When Talk Therapy Isn't Enough: How to Help Your Teen's Mental Health

Raising a teen is challenging. Teens are coping with developmental changes and hormones, which can cause insecurity. It's normal for teens to crave independence, but they still need parental guidance, which can cause conflict between parents and teens.

Many teens struggle with mental health issues. From 2007 to 2017, the suicide rate for people ages 10 through 24 rose by 56 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide is one of the leading causes of death for individuals 12 to 19 years of age. 

You may be struggling to help your teen and find that psychotherapy is insufficient on its own. Fortunately, there are other options you can consider to ensure your teen receives the mental health care they need.

What are residential treatment programs?


Residential treatment programs for teens are mental health programs offered at adolescent mental health facilities. These facilities employ medical professionals, including psychiatrists, pediatricians, nurses, and therapists. 

Residential programs also employ other professionals, including case managers, directors, education coordinators, and chefs. Young people can be treated for various mental health conditions, including anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), substance use disorders, and eating disorders. Residential programs also provide support for teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder and gender dysphoria.

Teens go through an admissions process. Professionals evaluate them to ensure the program's a good fit for their needs. The evaluation team identifies a suitable treatment plan customized to the individual client's needs. Once the adolescent mental health program processes new clients, they're admitted for inpatient care.

What are the benefits of residential treatment programs?

teenager curled up in chair facing away from camera towards window

One benefit of attending an inpatient program is that the teen can get away from environments and people who may trigger harmful behaviors. Teens are more susceptible to peer pressure than adults, which is why remaining in harmful environments can make it harder for talk therapy to address their issues fully. Suppose your teen has behavior disorders. Peers who've identified this could instigate outbursts to get your teen in trouble at school, causing frustration and depression, compounding your teen's mental health issues.

Teens know their environment and know how to access things that could be harmful. Teens are already trying to discover who they are, which makes them more likely to experiment. The CDC reports half of all high school students have tried marijuana while 40% have tried cigarettes. A survey of grade 12 students revealed 20% had used prescription medications despite not having a prescription.

This study also revealed approximately 66% of high school students had consumed alcohol. Long-term alcohol or drug abuse can lead to negative thoughts and other dangerous symptoms, such as a feeling of hopelessness. Consuming alcohol can cause depression, leading to suicidal thoughts. When teens attend a residential program, they're in a new environment without access to illicit substances that can compound their mental health challenges.

Residential programs also offer a judgment-free environment where teens can feel accepted and supported. Teens entering a residential treatment program have a clean slate and can build relationships with other teens struggling with similar issues. Connecting with others who have similar challenges can alleviate feelings of isolation.

What other types of therapy can supplement talk therapy?

happy teenagers covered in coloured substance

Residential treatment programs supplement individual and group therapy with experiential therapy. Experiential therapy options include physical activities, such as yoga, surfing, and martial arts. Creative arts experiential therapy options include creative writing, art therapy, drama, and music therapy. Those interested in recreational experiential therapy can try gardening, swimming, and hiking.

Experiential therapy focuses on doing rather than talking. Engaging in favorite activities can be a way of boosting self-confidence. Activities offer teens opportunities to interact without directly addressing their emotions or mental health challenges. Some may find engaging in physical activities alleviates their anger or frustration, while others may find gardening soothing.

Raising teens is challenging, and this challenge can be exacerbated when your teen has mental health issues. Fortunately, residential treatment programs offer a safe option for addressing your teen's needs when talk therapy isn't working independently. You can also supplement talk therapy with experiential therapy.