Online Counseling for Teens

Does my teen need therapy?  //

Related Blog Articles //

So you're a parent of a teen or adolescent and you are out of solutions.

 

You have tried everything you can think of to set firm limits, to be lenient and supportive, to talk it through, to give them guidance, to give your kid a good life...and they still seem to be so sad or struggling or angry or withdrawn or irritable.

 

You are getting frustrated and you are getting worried. You are losing patience or feeling very concerned. Why is nothing working? Why can't my teen just be happy? Why don't I even recognize this person anymore?

 

The adolescent years are incredibly challenging and tumultuous...for both parents and teens. Your worries are normal. Your frustrations are normal. Your exhaustion is normal. Please realize that rebellious behaviors and efforts to pull away from family (and more towards friends and peers) are very normal during this time and are not cause for concern.

 

But some issues are much more serious and may call for some professional help. A therapist can help you and your teen understand more about what exactly is going on and identify some tools and resources to start improving things. If you are seeing any of the following in your teen, therapy could be the next important step. 

 

Is my teen being bullied? //

Unfortunately, 1 in 3 teens in the U.S. have been involved in bullying, either as the aggressor or the victim. The increased use of social media by teens has made bullying much more frequent, public, easy to do, and a lot more difficult to get relief from.

 

Because social interaction is nonstop online, bullying can happen at school and after school and on nights and on weekends and anywhere there is access to a device. Before the social media scene, kids were at least able to get a reprieve from hurtful attacks and mean treatment when they left school. 


How can you know if your teen is involved in bullying? Talk to your teen about bullying often, check in with them and keep the conversation going about how they are being treated and how they are treating others. Encourage them to bring their friends around and observe the interactions. Being proactive can help you equip teens with the knowledge of what to do or who to trust when they see bullying or become involved. More info and resources at PACER National Bullying Prevention Center.

Signs your teen is being bullied

It’s time to consider professional help for your teen if they: 

  • seem especially shy, withdrawn, sullen or lonely

  • experience a significant change in their sleep (unable to sleep, excessive sleep, nightmares)

  • change eating patterns (much less, much more, secret eating or only eating at home)

  • start to perform very differently in school or don't want to go to school or certain classes

  • suddenly have frequent physical complaints (headaches, stomachaches)

  • lose interest in things they used to enjoy doing

  • can't explain "lost" or damaged possessions or money

  • begin bullying younger siblings or kids

  • joke or talk about wanting to run away or die.

 

Contact a counselor who specializes in teen issues right away or schedule an appointment with your teen's physician.

 

Is my teen sexually active? //

You are asking an important and overwhelming question! Many parents and caregivers avoid the topic of sexual activity. It can be a really uncomfortable issue to address with your teen and it can be hard to know what to say.

 

It’s also a real issue and one that your teen is thinking and deciding about, whether or not you address is with them. About 50% of U.S. teens report being sexually active and fewer than 2/3 of those teens used protection the last time that they had sex. The CDC also reports that 1 in 4 sexually active teens will get a sexually transmitted disease or infection. It happens every 8 seconds.

 

You are the most influential person in your teen's decision about sex, even if you don't think you are. Talk to your kids about it early and often, even if you don't think your teen is engaging in sexual activity or even if you have told them to abstain. Parents play a crucial role in maintaining a teen’s physical and sexual health and in helping them understand the emotional impact of physical intimacy.

 

If you are unsure about what to say or how to say it, contact one of our counselors and ask for parent coaching. We can help! We can help you understand what your teen may be facing when it comes to peer pressures to have sex, their sexual identity development or even just help you plan your approach to “the talk” that fits with your family’s values and rules. More info & resources for teens and parents. 

