How to tell if your teenager needs counselling

Any parent knows teenagers have a lot of emotional ups and downs. But sometimes, problems come along that are a little more difficult to deal with, such as major life changes, prolonged mental stress, or tricky family issues. It’s at times like these that counselling services can be a great help.

When does a teen need counselling?

Counselling can help with a whole range of issues, but some of the most common include:

Divorce and separation 

Have you and your partner split up recently? Teenagers often struggle when it comes to significant life changes and separation or divorce can trigger a whole range of emotions: sadness, anger, fear, regret – or even guilt.


Has a member of the family died recently – or even within the past few years? If your child was particularly close to that person, they may benefit from having someone to help them process their feelings.


Bullying can be particularly damaging because it so often goes unnoticed. If you think your child is being bullied, try to talk to them about it - and contact their school.  Counselling can be an effective way of helping them re-build their self-esteem and resilience following problems with bullying.   

Stress at school 

Thousands of students face the pressures of exams, and the wait for results, every year. Many struggle to deal with this – and worry about the consequences of not doing well.

Family issues 

Often, what your teen is going through may relate to what’s happening with the family as a whole. In these cases, Family Counselling can be a good option.

Shouldn’t I be able to help them myself?

Some parents worry that suggesting counselling services for their child means they’re failing them as a parent. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While we would, of course, always recommend talking to your teen if you think something is wrong, some circumstances benefit from talking to a neutral party.

Teens often struggle to talk to their parents because they’re worried they’ll get in trouble, or that what they say will affect their relationship with them. Sometimes, it may be their parents they need to talk about – and so are unlikely to come to them directly. In these cases, having someone to talk to confidentially and who will listen without judging can be a really big help.

Signs something may be wrong

Teens often internalise problems rather than communicating about them openly, so it can be difficult to know if they’re in trouble. However, if you notice any of the following signs, you may want to consider getting further advice or support.

Change of behaviour 

Have they started to act out or get into trouble? Or perhaps they’ve become quiet and withdrawn and are spending a lot of time in their room? A noticeable change in behaviour can be part of their normal stages of development but could also be a sign that they need some extra support.

Sleep patterns 

Often, when we’re feeling upset, physical things like sleep patterns are the first to be affected. If your teen is finding it harder to sleep, it may be a sign something is causing them anxiety. Likewise, sleeping significantly more than usual can be an indicator that they’re demoralised or even depressed.   

Eating patterns 

Is your teen eating noticeably more or less than they usually would? Or at different times of day? Are they refusing to sit down for meals with the rest of the family? Eating patterns and appetite often change around emotions. If you’re worried about your teen’s eating, you may want to consult your GP or School Nurse.

Health Problems 

Is your child reporting frequent headaches, tummy upsets, are you noticing changes in mood and lack of motivation? These are often the symptoms of anxiety. First stop is to talk to them about going to a local GP.

School grades 

A significant drop in school grades can be a key indicator that they’re feeling distracted or upset. Remember: your teen’s teachers are a key resource when it comes to making sure they’re alright. They may express themselves at school in ways they wouldn’t at home – in the knowledge that you won’t be able to see.

Emotional disregulation

Sometimes young people can’t make sense of what is going on for them. They just feel that something is ‘wrong’ and that can come out as emotional disregulation whereby they are simply overwhelmed by feelings and can’t manage them. They may become upset, angry, or depressed and just don’t know why. 

Counselling can help young people through their difficulties. The crucial bit is that they chose to attend as opposed to it being something that has been imposed on them. It may be that asking them if they feel muddled about something would appeal to their interests in terms of talking it through. It’s really beneficial that counselling is seen as a positive impact on their wellbeing, rather than something they should do because there is something wrong with them. 

How we can help

If you’re looking for support with your relationships, we can help. We offer a range of ways to speak with a trained relationship expert including ongoing counselling, 30 minute web and phone chats, and one session therapy.

Find out which service is right for you


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