Therapy for teenagers

Being an adolescent isn’t easy. Parenting an adolescent isn’t easy. When your teen faces extra difficulty, therapy can provide much-needed stability. Parents often contact me when their kids feel like misfits, struggle with their sexuality, face bullying, have experienced sexual abuse or trauma, are constantly testing parental limits, or are experimenting with risky behaviors. Taking risks, including abusing alcohol or other substances, can be a symptom of a deeper pain that your teenager is experiencing.

The relationship between abuse in childhood and emotional health in adolescence

A history of sexual or physical abuse in childhood will not, for most people, remain just history. As a researcher, I have extensively studied how trauma can result in profound emotional difficulties for teenagers and for adults.

Therapy may be the first time that your child has a safe place to work through difficult experiences.

Anxiety and depression in teenagers

Teenagers express emotional distress such as anxiety and depression differently than the way adults manifest symptoms of anxiety and depression. There is a growing base of evidence showing that short term psychoanalytic psychotherapy is effective in treating depression and other emotional challenges experienced by adolescents. A recent study found that adolescents valued “a process of collaborative exploration with the therapist” which was “felt to facilitate a deep-rooted transformation in self-perception” (Løvgren et al., 2019).


Atzil-Slonim, D. (2019). Psychodynamic psychotherapy for adolescents. In Contemporary Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (pp. 253-266), Academic Press.

Brown, A., Yoder, J., and Fushi, K. (2022). Trauma and maternal caregivers as risks for executive function deficits among youth who have sexually harmed. Sexual Abuse, 34(1), 24-51.

Brown, A., and Yoder, J. (2021). Symptoms of post-traumatic stress and sexual concerns: The intermediary effects of executive functioning on profiles of youth who have sexually harmed. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Advanced online publication.

Brown, A., and Grady, M.D. (2019). Helplessness and hopelessness in adolescents who commit sexual and non-sexual crimes. Victims and Offenders: An International Journal of Evidence-Based Research, Policy, and Practice, 14(1), 15–31.

Brown, A., and Burton, D.L. (2010). Exploring the overlap in male juvenile sexual offending and general delinquency: Trauma, alcohol use, and masculine beliefs. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, (19)4, 450-468.

Grady, M.D., Yoder, J., and Brown. A. (2021). Childhood maltreatment experiences, attachment, sexual offending: Testing a theory. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(11-12), 6183-6217.

Løvgren, A., Røssberg, J.I., Nilsen, L., et al. How do adolescents with depression experience improvement in psychodynamic psychotherapy? A qualitative study. BMC Psychiatry 19, 95 (2019).

Housby, H., Thackeray, L., & Midgley, N. (2021). What contributes to good outcomes? The perspective of young people on short-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy for depressed adolescents. PloS one, 16(9), e0257334.

Midgley, N., Mortimer, R., Cirasola, A., Batra, P., & Kennedy, E. (2021). The Evidence-Base for Psychodynamic Psychotherapy with Children and Adolescents: A Narrative Synthesis. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 662671.

Yoder, J., Brown, A., Grady, M., Dillard, R., and Kennedy, N. (2020). Positive caregiving styles attenuating effects of cumulative trauma among youth who commit sexual crimes. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. Advanced online publication.