seems drastic or sudden, and doesn’t seem to be improving, it may be time to consult with a therapist.  This is especially true if the change in mood is affecting their ability to function in day to day life.

Suicidal ideas and/or attempts.

Has your teen ever expressed a desire to hurt himself/herself? Does he/she have a plan? Talking about death or suicidal ideas should always be taken seriously. Don’t assume your teen is just being dramatic. Every suicide threat or attempt deserves immediate attention.

It can be hard to recognize whether your teenager is struggling with typical challenges of adolescence, or if something more severe is going on.  If you notice these changes in your child’s behavior and mental state, seek professional attention.  A therapist can help you and your child navigate a difficult time with greater ease.

How can therapy help your teen?

Psychotherapy offers a safe and objective environment.  A third party perspective helps teens better communicate their feelings and struggles. A therapist can help your teenager develop the skills needed to cope with challenges they are facing.  Sessions with parents are also helpful in understanding your teens behavior.

Benefits of therapy for teens include:

  • Developing skills for improving social life and relationships

  • Gaining a better understanding of themselves and their goals

  • Finding a resolution to the concerns that led to therapy

  • Assistance in managing depression, anxiety, anger, grief and other emotional issues

  • Changing dysfunctional behavioral patterns

  • Improving self-confidence

Psychotherapy can help adolescents and their families understand and resolve problems, change negative behavior and make positive changes in their lives. There are different types of psychotherapy for teens available such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT),  Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), group therapy, family therapy, interpersonal therapy and others. They involve different interventions, techniques, and approaches.  Often times, a combination of different approaches will give the best results.


Lauren Arnau is a child and adolescent therapist (LMHC) in Scarsdale, NY and the Clinical Director at Peaceful Living MHC.

Lauren specializes in children and teens ages 5-21 struggling with anxiety and behavior challenges. She is available in our Scarsdale office in Westchester County, NY.


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