It's that time of year again -- school is back in session! If you're like me, you may feel that summer went by way to fast. If you're like my wife, summer was way too long and "halleluiah!" the boys are back in school!
It can be exciting to think about another school year and our teens continuing to advance their education. It is also a time where the freedom and flexibility of summer schedules is a luxury no longer enjoyed.
While we may enjoy our awesome teenagers being back in school, we also know that this carries with it a hectic schedule for the foreseeable future. How are we going to fit everything in AND keep them in therapy.
Yet, starting or continuing in teen therapy during the school year can make all the difference in the teens success. Success not only academically but socially, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as well. We can help a teen build and sustain their self-esteem and self-worth in therapy that can pay off throughout the year and the rest of their lives.
Why Prioritizing Teen Therapy During the School Year is Critical, and
Suggestions for Parents in Scheduling Teen Therapy During a Very Busy Scheduling Season
Specialists in Teen Therapy: Perspective on Why Prioritizing Ten Therapy During the School Year is Critical
If your teenager is in therapy you have started them in therapy for a reason. It may be that they are struggling with teen depression. Emotional struggles like anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety, and school anxiety have significantly increased and continue to do so. Other teens may not struggle with depression or anxiety but may find it difficult to focus or pay attention due to ADHD/ADD.
If you are contemplating having your teenager start therapy with a teen therapist, it is likely that you have observed things that are concerning to you as a parent. It can be tempting to put off scheduling therapy and see how your teen does after they start school.
Below is this teen therapist's observations on why it is important to include therapy as one of the critical "extra curricular" activities for teens during the school year.
Teenagers, Stress, and Emotional or Behavioral Struggles
During the summer, your teenagers stress can drop significantly. As a result, you may have recognized a decrease in your teens severity in symptoms. There is a reason for this and it comes down to stress.
Stress can make symptoms of teen depression, teen anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety, school anxiety, ADHD/ADD and other struggles worse. Where you lift the stress, it can result in lessening of the severity of symptoms.
Our teenagers attend highly competitive schools. In our area, are teens are tend to also have a variety of extracurricular activities that they engage in. The pressure explicit and implicit to excel academically are high. Getting into a top college or university drives many teens. School is stressful. School in our area is stress on steroids!
It is not uncommon for me to work with teens during the school year where they are putting in more hours a week than adults are during a regular work week. Many teens:
Study up until 11:59 p.m. to get their homework in by 12:00 a.m.,
Get up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for school,
Not get home until 5, 6, or 7:00 p.m. due to extracurricular activities,
Grab a quick bite and start studying until 11:59 a.m.
Wash, rinse, repeat Monday through Friday (and with games on Saturday and/or Sunday)
A recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that teens are reporting experiencing as much stress as adults are independently reporting. Yet when school is in, teens are reporting higher levels of stress than adult independently report.
Teenagers, Sleep, and Emotional or Behavioral Challenges
Teenagers also need 9 to 9.5 hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep at night according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. How many hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep does your teen get? If they are like most in this area, they may be lucky to get 7 hours of sleep at night.
Sleep is also a critical element in teens managing symptoms related to emotional or behavioral struggles. The less sleep they get, the more severe the symptoms tend to be. The more regular, restful, uninterrupted sleep they have close to 9 to 9.5 hours, the brain is able to better regulate emotions.
While your teen was in therapy during the summer where stress was down and they were getting plenty of sleep, you may have seen a decrease in severity in symptoms. We often see is the case that a few weeks into school, there can be a rebounding in severity in symptoms.
A Perfect Storm for Teen Emotional or Behavioral Challenges
We may have a tendency to look at teenagers as young adults when in fact their brain is more like that of an older child. The brain does not complete development until approximately age 21 for women and age 25 for men.
At times, it may be said that we are simply preparing our teens for adulthood. The stress and lack of sleep they experience today will likely mirror what we adults face regularly. Yet the difference between teenagers and adults is we adults have fully developed brains to carry that load. Teenagers do not. . . not yet.
When stress increases it taxes the still developing teenage brain and a teen's ability to cope with emotional challenges. When a stressed, still developing teenage brain is operating on inadequate sleep, it's a perfect storm for emotional or behavioral challenges to become worse.
The Hurricane, the Eye of the Storm, Then the Storm Again
It is not uncommon that each year, just prior to school starting, teen therapists are inundated with phone calls. Parents are often trying to get their teen into therapy before school starts.
Then, once school starts, the phone calls reduce significantly. For the first several weeks of school, a teen therapist will be busy playing catch up on other things as their time has been freed up not answering inquiry calls.
And then, after the first several weeks of school has ended, the storm of calls hit again! After those first several weeks, it is common that teen therapists start to get flooded with phone calls again from parents seeking therapy for their teen.
Why Might This be an Annual Trend?
Part of the reason for this is parents want to be able to give their teens an opportunity to manage on their own. This can be so empowering for a teen to be able to cope with and manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD/ADD on their own. We see it all the time with teens in therapy.
Another reason is a very practical reason and that is one of scheduling. During the summer time, parents and teens have a flexibility in their schedule to accommodate therapy sessions easier.
