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What Are The Different Types Of Therapy For Teens?


teenage girl in therapy

In latest revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) there are 157 listed mental health diagnoses. As the list of recognized mental health illnesses increased so too have the therapeutic modalities. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional is essential to the recovery process for any mental health illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that “mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day.” Research has found that one teen out of every five teenagers has a diagnosable mental health disorder, in the United States. There is a plethora of different types of psychotherapeutic treatment modalities that are used to treat teenagers, the most common include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works by addressing a teenager’s thoughts. CBT is based on the notion that one’s thoughts govern one’s feelings, which in turn affects one’s behaviors. It focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and developing personal coping strategies to problem solve effectively. Through short-term goals, cognitive behavioral therapy will help a young person shift his or her thoughts to change his or her feelings, resulting in healthier patterns of behavior. 

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy (IPT) was developed in the 1970s. IPT is a therapeutic modality that is most often used to treat teenagers who suffer from anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression, as well as other psychiatric disorders, including substance use disorder. Interpersonal therapy focuses on how a teen’s communications and interactions with other people affect his or her own mental health. Through interpersonal therapy a young person will learn to resolve and adjust unhealthy interpersonal problems, resulting in a symptomatic recovery.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) combines strategies from cognitive behavioral therapy with a mindfulness-based approach. It is primarily used to treat young people who struggle with emotional dysregulation, also known as severe emotional instability (e.g., suicidal thoughts, self-harming behaviors, etc.). It is conducted in three different therapeutic settings (weekly individual therapy sessions, weekly group DBT skills sessions, and as-needed phone coaching) each with distinct goals. DBT relies on four main strategies to teach skills that help young people learn to regulate their emotions and behaviors. They include the following, as provided by Behavioral Tech

  • Core Mindfulness: learning to be present and fully aware in the moment
  • Distress Tolerance: learning to tolerate pain in challenging situations, without changing it or escalating it
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: learning to manage and deal with primary emotional reactions before they have a chance to turn into distressing secondary reactions
  • Emotion Regulation: learning to honor boundaries, and advocate for one’s wants and needs in relationships in a way that is both self-respecting and non-damaging 

Through DBT a teen will learn mindfulness-based skills to gain control over his or her emotions. This allows for healthier relationships and improves interpersonal skills.

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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