Choosing the Right Therapy for Struggling Teens

Adults who decide that they need therapy will usually go to talk therapy. The details will vary from one therapist to another, but the main focus is usually on talking about problems and working on developing better coping strategies to manage them. When people see their kids struggling, they frequently assume that this same therapy is the right choice. Teenagers are very different from adults, both emotionally and biologically, and can actually benefit from taking a different approach to addressing negative feelings.

Researchers now believe that the human brain doesn’t finish developing all of its adult capabilities until around the age of 25. Unfortunately, the last thing to fully develop is the executive function. This represent’s a person’s ability to do things like exercise self-control, develop insight into his own feelings and behaviors, and to verbalize and express complex emotions. This means that a parent’s ability to benefit from sitting down to talk about problems with an objective and compassionate therapist is very different from what a teenager is likely to be able to get out of it. Many people fail to realize this, and both they and their kids go through a lot of unnecessary frustration and suffering as a result.

When choosing therapy for struggling teens, it’s best to look for things that will provide a form of expression that doesn’t directly require verbalizing their own feelings. Art therapy of any kind is a wonderful choice. Kids can paint, dance, learn an instrument, or participate in dramatic productions. Whatever they’re doing, though, they’re gaining a tool that they can use to access how they feel without having to be able to put words to it. This can profoundly reduce their frustration and anger levels, and makes it a lot easier to begin making positive changes.

Teenagers aren’t just slightly smaller adults any more than young children are. They’re at a different level of development, and many of them don’t have the mental tools that they would need to truly thrive in a talk therapy setting. If you have a struggling teenager in your life, you should give art therapy a chance and see what it can do.