Signs your teen could be sexually active

Consider professional help for you or your teen if they: 

  • suddenly seem especially withdrawn or secretive

  • begin hiding or highlighting parts of their body or dressing very differently

  • become very upset or defensive when asked about sex

  • don't want you to meet who they are hanging out with

  • can't or don't explain where they were or what they were doing

  • ask YOU where you will be or when you are coming home

  • act differently around you or their peers

  • are becoming more very physically affectionate or touchy

  • have experienced a traumatic incident involving violence or sexual assault 

 

Contact a counselor who specializes in teen issues right away or schedule an appointment with your teen's physician.

Signs your teen is depressed 

It’s time to consider professional depression help for your teen if they: 

  • seem especially withdrawn

  • experience a significant change in their sleep or eating patterns

  • start to perform differently in school

  • lose interest in things they used to enjoy doing

  • just don’t seem like themselves

  • joke & talk about wanting to run away or die.

  • have unexplained cuts or physical marks

 

Contact a counselor who specializes in teen issues right away or schedule an appointment with your teen's physician.

 

Does my teen have anxiety? //

 

Workshops & Groups

We offer ongoing workshops and classes to support you and your teen in the areas they need it most, like Self-esteem, Prioritizing, Organizational Skills, Planning, and Mindfulness to improve focus.

See our current offerings.

Is my teen depressed? //

We know from the data that about 1 in 5 teenagers will experience depression before they reach adulthood. We also know from recent research that the rate of depression is increasing among adolescents, especially in female teens.

 

Depressive disorders and intense moodiness are both treatable and it usually means looking at many different factors, including: eating and sleeping habits, ways to get support and understanding from family and friends, professional help from a counselor or the teen’s primary care doctor, and learning new skills to help teens manage stress, anxiety, social pressures, negative self-talk and frequent thoughts about low self-worth.

If you think your teen might be depressed, talk to them in a loving, non-judgmental way. Even if it’s not depression, whatever signs you’re noticing are things that needs to be addressed.

 

Start a conversation (the car is a good place for this because eye contact is not required) by letting your teen know what specific behaviors or symptoms you’ve noticed and why they concern you. Ask your teen if they’d be willing to share what they’re going through. And be quiet. Just listen. Hold back from offering solutions or asking a lot of questions. Let your teen know that you hear them and that you would like to support them in whatever way you can. Sometimes you will need to have several small conversations before you can get a solution phase.

 

More info & resources about teen depression.

Is my teen drinking alcohol? //

About 1 in 3 high school seniors admit to using alcohol in the past month. Underage drinking is fairly common and also it can be quite dangerous. Often when youth are drinking, they are more likely to binge drink and can quickly get alcohol poisoning or severely impair their safety and judgment.

 

Do your best to hold frequent conversations about the use of alcohol and ways your teen can handle pressures to drink or at least understand the potential dangers. Work to educate your teen about the potential dangers of alcohol consumption: the negative effects on their developing brain, the risk of impaired judgment and the other negative consequences that can arise from alcohol use.


Be clear with your teen about your opinion of underage drinking and share the rules in your home when it comes to obtaining and consuming alcohol. You may feel like a hypocrite because you enjoy alcohol or maybe you even drank some as a teenager. But don’t fall into the trap!

 

You are a caring adult whose voice matters even when it seems that you're being ignored. Talk to your teen about efforts you make to drink responsibly. Express that the rules and values you have regarding drinking have been carefully thought out based on your belief system, your experience, and scientific evidence about the ways it can damage a developing brain. 

 

If you are unsure about what to say or how to say it, contact one of our counselors and ask for parent coaching. We can help you understand what your teen may be facing and how to best support them while upholding their safety and your value system.

 

Signs your teen is drinking alcohol

Consider professional help for you or your teen if they: 

  • seem much more secretive or suspicious

  • suddenly miss school or have a drop in grades

  • refuse to talk about their friends or peer group

  • avoid eye contact and become easily defensive when coming home

  • don't want you to meet who they are hanging out with

  • can't or don't explain where they were or what they were doing

  • have injuries or bruises and can’t remember how they happened

  • have a smell of alcohol on their breath, body, or clothing

  • suddenly use of breath mints or gum

  • have alcohol or empty bottles in their room

 

Significant issues with alcohol can also result in money or valuables being missing from your home and severe changes in personality and withdrawal. Contact a counselor who specializes in teen issues right away or schedule an appointment with your teen's physician.

