Therapy is often a dreaded experience for a teen. In their mind, it’s a time when they’re faced with someone who is drilling them with questions, encouraging them in ways they don’t want to be encouraged, and treating them like a child when they want to be seen as an adult. It’s usually not the kind of experience a teen wants to do.
However, with the right kind of relationship and the right kind of therapy, teens might actually get a lot out of therapy. In fact, participating in therapy can mean the prevention of major psychological illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, if a teen were already prone to them. A recent research study found that it doesn’t take a whole lot of therapy – just three hours of therapy per month can be preventive enough to make a difference.
The study examined the lives of 509 students who were given 90-minute sessions by teachers who were specially trained. Nineteen schools in London were involved in the study whose administration identified students who were at risk. The trained teachers taught their students how to manage difficult traits that can lead to mental health concerns, such as the tendency to be impulsive or sad. For instance, the tendency to be impulsive can contribute to conduct disorder, which is a common teen disorder that often causes stress in the classroom, not to mention difficulty in a student’s life.
The students were divided into groups and were given particular scenarios, such as faced with an invitation to do drugs or cut wrists. They were then asked specific questions on how they might cope in these situations. The study found that the brief group therapy sessions were very effective. Group therapy is a unique form of treatment in which benefits for a teen are sourced from not only the relationship with the therapist, in this case the teacher, but also from the other participants in the group.
This study led to the following results:
- There was a 21%-26% reduction in severe depression.
- There was a 35% reduction in conduct-related issues for those teens who are impulsive and potentially diagnosed with Conduct Disorder.
- There was a 33% reduction in severe anxiety concerns.
Furthermore, if the teacher already had a positive relationship with the teacher conducting the therapy, there’s a good chance that this too affected the results listed above. One of the most essential components to therapy and the treatment of a teen’s mental health disorder is the relationship – and that’s true of individual and group therapy.
In fact, there is growing research that points to the therapeutic relationship as the most significant factor in the improved well being of clients and this has proven to be true regardless of the diagnosis. In fact, this could be particularly true for teens, who appreciate the benefits of an adult-teen relationship where the teen is treated with respect and maturity. Furthermore, whether in group or individual therapy, while the therapeutic relationship is not necessarily meant to be a mentor/mentee relationship, the therapist can undoubtedly serve as a model for a teen. And this is incredibly important for teens at this stage of life; teens are finding their way into adulthood. Adults, such as the teachers in this study, who model characteristics that are healthy can also be a support for teens.
So, although teens might not appreciate therapy, there are many good things that come from it. Not only can it be a great support for teens during a tumultuous stage of life, as the study revealed, it can prevent mental health concerns such as depression, impulsivity, and anxiety.
Dean, J. (January 3, 2015). You might Be Surprised How Much 3 Hours of Therapy Can Help Prevent Teen Mental Health Issues. PsyBlog. Retrieved on January 26, 2015 from: http://www.spring.org.uk/2015/01/you-might-be-surprised-just-how-little-therapy-can-prevent-teen-mental-health-issues.php