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San Diego Teen TherapistsFrequently Asked Questions

What is Teen Therapy?

There are various kinds of therapy for adolescents in San Diego. This site provides information about, and links to, San Diego teen therapists practicing psychotherapy, educational therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

Psychotherapy for Teens 

Teen psychotherapy provides an opportunity for adolescents to gain support, explore problematic areas of their life and receive guidance from a trained and licensed professional. In a safe, non-biased environment, teen psychotherapists help adolescents look objectively at their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, while teaching them various tools to deal with different situations. Psychotherapy for teens provides a space for adolescents to explore their relationships with others, to better understand who they are becoming and to be supported and encouraged to make healthy choices. Various licensed professionals are qualified to treat teens psychotherapeutically including psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage & family therapists, clinical social workers and clinical professional counselors what’s the difference? (make this a link to the “types of therapists” page listing the definitions listed below).

Educational Therapy for Teens

For teens, educational therapy deals directly with the social and emotional aspects that impact learning. An educational therapist will address learning difficulties by creating a supportive learning environment where it is safe to take risks and learn from mistakes. Teens will engage in open communication regarding grades or problems at school in order to find solutions to issues and achieve academic and social goals. An educational therapist provides evaluation, remediation, case management, and communication/advocacy on behalf of adolescents with learning disabilities or learning problems. - Adapted from the Association of Educational Therapists (

Speech Therapy for Teens

Speech therapy is utilized when teens are struggling with issues such as poor language comprehension and expression, stuttering, speech sound production, attention difficulties, memory retention, poor problem solving skills and executive functioning. Teens work directly with speech therapists to improve their language skills and processing abilities in order to improve their overall functioning both at school and in relationships with others.

Occupational Therapy for Teens

Many adolescents struggle with attention difficulties (ADHD) and various other disabilities that hinder their ability to fully participate in both academic and social settings. Occupational therapy can help adolescents partake in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. For example, an OT working with an adolescent that is struggling with ADD would use the intervention of sensory integration to modify the environment to decrease noise and distractions caused by visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation. Additionally, some OT’s provide programs for at-risk youth that address community building and skill acquisition as alternatives to gang membership. Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team. – Adapted from The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (

Physical Therapy for Teens

Whether physical damage is a result of a sports injury, surgery, engaging in risky behaviors, or the result of a chronic illness, physical therapy is an appropriate intervention for teens. Physical therapy treats teen health problems that make it hard to move around and do everyday tasks. Teens working with a physical therapist will be taught specific physical exercises to improve overall physical function as well as receive manual therapy, education, and techniques such as heat, cold, water, and ultrasound to improve their health issue. The goal of physical therapy is to improve or restore physical function and/or reduce pain and swelling. Physical therapy can improve issues including, but not limited to, fractures, surgical corrections, muscles strains and tears, sprains, sports injuries, as well as conditions such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Physical therapy is often utilized in conjunction with other therapies, such as occupational therapy, to improve teens’ overall functioning--physically, academically, socially, and developmentally.

For Teens - How Do I Know If It Is The Right Time For Therapy?

It’s the right time to seek out psychotherapy if you’re been experiencing chronic feelings of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, confusion, fear or have increased your involvement in risky behaviors (substance use, cutting, truancy, etc.). It’s also the right time if you’re struggling to make sense of all the changes your experiencing and don’t feel comfortable talking about it to anyone who is directly involved in your life.

It’s the right time to seek out educational therapy if your learning seems to be impacted by your emotional and social states. If you find yourself filled with anxiety around school issues, have a decreased ability to stay focused at school, if you have chronic difficulties learning, absorbing or retaining academic information, or if you feel that you’ve requested additional support at school and, despite your efforts, your academic needs have not been met.

Usually, teens receive speech therapy or occupational therapy once a recommendation (usually from school) has been made for such services based on an individual evaluation. However, if a referral has not been made and you’re wondering if you might benefit from these therapies, below are some signs that it might be the right time for you to receive these services.