Once school starts, holy cow, it doesn't seem that there is enough time in the day, days in the week, and weeks in the year to fit everything in! Parents may want to give their teen a chance to manage on their own plus scheduling a therapy session each week seems heavy given an already packed schedule.
Reasons to Start Therapy or Maintain Your Current Therapy Schedule During School
Yet those parents and teens who bit the scheduling bullet early on and either continue weekly teen therapy or start weekly teen therapy when school starts are often grateful that they did. Their teen and family has a built in specialist in teen therapy and family counseling that can:
Help the teen manage the stress of the school year,
Learn coping skills to manage emotional or behavioral challenges more effectively,
Can resolve the underlying drivers of the emotional or behavioral challenges,
Can address struggles, challenges, and problems as they arise with the teen and allow us to be proactive rather than reactive.
Support the parents in addition to the teen during a stressful time in both the parents and the teen's life
Teens in therapy when school starts tend to do better emotionally, mentally, and academically throughout the school year. The teen and the parents don't have to go it alone. They can have a specialist in teen therapy and family counseling walking with them down the path of happy destiny!
Scheduling Teen Therapy: Parent's Schedule, Family Schedule, & the Teen Therapist's Schedule
I've shared my perspective as a specialist in teen therapy on why it is important to start or continue therapy when school starts and as long as needed during school. Yet one factor remains that is a reasonable factor and one that comes down to practicality -- scheduling.
Schedules for many teens and parents become jam packed as soon as that first week of school starts. It is common and understandable that parents prefer an after school appointment. This is where the two scheduling worlds may collide -- the parents schedule and the therapists schedule.
Parents Scheduling Landscape During the School Year
A parent's schedule during the school year can become complicated. For those of us with teenagers, we have become self taught logistics experts over the years. It reminds me of the game Tetris where the pressure is on to figure out just how we're going to make each piece fit!
Thinking about fitting one more thing into a busy school, sports, and other extracurricular activity schedule can seem overwhelming. Where fitting that therapy session in during the summer was easy, during school it can start to feel heavy.
It's not that going to therapy becomes less a priority for us, it simply comes down to economy of time. How are we going to make it all fit?
A Teen Therapists Scheduling Landscape During the School Year
As teen therapists, our goal is to minimize disruption to a teenager and family's life. During the school year, we will schedule the times between 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. first. This way, we can see teens after school and avoid disrupting their school day.
Yet those "prime" scheduling hours get filled quickly. What's left after those are filled are the morning and early afternoon appointments. With many teen therapists full and having wait lists, you now may find yourself in a position to:
Schedule an appointment during the morning or early afternoon,
Schedule an appointment during a non-core class or free period,
Schedule online counseling to eliminate travel time to office,
As teen therapists, once we have an after school spot open up, we will move teens who have appointment during the day to the after school spot as they become available. Scheduling during the day will not be a forever thing and will be a temporary situation.
Your therapists will also write an excuse letter that all schools and teachers accept. Our experience has been, overwhelmingly, that schools and teachers regularly go out of their way to support your teen and family.
School Districts, schools, and teachers have placed a high priority on student mental health. We have yet to have one of our teens in therapy who scheduled during the day where their grade dropped in the class they were missing for therapy.
A Matter of Importance: Teen Therapy & Mental Health as the Foundation for Success for Today & Tomorrow
As a teen therapist and a having worked with teens, young adults, and families since 2003, there may be a bias towards prioritizing teen mental health. Yet, the bias is there for good reason.
In my experience, those teens and families who see teen therapy and/or family counseling as a top "extracurricular" activity and prioritize it during school, have teens who are happier, can utilize their full potential, and find success and more life fulfillment.
For those teens who are struggling and could benefit from seeing a teen therapist yet choose to put it off, the stress of the school year often begins to wear on them. Symptoms of teen depression, anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety, school anxiety, ADHD/ADD and other struggles can intensify.
I understand that teen therapy is not only an additional expense of the family but it also is a time commitment. I would encourage you to think about teen therapy as in investment into your teen's future -- both short term, long term, and even intergenerational.
The time, effort, and resources you put toward helping your teen overcome the challenges of today will pay off. Overcoming those challenges as a teenager will prevent those challenges from being the obstacles of tomorrow.
Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Specializing in Teen Therapy & Creating Happy Todays & Bright Tomorrows
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we recognize the unique challenges teens face in Katy, Tx and Houston. We also recognize that parents are pulled in a million different directions while school is in session.
We want to help and will work with you as much as possible so that you can schedule your teen with a teen therapist.
If your teen is struggling and you are ready to start your teen in teen counseling, you can follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling, PLLC.
Meet with one of our caring teen therapists.
Take that first step in helping your teen overcome the obstacles of today clearing a path for a bright tomorrow.
Other Teen Therapy, Family Counseling, & Young Adult Therapy Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we have therapists who also provide marriage counseling and couples therapy. The family system in all it's parts helps to make a happy, successful teen. If you are interested in starting marriage counseling or couples therapy, give us a call today.
At our Katy, Tx location, we also provide other teen therapy, young adult counseling, and family therapy services. We have a variety of approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective:
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker. He specializes in teen therapy, young adult counseling, & family counseling. He has provided therapy to teens, young adults, and families since 2003.
Providing therapy services for teens, young adults, and families in the Katy, Tx and Houston area. Call or email today.