Although depression is a very serious mental health issue, only about 30% of those who suffer from it seek treatment. U.S. Olympic Swimming 28-time Medalist Michael Phelps was one of them. He now knows the value of how a therapist can help with depression. In an interview with CNN, Phelps opens up about his struggles with depression and the process of talking to a mental health professional. Phelps said that he felt like he had to hide what he was going through, and he doesn’t want others to feel the same. “It’s a dark, dark road sometimes, and you just want to make sure you are staying open.”[i]
Like Phelps, many teens experience the symptoms and challenges of depression yet struggle through them alone in silence. Research has shown that teens who do not receive treatment for their depression are more likely to engage in self-harm and even suicide. In fact, statistics show that every 100 minutes, a teenager in the United States commits suicide[ii]. Fortunately, Michael discovered that speaking to a therapist was very helpful to him and he now encourages others to seek the professional help of therapists like those at Beachside Treatment Center.
Many teens believe that no one can help them or that their situation is so dire that there is no solution. They do not see that there is a light that can break through their darkness. And maybe they don’t see it because they simply have never been made aware that there is help available to them.
How can a Therapist Help with Depression?
In their deepest, darkest hour, a teen suffering from depression may think that there is no end in sight. Their sadness and despair are like a deep well, interfering with the activities of daily life. Some may think that admission that they are experiencing signs of depression is also a sign of weakness. Depression is neither a display of weakness nor should it prevent them from living life. In fact, depression is fully treatable and teens can learn to manage their symptoms to live a fulfilling, happy life. Michael Phelps is not simply another athlete advocating for a cause. He has received the life-changing benefits of being treated by a therapist for his depression. As he had already avoided his disorder for years, he finally got up the courage to face his mental health issue.
Therapists like those at Beachside Treatment Center and others who have helped Michael are highly trained mental health professionals. They are experienced in the many types of treatment for depression and understand how depression and other mental health disorders can impact a person’s thoughts, emotions, and everyday decisions in life. It is their goal to help a teen recover and develop the many coping mechanisms to keep them on the right track.
There are several common types of psychotherapy or talk therapy that a therapist or psychiatrist may use as part of a treatment plan:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is used to help patients to identify their negative behaviors and thought patterns. Through therapy, teens learn to change any limiting beliefs about that may contribute to the depression and alter their behaviors accordingly toward a more positive path.
Through Interpersonal Therapy or IPT, teens develop relationships with others by expressing their feelings and emotions. They learn problem-solving skills, build social skills, and establish supportive relationships to help them cope when life gets tough.
Talk therapy is an empowering experience for those who suffer from depression. But for therapy to be successful and for the teen to receive the most benefit, they must be comfortable with their therapist. Consider a therapist as being like a good friend who you can share your thoughts and feelings with. You certainly would not feel comfortable pouring your heart out to just anyone and neither would your teen.
How to find a Therapist?
If you suspect that your teen is experiencing depression, you must seek the advice of trained mental health professionals. But this may be easier said than done especially after reading about the comfort level that is required. Not everyone will receive the same benefit from every therapist but there is certainly a therapist for everyone.
The first place to begin would be to contact your teen’s pediatrician. They can guide you toward a therapist who can best evaluate and treat your teen’s depression. You may be referred to a facility like Beachside Treatment Center where there are a variety of social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists to choose from to ensure the best fit with your teen. Again, your teen will have the best opportunity to recover from depression and to enjoy their life if they feel comfortable enough to share their negative thoughts and feelings.
Stigmas about therapy
Unfortunately, therapy has been portrayed in the movies as being ineffective or that patients experience the big AH-HA moment! Therapists may have been referred to negatively and patients never seem to recover. Sadly, this representation has led to the stigma that swirls around and is perpetuated around mental health disorders and the hesitation that many teens have in seeking help. In reality, therapists have been effective in helping many people to overcome their struggles with depression.
Breaking the barrier
Breaking through this stigma barrier about therapy and therapists will help many teens receive the treatment that they need to fully recover from depression. To do so requires the truth to be revealed.
Progress happens gradually. Therapy is a series of small breakthroughs rather than the big AH-HA moments as depicted in many movie scenes. Although a teen may gain an understanding of their behaviors, the change or correction will take work and effort both inside and outside of therapy sessions.
Therapy is not a cure. Teens suffering from depression are not broken. They do not need fixing or to be ‘cured’. Instead, through talk therapy, they learn new skills to deal with the challenges of life.
The couch is gone. The stereotypical couch in a therapist’s office has been replaced by a one-on-one conversation that is viewed as more of a problem-solving session with a trusted friend or advisor than an unsympathetic, impersonal “chat”.
Therapists don’t tell you what to do. The philosophy of talk therapy is that teens get to air their feelings and emotions. Therapists guide them down the path of discovering their purpose, the reason for their negative thoughts, and the solutions that are possibly the best for the teen. But, unlike popular opinion, therapists do not tell a teen what to do.
Therapy is a relationship. As we talked about earlier, a teen must be comfortable with the person to whom they are going to be revealing their darkest thoughts. Trust is essential in any relationship, especially one in which a person shares the negative thoughts associated with their depression and mental health.
The root of depression does not have to be connected to childhood. Another stigma of therapy has been that depression has somehow been connected to a person’s childhood. In the case of a teenager, since they are technically still children, there does not have to be a correlation. The source of their depression does not have to be some unconscious issue that existed or occurred just a few short years ago.
Therapy is not easy. This is certainly a truth that can be as painful as it is difficult. Although you must be optimistic that therapy will help your teen suffering from depression, you must also understand that the road will not be easy. For many people, the process of opening up about their thoughts and feelings is the most difficult part while for others what happens next, the change in beliefs can be more difficult.
Therapists don’t get a thrill from analyzing people. Therapists are people who enjoy helping others. Unlike the movies, there is no Sherlock Holmes-style motivation to solve the big mystery behind your teen’s depression. They are in this profession to help people to cope with this possibly debilitating issue just like a medical doctor wants to help a sick patient.
Male or female? The gender of the therapist has no reflection on their skill level or ability in helping your teen to receive treatment for their depression. Again, it all goes back to your teen’s comfort level with the person and the bond that is created which opens them up to share and obtain the skills that they need to fully recover.
Depression is not a death sentence nor a life sentence but rather a mental health issue that with proper diagnosis and treatment from an experienced therapist is manageable and teens can live a healthy, fulfilled life. It is important though that if you suspect that your teen is suffering from depression, be sure to reach out to a trained, professional therapist like those at Beachside Treatment Center.
As Michael Phelps has unashamedly shared with the world, “it’s okay to not be okay.” When he finally decided to ask for help, “it was one of the best decisions of my life.” Talking to a therapist saved this Olympian’s life.