  • It’s the right time to seek out speech therapy if you struggle with stuttering, need to modify the pitch of your voice voice, have trouble understanding and producing language, would like to improve your communication skills by modifying an accent, and have attention, memory, and problem-solving difficulties or disorders.
  • It’s the right time to seek out occupational therapy if you’re having difficulty participating in the things you want and need to do. If ADHD or some other disability is preventing you from participating fully in school and social situations or if you need to recover from injury to regain skills, such as coordination or writing, occupational therapy could help.

It’s the right time to seek out physical therapy if you’re experiencing persistent pain from an injury, surgery or chronic illness. Physical therapy can also be helpful if you’re looking to enhance your overall performance or to improve your endurance and ability.

For Parents – How Do I Know If It Is The Right Time For My Teen To Receive Therapy?

It’s the right time for your teenager to receive psychotherapy if s/he has become chronically despondent, disconnected, irresponsible, and disrespectful or is exhibiting a change in behaviors that negatively impacts their health, their relationships, and/or their responsibilities. It is also the right time for your teen to receive therapeutic support if they’re having difficulty making sense of all the changes they’re experiencing and don’t feel comfortable talking about it to anyone who is directly involved in their life. It’s the right time for your teenager to receive educational therapy if they are getting additional academic services or if you feel your teen qualifies for services but is being denied or under-served. Educational therapists provide services including tutoring, in-class assistance, alternative curriculum development, neutral, third-party classroom observations & reporting, IEP advocacy, and everyday math help.

It’s the right time for your teenager to receive speech therapy if they cannot produce speech sounds or cannot produce them clearly, have speech rhythm and fluency problems (i.e. stuttering), need to modify the pitch or harshness if their voice, have trouble with understanding and producing language, need to improve their communication skills by modifying an accent, and have cognitive communication impairments, such as attention, memory, and problem-solving disorders.

It’s the right time for your teenager to receive occupational therapy if they have difficulty staying focused on an activity, have poor handwriting, experience school work frustrations, appear to be clumsy, have poor social skills and difficulty making friends, have been diagnosed with a developmental, neurological, or congenital disorder, have limited ability to communicate effectively in social or classroom situations, or have a physical disability. For adolescents, occupational therapy is often useful for issues including ADHD, autism, improving emotional health and cognitive development.

It’s the right time for your teenager to receive physical therapy if they continue to experience pain and poor range of physical function from past fractures, sprains, surgical corrections, muscles strains and tears, and/or sports injuries. Physical therapy is also appropriate for your teen if they suffer from neurological or orthopedic conditions as well as other health issues such as spina bfida or cerebral palsy.

What Can I Expect in Teen Therapy?


Teens can expect to be supported in making sense of confusing, difficult and/or worrisome feeling states and situations by talking with a neutral professional. Teens can also expect to gain valuable tools that will improve the overall quality and emotional health of their life. For teens, aged 12-17, they can expect that all sessions will be confidential and that, unless their safety is at risk, no information shared during each of the sessions will be shared with third parties. It should be noted, though, that when a teen is in psychotherapy, the success of the treatment usually requires that the parents/caretakers be kept informed of the teens’ progress and be notified of serious problems such as abuse, self-injurious behaviors or suicidal ideation. Other non-life-threatening matters may be discussed with parents, but only when negotiated with the psychotherapist and teen at the onset of treatment.

Parents can expect that their teens be given objective, healthy support as they learn healthier ways of coping with life and discover who they are becoming. Parents can expect that all sessions will be kept confidential between their teen and the therapist. While general updates on their teens’ progress is likely, session details would be left up to the discretion of the teen themselves. Parents should negotiate with the therapist and teen at the onset of therapy about how they can best support their teen throughout the therapy process. The exception to confidentiality occurs when the teen presents as a danger to himself/herself or others (i.e. suicidal ideation, dangerous levels of alcohol/drug use, etc.) and/or reports any kind of abuse. Therapists are mandated to breech confidentiality in the service of ensuring the safety of clients. Parents must also keep in mind that each teen therapist works differently, some more family focused and others more individually focused. So while it is often difficult for parents to accept that their teen needs to speak to someone else about their most intimate life details, it is crucial that parents feel comfortable and confident in the expertise of the chosen therapist. Parents should expect that all potential therapists are willing to speak about their practice and orientation before making the initial appointment.

