Skip to the main content.

5 min read

Does my teen need counseling? Teen Counseling Guide for Austin

Teen boy in a therapy session

Being the parent of a teenager can be extremely rewarding. But it also comes with a unique set of challenges, especially in regards to mental health.

A teenager's life is constantly changing, as is their psychology. What happens to your teen now can have an impact on the rest of their life, so prioritizing their mental health is crucial. If your teen's mental health needs some support, it's important to help them get it.

A problem many parents face is that the behavior of a healthy, developing teenager is often alarming and conflicted. How can we tell what's cause for concern and what isn't?

In this article, we're going to unpack the differences between normal, healthy teenage behavior and abnormal mental health concerns that require professional help for your teen.

Key Takeaways:

  • Teen mental health is very important, and sometimes requires support
  • Normal teenage behavior can be hard to distinguish from abnormal behavior
  • Therapy can help your teen stay healthy and safe throughout this formative time in their life

Read more about teen counseling in Austin on this page:

How do I know if my teenager needs counseling?

Find The Right Therapist for Your Teen

How do I know if my teenager needs counseling?

The first step in determining whether or not your teen's mental health needs professional attention is defining exactly what is and isn't normal for a teen.

Teenage behavior is influenced by a number of measurable phenomena that adults don't have to deal with as much, such as:

  • Hormonal changes - During puberty and the teenage years, hormone production increases substantially. For example, from ages 10 to 15, boys can experience a 7-fold increase in maintained testosterone.
  • Psychological changes: A teenager's mind is still developing. Learning about and mapping the world can be a stressful process, and a teenager's worldview is often challenged daily.
  • Social changes - On top of bodybuilder levels of hormonal changes and learning more about this beautiful - but often scary - world, teenagers also have to worry about establishing their identity in the context of a social order.

With all of this happening in a child's brain, it's no surprise that teenage behavior is different from adult behavior. If someone injected you with steroids, told you the world is not what it seems, and then insulted your outfit, you'd get a little turned around as well.

But there is a point at which teenage behavior can be unhealthy. Let's dive into some indicators that your teen may need counseling.

Note that a mental health professional is trained to spot these differences, so don't hesitate to call a therapist and get their take on whether you should book a session.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

What is normal behavior for a teenager?

What is normal behavior for a teenager is a lot of what an adult might consider to be strange behavior.

A teenager who appears to be generally content and performing within necessary parameters at school (that is, not failing) is most likely exhibiting typical adolescent behavior.

The occasional argument, a couple of B's and C's in class, and a locked bedroom door are probably nothing to be concerned about. These things can usually be explained by hormonal changes and too much Call of Duty.

The most important thing to watch for is a drastic change in grades, behaviors, and appearances.

If you notice a sudden change in your teen's behavior or the onset of behavioral issues, it's better to err on the side of caution and talk to a therapist. It might be nothing, but it doesn't hurt to check.

What isn't normal for a teenager, and should be addressed by a therapist?

There are a few specific traits that, if you see them in your teenager, should prompt concern and action. Below is a quick list of many (but not all) of them.

Remember: If you have doubts about whether or not your teen's mental health needs care, go ahead and speak with a licensed mental health professional just in case.

Drastic Changes in Grades

We've listed grades first because they're usually one of the easiest things for a parent to track.

If your daughter's "A" in math turns into an "F," and she refuses to communicate about it, teen counseling may be able to help.

Other academic changes that may be cause for concern include:

  • Not doing homework
  • Focusing solely on schoolwork at the expense of a previously thriving social life
  • Dropping out of extracurricular activities that once excited your child.

Changes in academics or extracurriculars could just be the result of the increasing complexity of school work, changing plans for the future, or "that dang phone," but it's not a bad idea to watch them closely and speak with a professional if you have questions.

Signs of An Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are, unfortunately, one of the most common mental health conditions in teens.

Because of media representations of the "ideal" body, as well as your teen's own changing physiology, the risk of body dysmorphia and, by extension, anorexia or bulimia can be high at their age.

Here are some signs that your teen may have, or be developing, an eating disorder:

  • Sudden change in eating habits
  • Drastic weight loss
  • Obsessing over their weight and appearance

Teen therapy sessions can help address these conditions and put your teen back on the path to mental and physical health.

Signs of Substance Abuse

The teenage years are a highly experimental period in a young person's life, and this can include the use of drugs and alcohol.

While movies and television frequently make light of teenage drug and alcohol use, the reality is that you should closely monitor your teen's substance consumption. Teen drug use is not only one of the most dangerous behaviors that a parent might encounter, but it can also cause legal trouble.

While you shouldn't pry your way into every corner of your teen's life, stay on the lookout for signs of trouble.

Here are some signs of substance abuse that may indicate that your teen has a problem:

  • Drastic changes in personal hygiene or self-care; consistently red eyes
  • Intense irritability in discussions about using drugs
  • Strange odors on their breath or clothes
    • Marijuana can smell like fresh cut grass, skunks, or gasoline
    • Methamphetamine and heroin can both smell like vinegar or ammonia if smoked
  • Scarring on veins
  • Inexplicable and consistent gaps in their day-to-day schedule
  • A drastic change in their chosen social circle, particularly towards other teens who seem to be bad influences
  • Active intoxication: Looking spaced out, not responding to questions, stumbling, falling asleep in the middle of tasks, or acting aggressively.

Be ready to have hard conversations or book a teen therapy session if you need to, because it's important to catch drug use early.

Because drug abuse problems can hurt your teen's brain and life in ways that can't be fixed, you can be better prepared if you talk to a parental therapist ahead of time. Many therapists are trained to address teen substance use concerns and can teach you valuable tools and methods to use if they ever become necessary.

A teen's experimentation with drugs and alcohol can quickly change from the "having a beer with dad" scene in a coming-of-age movie into a severe and urgent mental health emergency, so it's not something to take lightly.

Find The Right Therapist for Your Teen

Your teen may not know it (or, let's be honest, admit it), but they're counting on you to guide them, protect them, and help them develop into the person you know they can be. 

If you're worried that your teen may need counseling, you should speak with a mental health care professional.

Williamsburg Therapy Group staffs a world-class and highly available team of child and adolescent psychologists in the Austin area. Don't hesitate to schedule an appointment or give us a call with any concerns.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today


A woman with postpartum depression

How Postpartum Depression is Treated

Pregnancy, birth, and the immediate aftermath of parenting are times of enormous change and upheaval in a person's life. Pregnant and postpartum...

Read More
a teen in therapy

Effective Therapy Activities for Teens

Most of us understand that there is some difference to how therapy sessions are structured for teens and adults. However, many parents may be...

Read More
therapy office in austin

What Should I Do If I'm Attracted to My Therapist?

A strong therapeutic relationship can be essential to success in therapy, but when the professional relationship begins to take on romantic feelings...

Read More