What is the Best Form of Therapy for Teenagers?

Your teen years are a developmentally important period in your life. While as an adult you may reflect on them as a happy period in your life, they can also be a time where you may be navigating new and difficult emotional experiences. When a teen experiences a challenging situation that they may not understand, they may feel it best to keep their feelings to themselves or not to burden anyone with their issues. This may cause a teen to become withdrawn, anxious or emotionally sensitive. Psychotherapy can be a useful tool to help your teen speak about what is going on for them. While traditional talk therapies may not always be the most suitable for them, there are a number of behavioural therapies that can help build coping skills to help guide them through difficult moments.

Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Always the Best Treatment?

When a teen reaches out to begin therapy they are usually recommended Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is often offered as the best option as it can help the teen to understand how their thoughts, feelings and behaviours all relate. How CBT works is that it looks to breakdown unhelpful thought patterns that have been established which in turn are affecting how a teen behaves. For example, someone may have social anxiety which causes them to believe that other people do not like them or want to talk to them, this can then cause the person to withdraw from social settings, or not engage with others based on what they believe about themselves. CBT for teenagers can help a teen to change any automatic thought and behavioural patterns that have been established and update them to help create a new perspective. There are usually exercises provided that the teen may be expected to practise at home in between sessions.  These therapy activities for teenagers can help them practice their skills in real life settings. CBT is a more structured process than general psychotherapy, and it can be a more manageable therapy for teenage depression as it provides a goal-orientated and future planned treatment. One of the main reasons CBT can be seen as one of the best therapies for teenage depression is that it can help to change negative thoughts and behaviours at an early life stage before they become established as longer term.

But One Size Does Not Fit All Ages

Depending on your teenagers needs, you may need to have a look at various therapy options before deciding what approach might suit them best. Although CBT has grown in popularity as a therapy treatment, the approach is not suitable for everyone. While CBT may have a more practical, solution-focused approach, some teens may find it more beneficial to find a therapy approach that works on emotional expression. As the teen years are an important developmental period there are a lot of biological, emotional and psychological changes being experienced. These changes are all happening together during a short period of time so it can become overwhelming for a teen to navigate themselves through this life stage. Sometimes your teen may just want to be listened to, they are growing up in a period of life where they do not have a lot of input into their own life decisions i.e. which school they attend, where they grow up, or even which subjects they study, so they may not feel they have the space to express how themselves freely. If this is how your teen is feeling, CBT may not be the best approach for them as it does not allow them a space to address and understand where their feelings may have come from. A talk therapy approach can help your teen build their communication skills and create resilience to help them in times of distress.

What are the best forms of therapy for teens?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – A form of therapy that works with teens to help them identify, understand and accept their emotions. One of the main principles in this form of therapy is to learn how to accept emotions. This can help to regulate emotions so you are able to reflect and address them in a way that is acceptable for you.

Family Therapy – Sometimes a family environment can be stressful for a teen. There may be difficult relationships with parents or siblings, there may have been a trauma experienced by the family as a whole or, in extreme cases there may be neglect. If the family are willing to attend therapy together it allows each person to address the issues they are experiencing and allow the teen a space to verbalise their feelings. It can be an opportunity for the family to grow as a unit instead of one person having to adapt on their own.

Interpersonal Therapy – Relationships are an important factor in a teens life but can also be a major stressor if there is conflict. Interpersonal therapy works at helping to strengthen relationship bonds to relieve feelings of depression. There is a strong emphasis on working through issues that are causing distress to a teen, by allowing them a place to explore the impact the relationship is having on them it can also relieve any negative emotional factors that the teen is experiencing.


By providing a teen a space to open up, it allows them free reign to work through expressing their emotions. It can be helpful to remind them that what they are feeling in this period of adolescents is not forever, there is still time ahead of them for them to figure out who they are. Starting to build and manage healthy coping skills early in life is something that can benefit a teen as they navigate their way into early adulthood.

At Mind and Body Works we have a number of therapists trained to work with adolescents across our counselling centres in Dublin, Galway, and online. If you are interested in making an appointment or understanding more about therapy for your teen please contact our admin team on 01 677 1021 or at to help guide you through this process.

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