Educational Therapy

Teens can expect to receive academic support, which may be in the form of tutoring, in-class assistance, and modification of classroom curriculum. Teens can also expect that their educational therapist be their advocate and communicate their academic needs to their school(s). For example, if a teenager finds that they always run out of time when taking a test, they can expect that their educational therapist will advocate for an evaluation to determine whether or not a learning disability is impeding their ability to complete tasks in a timely manner. Educational therapists are also expected to provide assessments and additional learning tools/techniques to maximize academic success. Teens can expect to work one-on-one with their educational therapist and also have their therapist partake in all school meetings that involve academic or social issues.

Parents can expect that an educational therapist provide assessment and useful modifications and techniques to improve their teens’ capacity to learn and retain information. Parents can also expect that an educational therapist advocate on behalf of their teen to ensure that they are receiving all available school services to maximize their academic success. Educational therapists accompany students and their parents to all school meetings, including IEP reviews and 504 implementation plans.

Speech Therapy

During the course of speech therapy, teens can expect to meet either one-on-one or in a group with their speech therapist to address the goals set during the initial evaluation and be given homework practice assignments to help integrate the skills learned in the therapy sessions. If the speech therapy is offered during the school day and provided for by the school district, it is likely that the speech therapy will include classroom-based activities and consultations with teens’ teachers and parents.

Parents can expect to accompany their teen to the initial appointment in order to provide health and developmental history and specific concerns regarding their teen’s speech and language issues. When appropriate, standardized tests may also be utilized to garner this information. Parents should expect to receive a comprehensive written report outlining all the findings and recommendations. Parents can also expect that speech therapy will include one-on-one time with their teen, classroom-based activities, and consultations between the speech therapist, teachers and themselves. Parents are an integral part of speech therapy as they are asked to ensure that their teen engage in and complete all homework assignments given by the speech therapist.

Occupational Therapy

During OT sessions, teens can expect to engage in activities of both fine motor skill development (i.e. writing) and gross motor skill development (i.e. jumping) and play, to encourage more appropriate motor responses in an active and meaningful way.  Therapy sessions are client-driven and usually fun, but subtly structured. During each session the occupational therapist serves as coach, educator, and role model so that teens may participate actively and learn adaptive strategies for home, school, and with peers. Teens can expect to increase their ability to achieve at school, to improve self-care habits, to enhance their ability to develop appropriate relationships, and to cultivate interests and skills necessary for transition out of high school and into the work or college world.

Parents can expect that their teen will be encouraged to express motor responses in an active and meaningful way in order to develop, recover, or maintain the ability to perform activities in their daily living and school environments. Parents can expect that their teen’s occupational therapist acts as an educator, coach, and role model so that they learn adaptive strategies for home, school and social situations. Parents can expect that as a result of occupational therapy, their teen will improve their activities of healthy self-care, become more successful at school, develop more appropriate relationships, minimize behavior that interferes with academic responsibilities, and gain the skills necessary for transition from high school into the working or college world.

Physical Therapy

Teens and parents can expect that their physical therapist will create a treatment plan based on an evaluation. This treatment plan will directly address the health issue at hand. Teens can expect that their physical therapist will try to reduce pain and swelling and then work to increase their flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination, and/or balance. Teens can expect to be given exercises to do at home such as stretching, core exercises, weight lifting, and walking. Teens can also expect that their physical therapist also may use manual therapy, education, and techniques such as heat, cold, water, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation to improve their health issue.

Parents should expect to encourage and create structure for their teens to ensure completion of physical therapy exercises at home. Both teens and parents can expect that after a course of physical therapy treatment, teens will have healed from injury/surgery, an increased capacity to manage chronic conditions, and have improved health overall.

How Do I Find The Right Teen Therapist?

