Medication for teen mental health

The Medication Equation for Teen Mental Health

Your teen has been in counseling for a while now but not much has changed or improved. Your teen seems stuck. There is something in the way of making progress and you hate to see them struggling. You wonder, should I explore medication for my teen? 

The Fear Sets In

I’ve seen it time and time again. When the discussion around medication comes up, there is a rush of anxiety and worry. Will my child become too dependent on meds? Are we taking the easy way out? Maybe they need to learn more coping skills first. What will the side effects be? 


These worries are 100% valid. There is so much unknown in the world of psychotropic meds, especially for youth. You want to make things better and there is fear that meds might make things worse. 



I need to make it clear that I not a doctor 


My knowledge around specific medications is limited. I am not here to go into details about different prescriptions, rather the purpose of this article is to help guide you in making the decision on whether to consider medication as part of your teen’s treatment.


The points that I will make in this article come from my experience working with teens as a counselor for the past 7 years as well as my own perspective as someone who has struggled with anxiety. 


The other purpose of this blog post is to hold your hand as you sift through the questions and concerns that you have. At the end of the day, the decision to start on medication is to be made by you and your teen. It’s a personal one and perhaps an emotional one.


I get that!

A teen girl burying her head in her knees to represent the struggle teens with anxiety feel when nothing seems to help. Therapy for anxious teens in Metairie, LA can help.

Clearing The Clutter

There often comes a time in my counseling work with teens when I start to talk to them and their parents about considering medication. I have a set of criteria that I look for before I make that recommendation. 


I typically do not even discuss medication for teens until I have had several sessions with them and have the foundation of rapport built. One reason that parents bring their teens to me is that I do not make hasty evaluations of the need for meds. 


Once I have been working with a teen for a while and they keep hitting the same road blocks over and over again, that is when I start to have the conversation about medication. When I have a teen consistently showing up for appointments, they are trying the different strategies we’ve talked about, and nothing seems to move the needle, this is when the medication conversation begins. 


I believe that medication serves as a coping skill.


Sometimes it is THE coping skill that needs to be in place for the others to take effect. 


The medication equation that I use is to determine if there is excess clutter keeping them from reaching their goals. When I say clutter, I mean the internal struggle to the point where they keep trying and trying but it seems there is some physical obstruction in their path. This clutter is exhausting them every time they try to clear it because it is just too much. I can usually see the exhaustion on their face at their attempts to clear it. Medication can often times make the boxes in the way a bit lighter and easier to move. 


I think because we cannot see the clutter, it is hard to believe it is there.

This represents the mental clutter that teens with anxiety may be struggling to move without the help of medication for anxiety. Counseling for teens with anxiety can be more effective with the addition of medication. Therapy for teens in Metairie, LA can help you determine if medication is right for your anxious teen.

Getting Personal

I will speak some truth here: most of my medication knowledge is regarding antidepressants (i.e. zoloft, lexapro, prozac, etc.). Antidepressants are often prescribed to individuals who struggle with anxiety, not only depression. 

I like most of you have had hesitations regarding medication for mental health. 


“But your a mental health professional?”


I know you may be thinking that. 


Even though I am a professional, I am also a human.  Most counselors have their own history of mental health which is what draws us to this field. 


My resistance to medication came from being diagnosed with ADHD at age 7 and trying many different medications that were bot a good fit. I also have my own trauma around the diagnosis that I have processed in my adult life.


A few years ago, I was really struggling with anxiety. I have always struggled with anxiety and have gone to my own counseling for it. I have thought about medication in the back of my mind but the judgment of “taking the easy way out” always stopped me. 

The picture of the open book represents the personal experience I have had with taking medication for anxiety and how I think medication can help your anxious teen get to the next step in their mental health treatment. Therapy in Metairie, LA can help your teen learn to use coping skills for anxiety. Medication can be a coping skill.

A Change in Perspective

When I was really struggling with anxiety to the point I was losing sleep and every little thing made me spiral into a worry pit, a friend said something that changed everything.


In this conversation, I told my friend that I do all the things that should help with anxiety, exercise, meditation, eating well, counseling, and the list goes on.


My friend then said, “Cat, medication is just another coping skill.”


When she said that, it changed everything. I had never thought of it that way. 


Do you mean to tell me that what I had seen as an easy way out this whole time could be the missing puzzle piece that would allow the other coping skills to work? 


