Signs Your Teen May Need To See A Counselor

Bored-teenage-girl-on-couch-jpgVery often I have parents ask me if I think their teen needs counseling. They will tell me about different behaviors they have observed and pretty much ask me if it is “normal”.

The advice I normally give is, if you think your teen needs counseling, they probably do. I have seen more instances of teens not receiving mental health help or receiving it once the issue has gotten out of hand, then I have of parents bringing their teens in for counseling when they are perfectly “normal”.

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen parents who have brought their teens in for counseling only for me to soon realize that it was the parent that actually needed help, and not their teen.

In any case, it never hurts to schedule a session for your teen if you think they may need help. A trained mental health professional will be able to tell you in a couple of sessions or so if your teen needs further help or if the issue extends further into the family system.

Some signs that your teenager may need counseling

  • Mood swings– Yes we all know that teenagers have mood swings. It is definitely part of that developmental age, but as a parent, you should have a general baseline of your teens mood swings. If their mood swings seem extreme or are way outside of your teens normal mood swings (too depressed, too elated, too labile, etc.) trust your gut, it may be worth looking into with a trained professional.
  • Self-medicating– Some teens will try to hide or control their issues, especially when they don’t understand why they think or feel a certain way. Many will turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, self-mutilation, or eating disorders just to name a few, in an effort to make themselves feel better. If you notice your teen involved in any of these things it’s almost a guarantee that they are trying to mask something else, that could be anything from low self-esteem to sexual abuse and it’s worth investigating.
  • Changes in friends– many times when a teen is suffering from a mental illness it will impact their ability to maintain healthy friendships. They may push friends away or become too clingy. You may see some of your teens friends start wanting to avoid them or your teens choices of friends may drastically change.
  • Changes in school performance– is another sign that your teen may be suffering from some form of mental illness. It’s generally hard to concentrate and focus when one is in a poor mental state and this can affect a teens grades and/or conduct.
  • Physical symptoms– if your teen suddenly starts to care less about their appearance, stops taking showers, gains or loses a lot of weight or starts complaining of psychosomatic symptoms like backaches, headaches or stomach aches, these are all possible signs that your teen is dealing with something they can’t handle alone.
  • Behavior changes– behavior like mood can change a lot during the teenage years, but for the most part, if you teens starts presenting as a totally different person to you then it may indicate either a mental illness or substance abuse issue.

Being a teenager is hard and most teens will try their best to hide their problems from their parents, which is why it is imperative that parents are attune with their teenagers. Today it’s even easier for teens to hide how they really feel through social media so parents have to be vigilant to monitor their social media pages as well in order to gain insight into what is really going on with their teen.

With the appropriate help, all mental and emotional issues can be treated and managed so if you  have to ask the question, “Is this normal”, chances are you should contact a qualified mental health professional for a further evaluation.


6 thoughts on “Signs Your Teen May Need To See A Counselor

  1. This is a great list of symptoms. Self-medicating is one I hear a parent mention often. Is there ever a reason a child should be allowed to smoke pot for his ADD? This is what the mother tells me.

    1. Wow, I’ve never had a mother even ask me anything like that, although many adults I speak with who aren’t taking the psychotropic medications they are supposed to, admit to using pot, cocaine, alcohol and even meth as forms of self-medication. Children tend to turn to pot because it is so easily available (as well as prescription pills), but my question is where does it stop? We have to try to teach them to deal with their issues the best they can on their own and then if they need help, though the aid of appropriate medications. Otherwise they will forever use alcohol and other substances to self-medicate.

      1. That has always been my response but one mother in particular, who could never say ‘no,’ still blames her son’s pot use on his ADHD and he is now 20 years old. The son is completely out of control and wreaks havoc whenever he shows up.

        Today a caller on the National Parent Helpline (1-855- 4A PARENT or 1-855-427-2736) had a similar issue and took the same stance as you by not tolerating the pot or drugs. This mother was using the son’s lack of relationship with his father as the boy’s excuse. (Why do parents make these excuses?)

        I enjoy reading your topics that are always current and knowledgeable.

  2. Great post for parents wondering if their child needs counseling. Counseling can’t hurt. I myself have been in therapy for years. We’ve had family sessions, and I’ve taken 2 of my 4 children. It was very effective for one and not so much for the other. I’ve had a lot of trauma in my life, starting around the age of 3. I am not ashamed to be going to therapy because it really, really helps me to not lose control and to know that a lot of the things I think I need help with, are perfectly normal things. Thanks for sharing such valuable information. I enjoy reading your posts. I’m sick a lot so I don’t get to read other’s blogs as much or as often as I would like. Sometimes I take a day and devote it to reading other’s blogs. Have a good day. 🙂

    1. Hi, thanks for taking the time to read and to respond! I know our free time is very valuable, especially when we aren’t feeling so well! I get so caught up in work and life that it’s hard for me to find the time to blog or to read other blogs as often as I would like as well! A lot of people under estimate the power of counseling, but I went to counseling for about a year and it really helped. As a therapist it was good to know what it is like to be “on the other side of the couch”. I also know some really great therapist who have been in counseling including an excellent therapist who is in counseling to help deal with some personal issues and a recent divorce. It’s hard for people to admit that they or their child needs help, it’s even harder for most “professionals”. I think I am going to take your advice and try to find a day to just devote to reading other peoples blogs. Thanks again for your comment, it really helped make my day.

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