When you hear the word “counseling,” you might have a set picture in your mind of what that would look like. On the other hand, you might not be sure what to expect if you need to take your teen in for therapy. The fact is, there are many different types of therapists and counselors for teens. Your teen’s doctor will refer you to the type of professional that they think would work best for your child’s specific circumstances. Keep in mind that just because your teen starts with one type of counselor, it does not mean that they won’t switch to a different type of counselor or a different type of therapy. Read on to find out some of the common types of therapists and counselors for teens.
1. Behavioral Therapists
One of the more common types of counselors that a teen might be referred to is a behavioral therapist. These specialists work with people, often individually, on how to change their behaviors in response to their anger, depression, anxiety, eating disorder, substance abuse, or other issue. A behavioral therapist does not singlehandedly cure the condition; instead, they teach their clients methods of coping with the realities imposed by their conditions.
Behavioral therapists will often use the following treatment methods:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – This is a method that helps the teen examine how they are reacting to their anxiety, depression, or other mental health condition. Counselors will walk your teen through the steps needed to change their thought patterns, reactions, and other behaviors.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) – This treatment uses some of the same methods, but adds role playing and other methods of working out how to respond to relationships in the teen’s life. This is often used for those with borderline personality disorder.
2. Family Therapists
When the patient being treated is an adolescent, many times, the whole family will need some counseling. This is for a few reasons:
- First, your teen is partially a product of his or her home, and identifying and improving the relationship he or she has with you and other members of the household is often a large part of recovering from whatever issues are present.
- Secondly, it can be helpful for you and your teen’s siblings to interact with your troubled teen in the presence of a therapist. You can all learn communication skills and can share your concerns in a safe place.
Your teen’s family therapist might be the same person who sees him or her during private sessions, or it might be someone else. If someone in your family is reluctant to attend family therapy, go ahead and schedule the therapy sessions anyway with the family members who are willing. Many times, the reluctant person comes around. And even if not, having sessions with some members of the family is better than not having it at all.
3. Group Therapists
Another part of your teen’s counseling regimen might be to meet for group therapy sessions. These generally include one or more counselors and a group of young people who are going through the same or similar struggles as your teenager. Group therapy sessions are usually held in addition to individual counseling, but sometimes they are the only type of therapy that a teen has. This type of therapy allows your teen to form bonds with and trust other people who have similar problems. By talking with others in the same situation, your teen can see things from a different perspective and share his or her own thoughts.
Group therapy is often used for teens struggling with the following:
- substance abuse
- eating disorders
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- loss and grief
It can also be useful for those with excessive anger, anxiety, or other mental health conditions.
4. School-Based Counselors
Your teen likely has access to a counselor or therapist at his or her high school and might benefit from taking advantage of this opportunity to speak to someone in the school setting. A school counselor can often help teens who are dealing with problems such as:
- poor grades
- difficulty in the parent/teen relationship
- problems with friends
It’s important to recognize that a school counselor might not be equipped to deal with mental health issues such as:
- severe anxiety
- major depression
- suicidal ideation
- substance abuse
If your teen is displaying symptoms of a moderate to severe mental health condition, it’s important to get him or her the help needed from a mental health care specialist. Your teen’s school counselor will advise you if they think your teen is in danger of harming him- or herself or others, but most other types of issues will remain confidential. If you think that your teen could benefit from someone to talk to but does not have any mental health red flags, a school counselor is a good choice.
5. Play, Art, and Other Therapists
Many people express themselves well through play, art, and other types of activities. Particularly if your teen is having trouble opening up to a counselor, a special type of therapist might be helpful. Contrary to popular belief, play and art therapists, as well as those who use animals in their practices, are not only for young children. Teens and even adults can benefit from these programs. Talk to your teen’s pediatrician, family doctor, or current mental health care provider about the benefits of these types of therapy and to get a referral if they’re appropriate for your child.
Choosing a counselor is something that you, your teen, and his or her doctor should do together. Remember that your teen needs to feel comfortable with the person chosen; if he or she does not feel comfortable with a particular therapist, there is no shame at all in requesting another one at the same practice or going to a different practice. Assure your teen that the counselor will not be hurt; they understand how essential it is for a client to trust his or her counselor. If you are concerned about your teen and aren’t sure what type of therapist would be best, contact his or her primary care doctor for a referral.