That is when I realized the medication equation. When you are exhausting yourself trying to cope with anxiety and nothing changes, medication can help those pieces fall into place. 



Without medication, my efforts were like swimming against a riptide. 

A person's hand reaching out of the water represents the feeling of trying to reduce anxiety without proper medication management. Teens with anxiety sometimes need the help of medication for counseling to have a positive effect. Anxiety can feeling like you are drowning or swimming against a riptide. Therapy for teens in Metaire, LA can help.

The Doctor's Visit

With that change in perspective, I decided to make an appointment with a psychiatrist. After all, meeting with the doctor did not mean I HAD to do anything. I could simply gather more information. 


Long story short, after speaking with the psychiatrist, I decided to try a low dose of Zoloft, which is an anti-depressant. 


What helped me make the decision was that the psychiatrist, who was a really cool female doctor that put me at ease, told me that it wouldn’t cause some drastic change to my personality and it was not an addictive medication.


I think the main concern we have about psychotropic meds is that they will suddenly transform us into someone else, and while some drugs have a more immediate and noticeable effect, an anti-depressant takes a while to settle in. Because of that, there is no instant gratification that would make one want to abuse it. 

The doctor sitting at her desk represents what a visit to see a psychiatrist may look like. Teens with anxiety may be nervous to begin taking medication but consulting with a psychiatrist is the best way to determine if medication is the best step for anxious teens. Therapy in Metairie, LA along with medication management can help anxious teens most effectively.

What Happened Next...

Honestly, nothing really happened…at first. 


The first two weeks were a bit rough because my body had to adjust. I learned that serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that plays a large role in regulating mood, is stored in the gut. Because of this, my stomach and appetite were pretty messed up for the first week or so. 


All in all, once I got through those weeks, I still felt like my normal self. I did not notice a drastic change in my personality or mood. It was not until a few months later that I noticed a change. 


The change was subtle, but I noticed my mind felt lighter. There was more room.


It felt like the boxes of clutter that lined my mind had been moved out of the center hallway to the sides.


I was able to walk around, look in the boxes I needed, and keep moving. 


Yes, this is a metaphor so let me explain.


Before medication, I would obsess over every single interaction I had on a regular basis. I would ruminate on what I said, what the other person said, and how I would address it next time. I was living in a false reality because I could not change or predict anything. Words stopped sticking to me like glue. I could let things go and move forward. The coping skills that I had always used were finally making a difference because the clutter that blocked their path was cleared. 

The woman with arms stretched out in front of a mountain represents the feeling of no longer being tied down by crippling anxiety. Teens with anxiety who are not taking medication often feel like nothing helps them feel less anxious. Taking medication can remove the obstacles that are blocking their way to recovery. Therapy for anxious teens in Metairie, LA can help along with medication.

It Does Not Hurt To Try

I realize that my situation is not the same as your teens because I am an adult.

What applies to your teen is that there might be a hallway in their mind that is cluttered with boxes that are too heavy to move. These boxes are preventing progress from taking place and medication may be the coping skill that allows the others to work. 


As a counselor, I do not recommend medication to teens willy-nilly


If I notice that a teen might be working harder not smarter to manage their mental health that is the equation that may equal medication. 


The conversation I have with teens and their parents at this point is that it does not hurt to try. It does not hurt to set up an appointment to consult with a psychiatrist and ask all of the questions you have. It does not mean your teen has to take medication. It simply may be worth exploring. 


The best part is if it does not go well, you can talk to your doctor about making adjustments to the regimen. You can also stop if it is not a good fit. 

Person taking medication while drinking tea represents how taking medication is a coping skill that can help anxious teens just as any other coping skills. Medication for anxious teens may actually be the missing piece for the coping skills learned with their Metairie, LA therapist to work effectively.

Taking Meds Responsibly

taking the plunge to take medication can be scary but there are many ways to be responsible and proactive with your medication. You get to have the power, not the medication!



Little girl jumping into a puddle represents taking the plunge into taking medication. Anxious teens can take medication in a safe and responsible way that does not change who they are as a person. Therapy in Metairie, LA for anxious teens can help teens manage the new routine of taking medication for anxiety.

Keep a Log

You can take control of the experience you have with your medication by keeping track of how it makes you feel on a daily basis. Write down how you feel emotionally and physically each day during those first few weeks. By monitoring your responses to the medication you will be more aware of changes that take place, both positive and negative ones.


