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Teen and Adolescent Mental Health Treatment

Most of us think of teenage years as the most happy and carefree times of our lives. But, while for some of us that is true, for many teens and early adolescents, puberty triggers stress, mental health problems, and can be the start of lifelong mental health disorders. In fact, globally, 1 in 7 people aged 10-19 experiences mental health problems. And, mental health problems are so prevalent that they account for 14% of total illnesses in the age group.

That’s considerable, considering 1 in 6 people alive today are between the ages of 10 and 19. More importantly, adolescence is formative. The experiences adolescents and teens go through in this formative period will shape the rest of their lives. Reaching out and getting help – whether structured and residential care or outpatient treatment and regular meetings with a therapist, is important to ensuring your child makes it through their teens with the life skills and coping mechanisms to live as happy adults.

At Compassion Recovery Centers, we’re invested in helping our future generation to succeed.

That’s why we offer intensive outpatient treatment, telehealth, and other flexible programs to help your teen get the support they need.

What is Adolescent and Teen Mental Health Treatment?

Puberty and adolescence are crucial points for everyone. They’re also one of the most difficult times to experience mental health problems. Puberty results in hormonal changes and unfamiliar shifts in mood, emotion, and energy levels – alongside physical changes to the body that, for some, can be traumatic. At the same time, teens have fewer coping mechanisms, fewer life skills, and less understanding of what is happening to them than at any other point in their lives. Adding a mental health disorder to that already tumultuous phase of growing up can make it more difficult, and at a time when those teens are least prepared to ask for help, to show weakness, or to admit they need help.

Teen and adolescent mental health treatment has to provide the coaching and motivation to get help. It has to help teens to tackle underlying problems behind disorders. And, it has to instill good behaviors and long-term strategies to help teens manage their mental health. That’s true whether they’re experience depressive episodes or PTSD that might never recur following treatment or if they’re struggling with a chronic disorder, which might never go away. Teens need a framework on which to build good mental health and habits.

At Compassion Recovery, we use a combination of counseling behavioral therapy, and complementary therapy to help teens to do so.

group of teens during a cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps teens to find motivation to engage in treatment. It also helps teens to assess their own behaviors, to look for patterns which could be enabling or escalating mental health problems, and to assess the underlying causes of problems. Often, mental health disorders are about chemical imbalances in the brain, not a solvable condition. But cognitive behavioral therapy helps with finding and building sustainable patterns to manage and reduce symptoms, to engage with others, and to live well around the disorder. For example, CBT can help teens to recognize and cut off downward spirals of anxious or depressive thinking. It can help teens to recognize suicidal ideation and to ask for help. It can teach positive coping mechanisms, such as using exercise or asking for help to boost endorphins when feeling “down”. CBT changes per patient because it depends on the individual’s problems and behaviors.

photo of a female teen during a dialectal behavioral therapy
Dialectal Behavioral Therapy

Dialectal behavioral therapy is about treating the whole person and their experiences – with the goal of building mindfulness, emotional regulation, and self-acceptance. This therapy is commonly used for adolescents and teens with low self-esteem, with suicidal ideation, and who struggle to see themselves as worthwhile of being helped. This focus on emotional regulation can be immensely helpful to teens, who often greatly struggle with regulating emotions, both because of hormonal fluctuations and because of inexperience. Its primary goals include creating coping skills, building distress and stress tolerance (e.g., self-soothing, improving the moment, distracting the self), and to build interpersonal relationship skills, so that teens are better able to reach out, to build positive relationships, and to get social support from their peers.

group of teens during a group therapy
Group Therapy

Group therapy is part of both CBT and DBT, but is sometimes offered as a separate track, depending on the teen in question. Here, adolescents and teens sit with a therapist or counselor and discuss problems, solutions, and experiences as a group. This gives everyone the ability to see that they are not alone, that their peers often have similar experiences to themselves, and that everyone experiences things in a different way.

photo of a teen male during counseling
Counseling

Counseling normally involves setting specific goals and working towards them, with the help of a counselor trained in teen and adolescent mental health support. Here, counseling is always personalized to meet the specific needs of the patient, so they can work to set their own goals based on personal motivation and desires.

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Holistic Mental Health Treatment

Mental health disorders affect the whole person. It’s important to take a holistic approach to treatment. That means not just offering behavioral therapy and counseling but also delivering training and services that could help your teen to improve how they manage their life. For example, emotional regulation, anger management, and stress management. Nutritional therapy can also be important. And, for many, building good habits around exercise can greatly improve mental health – although many teens already have that. At Compassion Recovery, we take a holistic approach by assessing what could help in your teen’s life and introducing them to it on an as-needed basis.

Depression and Anxiety are On the Rise

Diagnosed teen depression and anxiety have increased by over 60% since 2002. While much of that increase relates to better screening and diagnostics, it also relates to the fact that today’s world is higher stress and higher pressure than ever before. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that while 9 percent of 12–17-year old’s’ experienced a major depressive episode in 2004, 15.7% did in 2019. 5.5% of American teens have severe or debilitating depression – and that depression puts them at risk.

