I have a 16 year old sister who has social anxiety and does not respond well to talk therapy. She’s been in IOP, partial, individual therapy, and has a psychiatrist. None of this has been helpful. She is still chronically suicidal, self harms, and stays in her room for most of the day (She’s on medical leave from school).

I think the immense amount of treatment is actually more hurtful than helpful. She doesn’t buy into DBT or CBT and overall doesn’t take therapy seriously.

My question is, how do you deal with teens that are difficult to treat? Are we too involved or not involved enough? Should we look for alternative methods like art therapy? (She is very artistic but hasn’t done much drawing or creating in a long time due to no motivation.) Thank you in advance.

A. Sometimes, mental health problems are not easily resolved. They can be complex. There often is no “magic pill” or instant cure. It can take many changes to medications to find the right type or right mix.

The same is true with therapy. If one therapist isn’t helpful, try another. And if that one isn’t helpful, go on to another. Some therapists are better than others. Perhaps your sister would prefer a male over female or a female over a male. Perhaps she would feel more comfortable with a younger therapist or one who focuses on a particular type of therapy. She should keep trying until she finds the one who can help.

It’s important to remember that the teenage years can be traumatic. They are often the most traumatic times in a person’s life. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents. It’s a rough time.

Adolescents are trying to figure out who they are. They are often filled with many doubts. Will people like me? Am I lovable? Can I find someone who will love me? Where do I fit in? Am I smart enough? Should I choose college and if so which one? What if I choose the wrong major? Will I find a job? And so on. The good news is that the teenage years eventually end.

Finding the right treatment is often a matter of trial and error. She should keep trying different treatments until she finds the one that works best for her. She might also consider group therapy or art therapy. They are certainly worth trying. It is important to be patient, to keep trying and to not give up. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle