Teenage depression has a range of detrimental effects, both on the teen and their family. Understanding how different therapy approaches work can help families who recognize their need for professional help.Here are 5 different types of therapy used for teenage depression treatment:
- Talk Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Adolescents
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Psychodynamic Therapy
Each of these therapies varies slightly in approach, addressing different potential root causes for depression. Most often, they help the individual to identify the negative thought patterns that are causing thoughts and feelings of depression—as well as their physiological predispositions towards depression—and restructure those thought patterns alongside the appropriate medication.
One of the first and most common types of therapy used to treat teen depression is psychotherapy, often called talk therapy or psychological counseling. As the name suggests, it is an opportunity for the teen to talk about their feelings with a licensed counselor, whether alone, with family members, or in a group. Here, teens can meet the following objectives:
- Learning about depression and its effects
- Learning to identify negative thoughts and patterns
- Exploring relationships and relationship trauma
- Discovering better emotional outlets to cope
- Easing symptoms
- Adjusting to the traumatic impacts or difficulties
- Setting actionable goals
We can also break down talk therapy into the following subcategories:
- Individual therapy – Individual talk therapy motivates a teen to build a relationship with their therapist in an open, judgment-free space, giving both patient and therapist-focused attention during sessions.
- Family therapy – When there is a need to address harmful, dysfunctional dynamics in a relationship, family therapy is often used to observe family patterns and allow the family unit to work towards reordering.
- Group therapy – Lastly, group therapy will enable teens in groups to give each other support and share their struggles. It also allows therapists to view the teen’s reaction to stimuli in the group for more effective personal treatment.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) addresses the underlying negative thought patterns that may contribute to depression. Of course, CBT isn’t meant to cure the physiological aspects of depression; those need to be identified and treated by a licensed psychiatrist.
A CBT therapist can, however, help the affected teen keep track of negative thoughts and reactions to those thoughts. They may then identify negative thought patterns to develop new ways of thinking and responding.
CBT therapists commonly use these approaches:
- Teaching teens to identify negative thought patterns such as overgeneralization or all-or-nothing thinking
- Practicing positive self-affirmation
- Establishing new ways to view situations or events in a more positive light
- Administering goal-oriented homework such as journaling, meditation, or readings
Interpersonal psychotherapy for adolescents is a relatively brief therapy approach that deals with relationships. Frequently, whether directly or indirectly, the teen’s interpersonal relationships can contribute to feelings of depression.
A lack of social support, peer pressure, and family relations can also exacerbate or, conversely, lessen the symptoms of depression a teen may feel, depending on the diagnosis they receive. Relationships are always meaningful, and an interpersonal psychologist is well-equipped to help teens identify harmful relationship patterns and improve healthy ones.
A therapist will seek to identify problem areas in the teen’s relationships and encourage the teen to examine them. Those relationships might include partners, family, friends, and coworkers. The end goal is to resolve conflict wherever possible and improve communication skills. To this end, the therapist may have the teen participate in role-playing or practice exercises to develop better communication and conflict-resolution modes.
A sister practice to CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) emphasizes validation as an approach to learning healthy thought patterns. In other words, DBT intends explicitly to create a safe space for teens to express their negative thoughts and behaviors, validate those feelings, and, eventually, cope with them.
According to DBT philosophy, individuals can eventually reckon with their negative emotions and ultimately cope with the stress and regulation of it. There is less emphasis on replacing negative thoughts with good ones and more focus on handling difficult situations.
As the adolescent develops their response patterns, they become better equipped to handle difficult situations involving symptoms of depression on their own. The results speak for themselves: The National Alliance on Mental Health asserts that DBT effectively treats mental illnesses, including depression.
Psychodynamic therapy seeks to address underlying unconscious causes for depression, specifically conflicts originating from childhood. The goal of this mode of treatment is for patients to become more aware of their emotions and to put those feelings into perspective.
Unlike other approaches that tend to focus on a singular issue, psychodynamic therapy is broader and generally allows the patient to guide the conversation. The therapist aims to discover how past experiences could lead to feelings of depression, allowing the affected teen to recognize their emotional state and capacity.
Depending on the therapist’s findings, they may refer the child to a qualified psychiatrist who can prescribe the appropriate medication to alleviate symptoms of depression. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, for example, are often used in treating major depressive disorders, but they may not be for everyone. Sometimes, underlying trauma or conflict may cause feelings of depression, but more often than not, there is a physiological component to depression.
Genetic predispositions can cause some people to be predisposed to depression or depression-related disorders, which may manifest during adolescence or early adulthood. With any of these approaches, mental health professionals may prescribe medication to accompany therapy; often, both are essential components of wellness.
Mental health is complex, and for teens who are experiencing a new stage of life, depression can be challenging to identify and address. Fortunately, there are a range of therapy approaches that therapists can use to treat or alleviate its symptoms as well as similar ailments such as bipolar disorder. Each aims to address different potential underlying causes, and each prescribes different methods to help the teen identify, manage, and redirect negative thoughts.