Psychiatric Help for Teens

Most teens experience some moments of extreme stress, anxiety and sadness. In most cases, these feelings are transitory. However, mental illness is a different story. If your teen experiences changes in mood or behavior that do not resolve within a few weeks, loses interest in friends and activities, or mentions suicidal thoughts, contact her doctor or a mental health professional for advice 1. Psychiatric treatment options for teens run the gamut from occasional therapy sessions to hospitalization.

Outpatient Therapy

Outpatient therapy is the treatment of choice for most mild to moderate mental-health difficulties 1. Therapists typically have a bachelor's or master's degree and are trained in a variety of therapeutic techniques. Some therapists focus primarily on teens, while others treat a range of ages. Each therapist has his own school of thought and approach to therapy, so encourage your teen to interview several therapists to find a good fit. Depending on your child’s diagnosis and progress, therapy sessions can be as frequent as several times per week or as infrequent as once per month. Each session typically lasts one hour.

Psychotropic Medications

Medications are available to treat a range of psychiatric conditions from depression to schizophrenia. Some people get prescriptions from their family doctor, while others see a psychiatrist for medication management. Medications usually are prescribed in conjunction with therapy, at least for the first few months. Some psychotropic medicines carry special risks in children and teens, so research possible medications thoroughly to make an informed decision on their suitability for your teen.

Residential Treatment Options

If your teen needs intensive treatment, a residential program might be the best choice. Today, most inpatient admissions are voluntary, but teens who are an active threat to themselves or others might be involuntarily admitted for a short time. Some residential programs are in open facilities, where parents can pick up children for visits at any time. Others are in tightly locked secure buildings with limited visitation hours. Partial hospitalization programs provide the intensive services of a residential program, but teens go home each night. Transitional facilities help teens with psychiatric illnesses learn to live on their own. The goal of all residential treatment programs is to stabilize clients and allow them to return home as quickly as possible.

Family Support

Regardless of the treatment option you choose, parental involvement is a key component in teen recovery. Your child’s therapist might ask you to attend individual or family therapy sessions. Your child might be assigned to a case manager who will coordinate support services within the community, and you will be responsible for following up with those services. If your child is hospitalized, show your support by visiting and talking on the phone, but follow the facility’s guidelines and recommendations.