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3 Biggest Myths about Teen Therapy for Depression


Depression in teens can be scary. 

Often teens will isolate, keep to themselves, and not tell a grownup what’s going on.  Sometimes parents aren’t even aware a teen is struggling with depression until a teen ends up in the hospital after a suicide attempt.  Many times parents feel helpless in the face of this unseen experience of their teen’s depression, and they just want someone who can provide answers and provide hope. 

Therapy can be that hope for many teens struggling with depression.  There are many factors for therapy to be considered a “success” including the connection with the therapist, what the teen is doing outside of sessions, and how the people around them are responding. 

Today, I’m going to dispel the three biggest myths about teen therapy for depression.  If you’re reading this as a parent, it will help you with your expectations of therapy for your teen, so you can be more prepared if you and your teen decide now is the right time to seek treatment. 

Brene Brown says “clear is kind,” and I believe that to be true.  The more you know before you go to your first teen therapy session, the more likely you are to have your needs met, know how to advocate for the best fit treatment, and have a positive experience.  

1) The goal is to make your teen happy

Most people think the opposite of depression is happiness.  Happiness has become a new buzz word in this day and age between Gretchen Ruben’s The Happiness Project to Dan Harris’ 10% Happier. 

Happiness is a fleeting emotion though, just like anger, sadness, or fear. 

Happiness is something we experience for brief moments of time and then it passes through us.  Over the course of our lives, this will happen many times.  That being said…

happiness is not the goal for teens experiencing depression. 

It turns out the opposite of depression is vitality. 

Depression sucks the life out of a teen.  It can result in overwhelming sadness, crying, anger, sense of worthlessness, sleep and eating changes, hopelessness, and losing pleasure in life. 

For some teens in the cycle of depression, even the idea of happiness is foreign, so that’s not what we’re working toward. 

The goal is to experience small moments of life in each day. 

It could mean feeling the water running over their skin as they wash their hands, having the energy to straighten up their space, or connecting with someone they love.  Rather than chasing a fleeting experience, like the emotion of happiness, through daily mindful practices, teens begin to discover life is worth living, and have the feeling “I want to experience more of this thing called life.”  

2) Your teen won’t experience any suicidal thoughts after starting therapy

This is terrifying for most parents. 

When their child has self-harmed or had an attempted suicide in the past, parents often become obsessive, looking for clues about their teen’s mental state. 

For the parent this can feel like caring, and for the teen it can feel overbearing. 

Yes, it’s important to make sure your child is safe, if they’ve had a recent hospitalization, they struggle with impulse control, or they’ve engaged in self-harm behavior. 

And at the same time, thoughts don’t change overnight. 

Just like when I’m stressed, one of my first thoughts is to grab a bag of cheetos, when a teen experiencing depression is having urges to self-harm, thoughts of worthlessness, or even suicidal ideation, it does not necessarily mean therapy isn’t working. 

Those thoughts are familiar to someone experiencing depression.  They are typically automatic thoughts, and your teen may not even be consciously aware of them. 

Part of being in therapy is learning to identify the thoughts and examine what triggered them or what purpose they’re serving.  Often this is done in the therapeutic space.  It can also be done by you as the parent, if you’re able to remain regulated, curious, and non-judgmental. 

Sometimes parents aren’t able to do this, because of fearful they are about their child harming themself.  That’s okay too.  What’s important is that your teen has someone caring and competent to speak to about the thoughts, so the thoughts can lose some of their power. 

Verbalizing the thoughts, taking them from the mind into the air, and communicating them to someone else can demystify them and provide an opportunity for growth and exploration. 

All that being said, if you’re concerned your teen is at imminent risk of hurting themself, then you need to act swiftly.  Make sure they get an assessment from a licensed mental health professional who can assess whether or not they are safe to remain at home or if they need a higher level of care.*  

3) Therapy alone is enough

Just like there is no magic pill to cure depression, therapy is only one piece of moving through a depressive episode. 

If all a teen is doing is staying in their room for 166 hours a week and traveling to and from therapy once a week for two hours, they will have a much different experience than a teen who is exploring other areas of their life at the same time. 

Therapy responds to what is going on in the mental and emotional body. 

However, there are many other areas of the human experience that also impact mood. 

Physical health, how a teen feels in their body, and what they’re putting into their body are important factors in mood and the course of a depressive episode. 

Other factors include spiritual life (connect to something bigger than one’s self, living out values, connecting with self on a deeper level), relationships (with family and peers, recognizing unhealthy relationships, boundary setting), intellectual (being curious, learning, creating, and stimulating the mind), and environmental (how the space around them feels, looks, and the comfort it brings, also includes amount of time spent outdoors). 

True depressive symptoms make it difficult to engage in some of those exercises.  At the same time, one of my therapists once told me, “getting out of the depression is in the doing.”  If your teen is ready to change, then I invite them to think about therapy and…





Styling hair or makeup


See what I’m going for here?  

Being a teen is hard enough.  Add on the experience of depression, adversity in childhood, or a global pandemic, and it makes things that much harder. 

If you’re ready to connect with me to see if I’m a right fit for working with your teen, call me for a FREE 15-minute consultation at 737-808-4888.  We’ll discuss my style, what you and your teen are looking for and if I’m the right fit to help your teen move from unhappy and withdrawn to finding joy and confidence from within.


*The Suicide Prevention Hotline can help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.  They can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

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