You have a teen and they may be depressed. So how is depression treated in teens?
I use a variety of psychological theories when treating depression in teens. I use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to attack negative thoughts and core beliefs (negative beliefs of the Self such as I am not good enough).
CBT seeks to identify negative thoughts, test the validity of those thoughts, and then modify or change those thoughts. For example, your teen gets a bad grade on a test.
They may have the following automatic negative thoughts: ‘I’m an idiot, I really messed up this time, I will never learn this, etc.” Those thoughts result in emotions such as shame, disappointment, and sadness.
Emotions lead to behaviors. Your teen may choose to not study for the next test believing it is pointless.
I work to help teens identify the negative thoughts (I will never learn this) and use questions to ask if that thought is 100% true. Teens are great at finding faults lol so they enjoy this exercise of challenging negative thoughts.
I have them come up with other reasons they may have bombed the test. Over time they get good at identifying and modifying these thoughts.
They feel better emotionally, too. They are able to encounter another stressful situation and ride it out with less angst and taking it out on themselves.
I also use Attachment Theory when treating depression in teens. Attachment theory believes human beings need a secure attachment to caregivers in order to feel safe when navigating a challenging world.
Teens explore the world and have a “safe base” to return to when they feel overwhelmed. I hope to provide that safe base with the client-therapist relationship.
Teens can disclose to me their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. They may be scared to share dark thoughts such as wanting to end their lives with their parents.
They learn they can trust and depend on me to accept them, dark thoughts and all. They are open to my guidance and start to take steps to come out of their depression.
I use behavioral therapy to assist teens in “faking it until they make it.” I advise them to set up routines, get daily exercise and sunlight, better monitor social media use and abuse, abstain from alcohol or other depressants, and develop a healthy social network.
I focus on sleep hygiene because teens are known to get too little sleep. Sleep deprivation has a myriad of negative effects on the mind and body, There’s a reason the military uses it as a torture device!
Finally, I speak with parents about seeing a psychiatrist for medication options. Most parents are hesitant to place their teens on medications. I believe anti-depressants can be helpful in the short term in combination with psychotherapy.
I understand parents’ and teens’ concerns with using anti-depressants. Both believe dependence may occur or the drugs may hurt brain development.
This decision is not to be taken lightly and I hope to provide a safe space to discuss the pros and cons of using this option to treat depression.
There are many ways to treat depression in teens. My next post will discuss signs of depression in teens so parents feel more prepared with identifying these signs before teens experience severe symptoms.