Therapy with Teens

 Why is Teen Therapy Important?

From driver’s licenses and first kisses to bullying and breakups, teens face a unique rollercoaster of life experiences.

Adolescence marks a chaotic period of physical, social, and psychological change (see Dacey & Travers, 2002).  Teens must constantly adapt to the stressors and demands that come with transitioning to young adulthood, leaving many feeling disoriented and overwhelmed.  And the youth in the Newport Beach, California area are no exception.  

To make things worse, the changes in the brain during adolescence can affect levels of impulsivity, risk-taking, and decreased self-control (Romer, 2010).  Research has estimated the prevalence of mental illness amongst teens in the United States (ages 13 to 18) to be 22%, including anxiety, depression, and drug/alcohol use as the most common disorders.

Fortunately, psychotherapy for teens has been found to be an effective treatment option (Cartwright-Hatton et al, 2004). 

Although we hope to provide support and treatment for struggling teens, many are reluctant to participate in therapy services.  This is particularly true for teenage boys (Chandra, & Minkovitz, 2006). 

Therapy for teens can be particularly useful for addressing issues such as (DSM-5):

  • Aggression and anger
  • Conflict with a parent or family member
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Self-harm behavior (cutting, burning, etc.)
  • Social anxiety
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Sadness or depressed mood
  • Test or academic anxiety
  • Use of drugs or alcohol
  • Running away from home
  • Attention problems (A.D.H.D.)
  • Bodyweight management
  • Social problems
  • Cyberbullying (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Abuse victimization

Issues like these, left untreated, can dramatically affect your teen’s potential for growth and success. 

Together, we can bring your teen one step closer to wellbeing. 

How is Teen Therapy Different?

Therapy with teenagers may look very different from therapy with adults or young children.  

Legal differences are particularly important, especially for laws about confidentiality and family involvement in treatment. Under California State Law, children who are 12 years of age and older may consent to their own treatment (Code § 6924).  However, parents must be involved in the treatment at some point (with a few exceptions).  This means that teens can come to therapy and have an additional layer of privacy, thereby allowing them to share more freely with the therapist.  Of course, if there is a risk of harm to self or others (such as suicidality or self-harm), such information would be shared with the parent to ensure the client’s safety. 

How Does Dr. Montgomery Run Teen Therapy?

Your teen’s health is my priority. 

Most teen clients are brought to the office by a parent/guardian (often, involuntarily), which means some time must be spent building trust and security (see Shirk, Carver, & Brown, 2011; DiGiuseppe, Linscott, & Jilton, 1996).  I typically invite teen clients to guide sessions to promote feelings of autonomy and control early in treatment. 

We begin by identifying goals for treatment (Ford & Cloitre, 2009).  Some examples of this might include:

  • Improving grades at school
  • Reducing screen time
  • Building or repairing trust with family members
  • Decreasing risky behaviors
  • Managing suicidal thoughts
  • Increased feelings of wellbeing
  • Motivation for healthy eating
  • Identifying emotions and triggers
  • Noticing unhelpful ways of thinking
  • Boundaries with social media and internet use

Based on the goals of the parent and teen, I design a research-based treatment plan for the therapy process.   

I primarily draw from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), one of the strongest research-based treatment modalities for teens (Weisz, McCarty, & Valeri, 2006; Sukhodolsky, Kassinove, & Gorman, 2004).  CBT focuses on changing the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that keep your teen from living a happy, healthy life.  However, I also believe in a strengths-based approach that utilizes your teen’s abilities and talents to expedite their progress (see Helton & Smith, 2014).

Over the course of treatment, I carefully monitor your teen’s improvements and adjust as-needed.  As we continue to meet goals for treatment, we may continue setting new ones that challenge and inspire your teen to reach new heights. 

I believe that your teen has the power to make real change in their life. 

Interested?  Let’s Connect!

If you or your teen are interested in therapy services, please contact me as soon as possible. I would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have about my practice. 

It is never too late for your teen to receive treatment.  I believe I can help make a difference in your teen’s life. 

Together, we can help them reach their potential. 

Read About Dr. Montgomery

Dr. Montgomery holds dual certifications in Clinical Psychology (California Board of Psychology PSY28475) and Family Therapy (California Board of Behavioral Sciences MFT49608). He has dedicated his professional and academic activities to understanding and addressing psychological, behavioral and interpersonal health in children, adolescents, and families. 


  • Psy.D. Clinical Psychology
  • M.A. Clinical Psychology
  • M.S. Counseling Psychology
  • B.A. Psychology

Want to learn more about me? 

Click on the About tab to find out more about my credentials and get a better sense for who I am.

Want to Learn More? 

Want to learn more about therapy, assessment, and mental illness?  

Check out the tabs above, or click on the links below:


Cartwright‐Hatton, S., Roberts, C., Chitsabesan, P., Fothergill, C., & Harrington, R. (2004). Systematic review of the efficacy of cognitive behavior therapies for childhood and adolescent anxiety disorders. British journal of clinical psychology43(4), 421-436.

Chandra, A., & Minkovitz, C. S. (2006). Stigma starts early: Gender differences in teen willingness to use mental health services. Journal of adolescent health38(6), 754-e1.

Dacey, J. S., & Travers, J. F. (2002). Human development across the lifespan (Vol. 1). McGraw-Hill College.

DiGiuseppe, R., Linscott, J., & Jilton, R. (1996). Developing the therapeutic alliance in child—adolescent psychotherapy. Applied and Preventive Psychology5(2), 85-100.

Ford, J. D., & Cloitre, M. (2009). Best practices in psychotherapy for children and adolescents. Treating complex traumatic stress disorders: An evidence-based guide, 59-81.

Helton, L. R., & Smith, M. K. (2014). Mental health practice with children and youth: A strengths and well-being model. Routledge.

Merikangas, K. R., He, J. P., Burstein, M., Swanson, S. A., Avenevoli, S., Cui, L., ... & Swendsen, J. (2010). Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders in US adolescents: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication–Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry49(10), 980-989.

Romer, D. (2010). Adolescent risk taking, impulsivity, and brain development: Implications for prevention. Developmental psychobiology52(3), 263-276.

Shirk, S. R., Karver, M. S., & Brown, R. (2011). The alliance in child and adolescent psychotherapy.

Sukhodolsky, D. G., Kassinove, H., & Gorman, B. S. (2004). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anger in children and adolescents: A meta-analysis. Aggression and violent behavior9(3), 247-269.

Weisz, J. R., McCarty, C. A., & Valeri, S. M. (2006). Effects of psychotherapy for depression in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin132(1), 132.