Three signs outpatient therapy for your teen may not be enough

By Stephen C. Schultz

If you are the parent of a teen, chances are you have a pretty good idea when things are amiss. In fact, for most parents, they have that "parents Intuition" when thoughts, attitudes and behaviors are headed in an unhealthy direction. The problem is, we as parents don’t want to think that our teen would make such decisions. As parents, when we are faced with our child’s behavior, often we rationalize the situation with thoughts and statements like;

“When I was their age, I struggled with some of the same things. It’s not that big of a deal!”
“Oh…it’s just hormones, she’ll be fine.”
“All teens go through that. He’ll grow out of it.”

Residential Treatment Center

As a parent, how do we know when the problems are more serious or if our teens are simply going through the normal adolescent stages of development? How do we really know if it is a bigger problem than we realize? There is no parental “Owner’s Manual” or “Recipe” for raising kids. 

When we suspect there is something that needs to be addressed, the first course of action is usually seeing an outpatient therapist. Teens generally go begrudgingly and parents are often relieved and hopeful that the teen agrees to go. However, after a month or two, it is often obvious that not much progress is happening. Unfortunately, teens often perceive the therapist as simply an extension of the parental authority. If the teens behaviors seem to get worse or they continue to begrudgingly attend therapy and not engage in the process, then a residential setting may need to be considered.

When families find themselves in this situation, they often think that the therapy has failed, the therapist isn't a good therapist or that their son or daughter is beyond help and is treatment resistant. Outpatient visits are one solution out of many. A teens failure to engage in outpatient therapy usually is not a reflection on the therapist. It usually means that a different level of care is needed. Within the healthcare industry, usually the “least restrictive” level of care is recommended. These levels of care are on what is called a continuum of care. Outpatient therapy is simply one level on the continuum. Read on to see three signs that outpatient therapy might not be the right level of care.

Lack of motivation
As the parent, do you constantly remind and plan and worry more about your teen’s activities than they do? Does it feel like you are always “Nagging” them to get things done or to be where they need to be? Does your teen seclude them self and find it difficult to interact with age appropriate peers? When they do engage with others, is it mostly through technology, social media and/or gaming? Have grades slipped over the last year? Has your teen developed a regular study schedule or is school work left to the last minute…if done at all? Has personal hygiene become a concern?

Damaged Family Relationships
Over the last year or so, has the yelling and family discord increased? Is there more fighting and contention? Do family members “walk on egg shells” to avoid interacting with your teen? Does it seem that your teen always seems to have a “center of the universe” mentality? Is everything always about them, with very little regard for others feelings or emotional needs? Is your teen always more concerned about their activities with friends. Do they come and go at will, with zero regard for others schedules or activities? Does your teen scrutinize every rule you as a parent have put in place? Is there suspected or actual drug and alcohol use?

“Failure to Launch”
Did you recognize some of the above listed patterns of behavior while your teen was in High School? Did you keep telling yourself that she will grow out of it? However, was the first semester of college a disaster? Has your son or daughter struggled to gain adult competency and master the responsibilities of independence at an age appropriate level?  Are they now a “twenty something” living at home, in and out of entry level jobs, seemingly lost, depressed or perfectly comfortable living with mom and dad? Do you find yourself, as the parent, lecturing all the time and having discussions about getting a job? Do you find yourself frustrated and angry with their lack of motivation and then feeling pains of guilt because he is your child?

It’s difficult enough as a parent to navigate these situations when they are presented. When scenarios like those mentioned above are complicated by other issues, it becomes even more difficult to manage. Other complicating factors may include teens and young adults who struggle with adoption issues. Others may battle a Non-verbal Learning Disorder (NLD). Then there is the long list of more common diagnoses such as; Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder, Substance Abuse and Autistic Spectrum disorder (ASD).

If you as a parent find yourself relating to any of the above situations, then seeking help for your teen or young adult at a more appropriate level of care may be the answer you are looking for. Most children do not simply “grow” out of the issues and concerns listed above. If outpatient therapy has been a struggle, then a thorough investigation of Residential or Wilderness Therapy may be an option. You can also learn more about Residential and Wilderness Therapy from an Independent Educational Consultant


Emma said…
Teenage is a tough age group, and very difficult to overcome. There are many cases are filed about this age group. In this age group, everyone need to face many problems from all sides. In some cases, the situations that we are going through leads you to the depressed state. There are many solutions for this.
Thank you Emma for your comment. The teenage years do tend to be a struggle for many. Outpatient therapy is generally the first option, but if that doesn't seem to improve relationships, then other options may need to be explored.

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