I recommend keeping a log at least until the first follow-up appointment with your psychiatrist. Bring the log with you and review it with your doctor. 


The more data you have, the better you can communicate your needs, and thus your doctor can help you more effectively. 


You can keep a log on blank paper, in your phone notes, create a log yourself, or use a fun template from Pinterest.

A tablet, laptop, and calendar represents how keeping a journal or log of their medication side effects can help anxious teens communicate with their psychiatrist about what is working and what is not working. Therapy for anxious teens in Metairie, LA is here to help with more strategies to manage medication routines.

Consistency is KEY!

The only way that medication can work properly is by taking it as prescribed. If you miss doses, forget to refill the prescription, or think “I feel better so I can skip tonight,” the medication will not work and you will experience unpleasant side effects.


Make taking your medication a regular part of your routine just like brushing your teeth. Keep the pill bottle by your toothbrush to help you remember.  Other helpful tops include: setting a reminder in your phone, writing sticky notes, getting fun mirror markers to leave yourself a note in the bathroom. Whatever you can do to remember! 


I once knew a teen who would “trick” herself into taking her medicine by putting the pill bottle in her school shoes so she couldn’t get dressed fully without taking it. That is the most creative strategy I have ever heard of!

Key in a door represents how taking medication consistently is important for the medication to be effective and to mitigate side effects. Anxious teens can use a variety of strategies to remember to take their medication by setting phone reminders and keeping their pills by their toothbrush and making the medication a part of their every day routine. Therapy for anxious teens in Metairie, can serve as accountability for staying consistent with medication.

Stop, Collaborate, and Sign an ROI

When your teen starts to take medication, it becomes an additional part of their mental health treatment. Medication works best in conjunction with counseling and both work even better when all providers work together. 


Legally, your teen’s counselor and psychiatrist cannot speak to one another without written consent. This is where the ROI, or Release of Information, comes in. This is a form that you can fill out with your teen’s psychiatrist and/or counselor to allow them to speak to one another. 


I promise the point of this is not to gossip about anyone! You actually get to specify the content you are giving permission for us to share back and forth and what the purpose of communication is on the ROI form. 


Allowing both providers to communicate is really helpful because we are experts in different realms of mental health treatment and collaborating gets everyone on the same page and we can divide and conquer your mental health as a team. 


The best part of an ROI is you can revoke it anytime you want!

Several hands placed together in the center represents people working together for a common purpose. Anxious teens can see better results if their psychiatrist and counselor communicate with one another and every one works as a team to conquer the anxious teen's mental health. Therapy in Metairie, LA for anxious teens always welcomes collaboration with other providers.

Begin Therapy for Teens in Metairie, LA Today!

If your teen is struggling with their mental health and it’s impacting their ability to fully live and enjoy life, Therapy for Teens at Creative Counseling and Wellness is here to help.


As a Therapist, I have both personal and professional experience with these issues and am prepared to walk this journey of self-discovery with your teen. Follow the steps below to get started. Through ownership, balance, and practice, your teen can own the stage and the stage called life!


Other Mental Health Services Offered at Creative Counseling and Wellness

At my practice, I specialize in working with teens and their families. I work with a wide variety of individuals such as LGBTQ+ Teens, Teens with Anxiety, Theater Teens, Creative/Artistic Teens, Teens Questioning Gender Identity, High Achieving Teens, Teens with Social Anxiety, and Teens Struggling with Perfectionism.


Additionally, I also provide support with Group Therapy for Teens. My own life and experience give me a unique perspective that lends itself to working with teens especially.


Reach out today!

2 thoughts on “The Medication Equation for Teen Mental Health”

  1. It’s so true that in the area of psychotropic medications, especially for young people, there is a lot that is unknown, yet you want to improve things and there is concern that medications can make things worse. This reminds me of my friend who has been struggling with severe depression that hasn’t responded well to traditional therapies and medications. After reading about the potential benefits of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for treatment-resistant depression, they’re now interested in exploring this option though, Hopefully, it works for them.

    1. creativecounselingandwellness

      Hi Lily, one of our counselors actually has a lot of knowledge around ketamine-assisted therapy. His name is Eric and you can read about him on our Meet Our Counselors page if you are interested. He provides therapy for those undergoing that kind of treatment.

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