Does My Teen Need Therapy?

woman in white shirt showing frustration

Lately, you’ve been concerned about your teenager. Maybe they haven’t been interested with connecting with their friends as much as they used to. Perhaps their teacher has called you to talk about how they have been doing in school. Or maybe they’ve been spending long hours alone in their room rather than doing the activities they used to enjoy.

The teenage years can be really tough for teens and parents. This time of life can be so challenging emotionally, physically, hormonally, and socially. But, today’s teens have even more that they are up against.  There is so much to negotiate with social media, peer pressure, bullying, school expectations, the pressure to prepare for the future, and so much more.

Many parents find that their teen starts to pull away at some point and struggle to know how to handle it.  We often think of our own teenage years and try to figure out how we would have wanted to be supported.  And even if you’ve raised older children before, you can feel at a loss with how to connect to your teen.  Each child and each young adult are different in their needs and how they react to tough situations.

If you’re not sure how to bring up a difficult conversation or know how to help, you are not alone.  Many parents struggle as their child moves from one developmental stage to the next.  

Maybe you’ve realized that things have slowly gotten worse and aren’t sure what to do.  You are wondering whether you should talk to them about going to therapy or how you can help. It’s easy to second guess yourself and wonder if you’re overreacting or doing the right thing. 

However, there are a few signs that indicate therapy would be a smart choice for your teen.

Here are a few red flags that every parent should look out for:

Self-Destructive Behavior

Has your teen been staying out late and partying on the weekend? Do you suspect that they may be experimenting with drugs? Are you worried that they are engaging in self-harm?

Experimentation is a normal part of teenage development, so it can be difficult to know where to draw the line.  If you know that your teen has fallen into a pattern of self-destructive behavior, your concerns are more than justified. As a parent, you may not know how to help. Therapy is likely the best course of action.  A therapist that has experience working with teens will help you to navigate this difficult time.  They can help you to decide what behaviors are rather normal for teenagers and what behaviors might be dangerous.  Together you can develop a plan on how best to address them.

Trouble in School

Was your teen always a good student? If so, a noticeable drop in their grades might have you wondering if they’re struggling behind the scenes. If their teacher has reached out to you to ask how things are going at home, that is another red flag.  Your teen might be dealing with something at school or outside the home that they haven’t opened up to you about yet.

Many of the teens that we work with have become overwhelmed with school and all of their responsibilities.  Some teens struggle with the pressure the they feel to perform in their academics and sports.  Many are worried about getting into a good college.  Other teens may experience depression or anxiety that makes it difficult to focus, stay organized, and complete projects.  Even further, we see a lot of teens that develop test anxiety or have panic attacks at school, because they don’t yet have the tools needed to manage the natural stress associated with school.

If any of this sounds like your teen, they may need some professional help and support.

Withdrawing From Family and Friends

In the past, your teen would happily chat with you about their day after getting home from school. After dinner, the whole family would relax together and watch a TV show or play a game.  And on the weekends, you would all make time for each other and spend time outside of the house.  But lately, your teen has been spending so much more time in their room. They barely talk to you during dinner, if they join the family at all. When the weekend rolls around, you can barely get them to leave their room spend time with the family.  You may find that they are playing video games all day or can’t seem to put their phone down.  And, don’t even mention getting them to help around the house or do chores.

Maybe you’ve also noticed that your teen isn’t showing a desire to connect with friends.  Your previously outgoing, talkative, and social teen doesn’t seem like themselves.  They might be avoiding spending time with people you know they care about.  They also seem overall unmotivated to leave the house.  If this is a big change, then it it worth paying attention to.

Withdrawing from the family is a sign that something is wrong, and it may be time to seek therapy. It may also be a good idea to discuss scheduling  a few sessions of family therapy.  A therapist can not only help your teen to cope and feel better, but can also help the family to develop healthy communication and expectations.  

Mood Swings

One moment, your teen is happy and bubbly. The next, they’re downright miserable. Yes, some random mood swings are just part of being a teenager. But if your teen is experiencing dramatic mood swings frequently, something deeper might be going on. They could be struggling with their friendships, mood, impulses, or unhealthy sleep patterns. If this is the case, they will likely benefit from talking to a therapist.  A professional can help them open up, identify what they are struggling with, and work towards solutions.  As a parent, you might also benefit from help in learning how you approach and handle these tough situations.

Changes in Appearance

Teenagers are going through so many changes, that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with what might be “normal” and what is not.  Maybe you’ve noticed that they don’t seem to care about their appearance anymore.  Your teen that previously would spend time on their hair, make up, or putting outfits together, is now not even showering or using deodorant.  You suspect that they might not be brushing their hair or their teeth.  All teens go through changes in their interest and motivation.  However, if you are noticing a major change in their appearance, it may be a sign that their mental health is suffering.

Changes in Sleep Habits

Sleep is incredibly important for teens.  Experts say that teens should get between 8-10 hours of sleep a night.  However, many of the teens we work with don’t get nearly enough sleep.  Some teens are up until 2am trying to finish projects and write papers.  While others are on their phone until late at night.  All of the blue light from their phones and computer screens can make it very difficult to fall asleep.  We’ve also talked to a lot of teens that say they get woken up by texts messages in the middle of the night.  These kinds of disruptions can interrupt their sleep and make the quality very poor.

It is also true that significant changes in sleep habits are a common symptom of depression or anxiety. If your teen has trouble getting up for school in the morning or has a tendency to stay up a little later than you’d like, that’s perfectly normal!

But what if your teen regularly complains that they can’t fall asleep at night? What if they can’t help but take a nap in the middle of the day, even after getting a good night’s sleep? And what if they simply feel exhausted all the time, despite their other healthy habits? These could be indicators that their mental health is suffering. In this case, you may want to put them in touch with a therapist and their doctor.

Are you worried about your teen’s mental health? It might be time to get in touch with a therapist. Reach out to us today to discuss how we can help. Follow these simple steps to set up a consultation or schedule your first session.

  1. Click here to schedule your first session or set up a free consultation.
  2. Meet with a member of our team who specializes in working with teens.
  3. Start the process of giving your teen the help and support they need.


Click here for ideas on how to help your teen stay motivated during remote school.

Click here for information on Sleep Hygiene for teens.

Other Mental Health Services Offered at Moxie Family Therapy 

Life is complex and therefore a person’s mental health needs are often complex as well. At Moxie Family Therapy, we offer psychotherapy for women, teens, girls, and families with many different mental health needs. Therefore, therapy for teens isn’t the only service that we offer in our Orange County Counseling Clinic or via Online Counseling. Other mental health services Moxie Family Therapy provides include treatment for loneliness, therapy for trauma (EMDR)  counseling for young adults, counseling for college students, couples counseling, counseling for women, counseling for children, play therapy, art therapy, and family therapy. While most of our clients are local to Orange County, our online services allow us to help anyone in the state of California. The road you’ve been on is difficult, but we believe you deserve healing. Call to start therapy, and together with your therapist, you’ll start a new journey toward healing.

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