Is my teen smoking marijuana? //

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Our kids are smoking a lot more marijuana than we think. Recent research shows that marijuana use now exceeds cigarette use in teens. Some surveys show that today’s teens tend to believe that marijuana not very harmful, which may be due to the changing laws surrounding marijuana use. Teens can think that marijuana is no big deal and it’s just another way to chill out or relax. 


While marijuana does have some benefits for various medical conditions, your teenager’s brain is still developing and is more vulnerable to damage. A recently published study followed 3826 teens for 4 years and found that marijuana use had a more negative effect on reasoning and memory skills than alcohol use. Because our brains are still “under construction” until our early to mid-twenties, they are more susceptible to lasting changes during those teen years.  

As a parent, your voice is crucial in carefully educating your teens about drug use (NOTE: educating, not lecturing). Listen to your teen’s thoughts and beliefs about marijuana and other drugs. Engage them in conversation rather than scolding or looking the other way. Do your best to have regular chats about what their peers are doing and help your teen explore the possible dangers of all drugs, including prescription drugs. Unfortunately, many teens underestimate how easy it is to develop an addiction and are not fully aware of how easy it can be to accidentally take too much (overdose). 

 

If you are unsure about what to say or how to say it, contact one of our counselors and ask for parent coaching. We can help you understand what your teen may be facing and how to best support them while upholding their safety and your value system. More info and resources at Drugfree.org

Signs your teen is smoking weed

 

Consider professional help for you or your teen if they: 

  • Start locking bedroom or bathroom door

  • Make secretive phone calls

  • Have odd smells or increased use of perfumes & air deodorizers

  • Are moody, like jittery in the morning and calmer in the evening or weekends; or laugh at nothing

  • Have paraphernalia for drug taking, like bongs, roll-ups and tin boxes

  • have rapidly changing grades 

  • have glazed expressions 

  • Abandon friends or start hanging out with a different crowd 

  • Abandon social activities 

  • Are evasive about whereabouts and activities 

  • Have memory problems about basic things

  • Have unexplained injuries 

  • Have weight fluctuations that are rapid 

  • Are sick more often (drugs can suppress the immune system)

  • Stay out late

  • Drive recklessly, have car accidents or unexplained dents 

 

Significant issues with marijuana and other drugs can also result in money or valuables being missing from your home and severe changes in personality and withdrawal. Contact a counselor who specializes in teen issues right away or schedule an appointment with your teen's physician.

 

Is my teen in danger online? //

 

No matter what precautions you take when it comes to social media (Instagram, Tik Tok, Google Searches), teens are still likely to be exposed to unsavory people, hatred, racism, unhealthy images, and sexual content online. Research shows that many teens are first introduced to sexual content like pornography through the routine use of social media.

 

Although there are electronic parental controls you can use to help reduce the amount of adult content your teen has access to, these are not guarantees and you can’t be with your teen all the time.

 

It’s important for you as a parent to create rules or boundaries for online media consumption (like limiting the number of hours online per day, or setting restrictions on ratings like TV-MA on their smart phone, or forbidding M-rated video games). You'll also want to talk about sexual situations and racial stereotypes that your teen might see and engage them in a conversation about your family’s values.

It’s also vital for your teen’s overall health that you know what your teen is doing and exposed to online. What we put into our brains has a direct connection to how we feel and how we behave. Educate yourself about the latest apps, websites, and social media pages teens are using and take steps to keep your teen safe.

 

Sometimes, kids can make poor choices and may be too afraid to tell you or ask for help, or they may not realize the more long-term effects of their choices. Encourage your teen to talk you when they make a mistake online, like giving out too much personal information, or if they are being targeted or feeling uncomfortable about something that’s happening to them online.

