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Teens and young adults: Getting early help with therapy

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

As a parent it can feel like walking through a minefield navigating your teen or young adult’s emotions. We know that a young person is more susceptible to stress and anxiety as their brain is still developing, but how do we know when our child may need professional support to manage their anxiety?

Lack of early support

The first line of support for most parents is typically an appointment with their child’s GP. The GP provides the vital referral mechanism to specialist mental health services, but this service is not without its challenges. A 2019 UK GP survey showed that:

  • Only 20% of GPs felt they’d had sufficient training in adolescent mental health

  • Only 10% felt confident that a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) would result in treatment

  • Only 8% agreed that there was good local community support for children and young people with mental health problems (e.g. through youth clubs, local charities, drop-in centres etc.).

These results are worrying. They show that GPs are very much on the front line when it comes to mental health, but don’t have the resources to deal with clients effectively or to refer with confidence to specialist services. The current waiting time for referrals to CAMHS is up to 18 months, dependent on where you live, plus around 20% of young people are rejected for referral because they do not meet their eligibility criteria.

The excellent mental health charity YoungMinds found that the longer children were left to wait for mental health support, the more likely it was that their mental health worsened. In a survey of over 2,000 parents, 76% said that their child’s mental health deteriorated while waiting for CAMHS.

The pandemic impact

Roll on to 2020 with NHS research showing that mental health disorders have increased from one in nine 5-16 year olds in 2017 to one in six in 2020. Conditions which have seen big increases include self harm, eating disorders and sleep problems, with triggers for these conditions aggravated by pandemic restrictions, including separation from friends, arguments with parents, unresolvable arguments on social media, strained finances, academic stress, and feelings of isolation.

What can I do?

Early intervention is key. If you are concerned that your teen or young adult is struggling, or their health is deteriorating whilst waiting for a CAMHS referral, reach out for help.

Sources of help

YoungMinds offers a Parents Helpline to give you advice on how to get support.

Online resources

There are a number of good online websites including:

School or colleges

Talk to your child’s school or college pastoral team to see what support they can offer, including support referrals and making school/college less pressurising.

Going private

Private talking therapy, such as hypnotherapy, can provide the much needed early intervention that a young person needs by offering quicker access to regular, dedicated sessions over what is generally a longer time period than the NHS can offer.

Going private is not affordable for everyone, but prices are accessible when you compare them to other regular outgoings such as cosmetic treatments or takeaways / eating out. They may also be covered by private health insurance.

Solution focused hypnotherapy and young people

Solution focused hypnotherapy is a talking therapy which is becoming more mainstream as a service for young people. It asks them to explore their best hopes for now and the future, rather than asking them to dig into their past and the feelings associated with this.

Sessions do not tell young people what to do - they choose their own solutions. There is no rap the week after if they didn’t meet their goals; young people respond better if they are treated with respect and empowered to make their own decisions.

They also have a natural advantage over older people with hypnotherapy in that their brain is more plastic, giving them a more flexible imagination and growth mindset. This makes them great candidates as they are able to readily accept and connect with the positive language suggestions used in each session.

Sessions typically use relaxation techniques for the last 20 minutes which most young people really enjoy, and are already familiar with through using apps such as Headspace, Calm or YouTube recordings.

What hypnotherapy gives teens and young adults

  • An understanding of how their brain works and how they get to feel the way they do

  • A regular way of reducing their anxiety

  • It improves their sleep (crucial for this age group, particularly teens)

  • It increase their resilience by creating a lifetime self-care toolkit

  • A greater respect for the importance of exercise, social interaction and positive thinking

If you are worried about your teen or young adult’s mental health, please do get in touch for a chat. Early intervention is key to supporting them.

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