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What to Expect from Family Counseling for Depressed Teens

written by: Joy Lynskey • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 11/23/2010

The outcome of teen depression can rely heavily on counseling and therapy services. However, it is often just as important for the depressed teen as well as their family members to attend family counseling together. Understanding what to expect at family counseling can help to relieve some anxiety.

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    Family Counseling for Depressed Teens

    Family counseling for depressed teens can sound like a daunting idea to the teenager who may be suffering from any number of teendepression mental illnesses such as bi-polar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or even attention deficit disorder. These disorders alone can often cause bouts of depression for which the teen may require some counseling to increase the chances of a good outcome.

    Often teens suffering with these types of issues may already feel 'ganged up on' as if it is them against their family. So adding the increased anxiety of a group counseling session, even if that group is family can be cause of more acting out behaviors.

    To reduce the anxiety or concerns your teen may feel about family counseling you should explain to them some of the aspects or activities that may be required of them, as well as the rest of the family during counseling sessions.

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    Family Communication Skill Building Techniques

    During family counseling for depressed teens sessions a therapist may ask one person in the family to tell everyone how they feel about things, what effects them most and what they need from their family as far as emotional support is concerned. Once the person has finished the description, the therapist will ask another family member to repeat back to them what the original individual had asked for.

    This method is used to gauge where the break down in communications is within a family. Often this will result in families who will realize that their preconceptions of things may be clouding their ability to be emotionally supportive of the troubled teen.

    One of the most common issues that teens who are dealing with mental illnesses cope with, is that they have lost the ability to communicate effectively, and their parents may also have lost their ability to communicate because of some personal frustrations themselves. Often this lack of communication can be addressed by entering a teen into a therapy center if the issue cannot be resolved through counseling.

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    Absent Family Counseling Activities

    Since some children and teens have been known to suffer serious issues after the loss of a family member from divorce or even an unexpected death. Another viable way to help the depressed teen as well as other family members is to utilize the Empty Chair method. This method used often by Gestalt therapists allows the depressed teen to share their deepest feelings while talking to a chair which remains empty (to represent the missing family members).

    Sharing repressed or bitter memories in this fashion allows a depressed teen to voice their concerns, fears and emotions towards that missing person without creating the high anxiety that the depressed teen may suffer from if they were able to have a face to face confrontation with that person.

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    Family Council Meetings

    Often family counseling for depressed teens doesn't stop the second you leave the therapist's office. Some therapists will ask that you plan to have family council sessions or meetings at a set time each day where family members who are present are allowed to voice concerns and help to shape rules and conditions for family living.

    In order to increase the chances of having a positive outcome of teen depression, all family members need to be willing to participate and listen to others while knowing they are being understood.