For example, teens with mental health problems are less likely to have concentration, focus, or energy to succeed in school. They are more likely to struggle with risk-taking and criminal behavior. They are more likely to be involved in sensation-seeking, which increases risks of teen pregnancy, STDs, and substance use disorders. They’re also more likely to feel alone, isolated, to have a poor or low sense of self-esteem, to struggle with identity issues, and to have a poor idea of where they want to be, what they want to study, or what they want to work towards. In fact, 1.7% of all teens have both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder.

Symptoms of Mental Health Problems in Teens and Young Adults

For many parents, noticing that teens are having mental health problems can take time. Instead, we often associate changes in behavior, mood, and patterns with hormonal fluctuations and being a teenager. Mood swings are hardly anything you wouldn’t expect from a teenager. So, noticing when kids are having trouble can be difficult. However, you can look for symptoms like:
  • Sleep disturbances or changes in sleeping patterns, such as suddenly sleeping more or sleeping less
  • Decreases in grades or increased concern from teachers, especially if no such concern was presented before
  • Changes in eating habits and behavior, especially suddenly eating too much or barely eating at all
  • Changes in energy levels
  • Changes in interest in most or all hobbies
  • Generalized anxiety/worry about things that were not worrisome before
  • Low self-esteem or drops in self-esteem/ expressions or worthlessness or feeling insignificant
  • Isolation or lack of friends
  • Incidents of bullying at school or on social media

In most cases, if you think your teenager is not themselves, there’s likely something up. Hormones change how people behave, but your teen won’t change personality overnight. If they’re suddenly anxious, depressed, violent, angry, or isolating themselves completely, it’s a large sign that something is wrong. At the least, you can reach out and ask for help about that.

Talking To Your Child About Treatment

Today, almost 30% of adolescents and teens receive mental health treatment of some kind. And that’s a good thing. Adolescent mental health treatment in schools, welfare settings, and in general medical settings has more than doubled in the last 10 years. During that time, adolescent and teen mental health programs in the criminal justice system have declined by over 50%. That means that as kids receive the treatment they need, they’re less likely to engage in behaviors that lead to criminal action and forced treatment.

At the same time, no one wants to stand out or to be stigmatized at school because of a mental health disorder. In fact, the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) shows that 30% of adolescents who need mental healthcare choose to skip it – often to avoid being seen as different by their peers. That’s despite the fact that 70% of children in juvenile detention centers and justice systems have an untreated mental health disorder.

The stigma surrounding mental health treatment may mean your child is afraid to talk about it. They might not want anyone at school to know. And, while you can cater to that by choosing discrete mental healthcare, it’s also important to work to normalize mental health problems to them.

Getting Help at Compassion Recovery

Compassion Recovery offers multiple mental health treatment services for teens and adolescents. These including intensive outpatient and telehealth programs. Both allow your teen to access mental health services without quitting school obligations. However, if they are incapable of attending school, it is important to take that break for their mental health.

Intensive Outpatient

Our intensive Outpatient program includes 9-30 hours of treatment per week, which can be conducted from our clinic in Orange County. Here, your teen will check in daily, to talk to their therapist and counselors and then be released to go home or to go to school depending on the time of day.

  • Daily sessions, scheduled in the morning or after 5 PM depending on school schedules
  • Optional weekend programs to account for missed days during the week
  • 9-30 hours of therapy per week, depending on the program and trajectory
  • Fully personalized treatment programs

Intensive outpatient programs are ideal if you live in Orange County and can easily drop your child off to and from treatment every day.

Telehealth

Our Telehealth program uses a secure video calling platform to connect teens and adolescents to our therapists – so they can access treatment from home. This option follows the same general track and timeline of our intensive outpatient program but most or all treatment is delivered virtually. This means you can sign up from anywhere to receive treatment – with coaching, counseling, and therapy provided in the morning or at night, from home.

For many teens, telehealth programs offer accessibility, privacy, and the option to get treatment immediately before or after school – even if their parents are at work. That accessibility can mean the difference between getting and not getting treatment – which is why we ensure all our mental health programs are available virtually. Of course, strict security, privacy, and data regulation guidelines are in place to protect your child’s privacy.

Insurance

In most cases, your insurance will cover at least part of an outpatient or telehealth mental health program for teens and young adults. If you’re unsure, contact us and we’ll help you see if your insurance will cover our program.

Teens and young adults very frequently experience mental health problems. In fact, for most of us, it’s when the symptoms of mental health disorders first appear. If your child is struggling, it’s important to talk to them, to get them into treatment, and to help them build the lifelong skills to lead a happy and healthy life. Teens are teens and they won’t always reciprocate, but good mental healthcare is as crucial as healthcare.

You don’t have to do it alone.

Call us for a free consultation to see how we can help.