Finding the right therapist is the key to the success of treatment. It’s imperative that both teens and their parents feel confident in, comfortable with, safe, and accepted by their therapist. Every therapist has his/her own unique personality traits, style, level of expertise and therapeutic orientation. It’s best to find a therapist specializes in your particular area of concern. If you have more knowledge about specific therapeutic interventions, (link here to page that describes modalities of therapy) determine the specific goals of therapy and identify what kind of framework you’d like the therapist to work within. For example, would you like a cognitively based therapist to help with eliminating negative self-talk, an arts-based therapist to help improve teens’ ability to express themselves in a healthy way, a psychodynamically-oriented therapist that may advocate for more conjoint family sessions or an eclectic therapist that integrates various modalities? Or are you looking for a therapist that specializes in increasing academic success and appropriate sociability? Or do you need a therapist that specializes in improving speech and communication skills? It’s also important that you interview potential therapists on the phone inquiring about their education, additional training, specialties, experience and their own personal perspective on treating teens. Keep in mind that it may take meeting with more than one therapist initially before finding the right teen therapist for you.

What Are The Benefits of Teen Therapy?

There are a myriad of potential benefits of teen psychotherapy. Sometimes the greatest benefit of teen therapy is just having the space to candidly express feelings without judgment. The relationship formed between the teen and the therapist is often what is most healing – that teens can be themselves and be met with unconditional, accepting guidance. Some additional benefits of teen therapy may include, but are not limited to, developing an increased ability to handle or cope with life changes, an improved capacity to have healthy relationships, an increase in self-esteem, a more solid sense of self, a clearer vision for the future, an acquisition of insight into personal goals and values and an enhanced ability to make healthy choices. Educational, speech, occupational, and physical therapy for teens offer an array of benefits as well. These may include greater classroom competency and academic success, increased self-esteem, improved ability to socialize appropriately, enhanced skills for effective communication, increased ability to understand and express thoughts, ideas, and feelings, a heightened ability to understand and manage chronic conditions and full recovery from injury or surgery.

Will My Insurance Cover Therapy for My Teenager?

All licensed psychotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists are all eligible to bill insurance for therapy services. Some clinicians are in-network providers. This means that they will bill your insurance company directly and all you have to do is provide your co-pay at each session. Other therapists, while reimbursable, are out-of-network providers. This means that they will not bill your insurance company, but rather provide you with a super bill at the end of each session which you then would submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. With out-of-network therapists, you will be required to pay the clinicians’ full fee at the end of each session. If you have medical insurance and would like to use it for psychotherapy, speech therapy or occupational therapy, be sure to ask the therapist if they are an in-network or an out-of-network provider. Whether or not a therapist takes your insurance is irrelevant to their level of expertise and effectiveness as a clinician. Some therapists choose not to participate in insurance panels because of the limitations set forth by insurance companies and the extra time involved. You can also get a list of local San Diego therapists providing therapy services in your insurance network by calling your insurance company directly.

What Is In the ‘Community Resources’ Section of This Website?

The Community Resource section provides additional referrals to San Diego academic, psychological, developmental, and social programs, organizations, treatment facilities and agencies that treat the needs of San Diego teens and promote their healthy development. In this section you will also find San Diego teen support groups and workshops as well as individual practitioners who are unlicensed, but specialize in working with teens in their families. We have included unlicensed practitioners on this site in order to provide the most comprehensive access to the wide range of services that are available in Sn Diego. Life coaches, mentors, public speakers, for example, can all have a positive and lasting impact on a struggling teen and will offer a different kind of service than a licensed therapist/practitioner.

San Diego Teen Therapist Directory is a resource that locates san diego therapists, san diego psychologists, san diego psychiatrists, who treat many issues that teens face including: depression, anxiety, peer pressure, alcohol and drug use, dating & sexuality, teen pregnancy, self-injurious behaviors, self-esteem/self-image, body image, eating disorders, suicidal ideation behavior, family issues, anger, aggression, violence, puberty/life transitions, impulsivity, hyperactivity (ADHD), academic concerns/low motivation