Over the past couple of decades, a multitude of research has linked watching violence to an increased lack of empathy or ability to have compassion for others. Teens can become easily desensitized to violence and may become unsure of how to respond when something happens in real life. Again: pay attention to your teen's media use.

Talk to your teen about the dangers of being exposed to violent images and monitor your teen's mental state. If they are more irritable or moody after being on their phone for a bit, ask them about it. Inquire about their feelings and help them identify any connections between what they spend their time doing online and the impact it has on their sense of self.

Is my teen suicidal?   //

Signs your teen might be in danger online

 

Consider professional help for you or your teen if they: 

  • seem moody, irritable, or aggressive after spending time online

  • seem much more secretive about their online activities

  • are downloading or saving violent pictures or videos

  • are downloading or saving pornographic videos or images that are disturbing or inappropriate for their age

  • are downloading or saving videos that include violence against children or include child victims

  • are downloading or saving pictures or videos that are inconsistent with your values

  • seem obsessed with video games or other online activities at a level that worries you. 

 

The online landscape is changing daily and it's a lot to keep up with. We can help you identify strategies and healthy boundaries for protecting your teen. Contact a counselor who specializes in teen issues to get started.

The reasons behind a teen's suicidal thoughts or their attempted/completed suicide are very complex. There is no single reason and typically the thoughts of hopelessness or death are ongoing before there is any attempt.

 

Although suicide is relatively rare among children, the rate of suicides and suicide attempts increases greatly during adolescence. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after accidents and homicide. It's also believed that about 25 attempts are made for every single completed teen suicide.

 

The risk of suicide increases dramatically when kids and teens have access to firearms at home, and nearly 60% of all suicides in the United States are committed with a gun. You can address this issue by keeping any gun in your home unloaded and locked away out of the reach of children and teens. Please believe that most often teens know where the guns are located in your home. If you're unable to have a gun safe, think carefully about keeping ammunition in a location separate from the weapon.


Another common method for both attempting and completing suicide is overdose. Teens may use over-the-counter medications or prescription medications they can find in the home. Often they use whatever they can get their hands on and take in large quantities. Some medications can be lethal even in small doses. It's important to carefully monitor all medications in your home. Even if an overdose does not end in death, it can lead to severe health concerns in the short and long term. 


Suicide rates do differ between the sexes. Females think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as males, and females tend to attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves. Males die by suicide about four times as often females, because they tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.

Initiating difficult conversations with your teen can feel uncomfortable and make even the best parents squirm! And your teen isn't likely to respond well to a lengthy lecture or may likely withdraw or shut down after too many direct questions. 


A good way to strike up a conversation about suicidal thoughts, drugs & alcohol use, sex, or other uncomfortable topics is to ask a question like, "Do you think _______ is a big issue at your school?" Listen to what your teen has to say, listen like their life depends on it, because it does. 

If you or your teen needs help now - CALL 1-800-273-8255 - Suicide hotline available 24 hours/day! Text hotline is 741-741. 

Signs your teen might considering suicide

 

Consider professional help for you or your teen if they: 

  • talk or joke about suicide or death in general

  • make comments or give hints that they might not be around anymore

  • talk about feeling hopeless or worthless

  • pull away from friends or family

  • write songs, poems, or letters and/or draw about death, separation, and loss

  • start giving away treasured possessions to siblings or friends, or seem to care less about them

  • lose the desire to take part in favorite things or activities

  • lose interest in school or sports

  • seem to have trouble concentrating or thinking clearly

  • experience significant changes in eating, sleeping, or hygiene habits

  • engage in risk-taking behaviors

  • seem very flat or lacking emotions, as in a feeling of resignation or giving up

 

Depression can look a lot like suicidal thinking and is often a precursor. If you observe significant changes in your teen, contact a counselor who specializes in teen issues or schedule an appointment with your teen's physician.