Counseling for Your Teen: What to Expect

The American Counseling Association (ACA) has designated April as Counseling Awareness Month. The ACA focuses its promotions on all mental health counselors, including those working with teens and adolescents. Many teens are in therapy today trying to cope with a variety of teenage problems. So, let’s take the opportunity to talk about what you and your teen can expect if you decide that your teen could benefit from teen counseling.

Getting Help for Mental Health Issues Isn’t Shameful

The Office of Adolescent Health (a government agency) reports that approximately one in five adolescents will experience some type of mental health issue. It’s important to understand that there is no longer a stigma attached to seeking help for a psychological problem. After all, if your teen breaks a leg, you will take the teen to an orthopedic doctor. If your teen has an earache, you will make an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Thinking along these lines, you should readily recognize that if your teen is depressed, suffering from an eating disorder, or has some other kind of mental health issue, you should take your teen to a specially trained teen counselor.

Why Do Teens Have Mental Health Problems?

Teen mental health relates to how a teen acts, feels, and thinks in different situations. All teens experience times when they think or feel something that they don’t like. Or, they may do things that other people don’t like. Both of these situations are normal. However, teens can be said to have mental health issues when they regularly experience actions, feelings, or thoughts that create obstacles in their lives that they have difficulty overcoming. Teen counselors have been trained to understand and help the teen overcome such problems.

What Does Teen Counseling Consist of?

Counseling for teens falls into three main categories: individual, group, and family therapy. A teen will participate in one or more kind of counseling depending on the teen’s individual needs. Generally, therapy will last at least three months on a once-a-week basis, but counseling sessions are designed to continue for as long as necessary. Some problems may resolve very quickly. More complex issues take longer before progress is made, and your teen might be in counseling for a year. Here are some details on each type of therapy: 

  • Individual Therapy

A teen will meet with a therapist on a one-to-one basis for about an hour. The therapist will work to gain the trust and confidence of the teen so that the teen will feel comfortable talking about their problems. The teen might be given “homework” that will help them get through their everyday life. Everything the teen confides to the therapist is confidential. The only exception to confidentiality is if the therapist has good reason to believe that the teen might hurt themselves or someone else.

  • Group Therapy

Being part of a group allows the teen to learn how other teens handle similar problems and practice new ways to manage their own. Starting out in a new group is bound to be a little scary at first. However, the group therapist will work to make the teen feel more comfortable with the other group members as the sessions progress. It’s common practice for groups to consist of approximately five teens and there may be two counselors. The group leaders will raise topics and ask questions, but each teen is free to ask their own questions. Group therapy sessions usually last about ninety minutes.

  • Family Therapy

Sometimes it’s beneficial to get family members involved with a teen’s counseling. Family members usually mean parents but can include brothers and sisters. Because everyone is present, the therapist can work on problems affecting the whole family. The therapist will discourage interruptions, and make sure everyone gets to voice their concerns.


Here at Doorways we understand the importance of a teen having a good relationship with their therapist. Our trained counselors will know how to gain the trust and confidence of your teen. We counsel individuals in the age group of 13-25, so if your teen or young adult could benefit from counseling, book an appointment with us. Doorways always offers a free consultation to parents and caregivers. We can help you decide if counseling is right for your teen.

The Importance of Resiliency

By Rich Killen, LAC, Licensed Associate Counselor

Confucius once said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”.

What Confucius is talking about here is a concept used in psychology circles called, “resiliency”.

To put it simply, resiliency is an ability to recover from adversity. You can find this word used in several different areas ranging from a person’s resiliency as it relates to experiencing trauma or an athlete’s ability to be resilient during a game or a competition.  For the sake of this article, I will be referring to the latter. Super Bowl LI turned out to be a great demonstration of this particularly on the part of the New England Patriots and more specifically, Tom Brady. This game featured the underdog Atlanta Falcons and the favored New England Patriots. However, despite the predictions, we saw these Patriots losing by 25 points in the third quarter. To put this in context, no team has ever overcome more than a 10 point deficit in any Super Bowl. This Falcons team that was considered by many to have one of the best offenses in the league which consisted of the league MVP at quarterback. For a team that has been as proficient on offense as the Falcons were this year and considering the lead that they had, they should not have lost the Super Bowl.

Much of the current research on “resiliency” has suggested that it is a skill that can be improved upon when practiced. Some of this same research also suggests that “resilient” people are those that believe they can have some control over what is going on in their life as opposed to an individual that believes there is nothing they can do to change their situation. This is where Tom Brady and the Patriots excelled. They believed that they still had control over the game, or to put it another way, they believed that they could still win the game. The reality is that Tom Brady has had 49 game winning drives in his career including 5 in the Super Bowl. So even though no team has ever overcome a 10 point deficit in the Super Bowl this win was not without precedent. As long as there was still time on the clock the Patriots still believed they could win.

This is what great athletes do. They have an unshakable confidence in themselves knowing that despite the score and despite the circumstances, they have the potential to overcome. Another example of this is Tiger Woods (the Old version not the current version). Nineteen times he was won despite trailing going into the final round. Often times he would hit his tee shot in the rough leaving him with difficult approach shots. However, he had this same unshakable confidence that despite his circumstances that he would be able to overcome the undesirable situation that he put himself in. Building “resiliency” is a skill and it takes lots of practice, and often with anything that is being practiced, there is a lot of failure that is endured. However, when an athlete is able to utilize this skill it often leads to a performance of epic proportions.

Rich Killen LAC, Licensed Associate CounselorRich has  Masters degrees in Mental Health Counseling and Sport and Exercise Psychology from Argosy University-Phoenix. He has worked with families and at-risk youth and has also worked within a Partial Hospitalization Program for individuals struggling with addiction. In addition to this experience, he has also worked with athletes and other individuals interested in improving their performance and success in life, school, and their careers. Rich has a passion for people and helping them achieve their goals.

How Counseling Can Help Your Teen

Counseling can be helpful to anyone of any age and background, but teens especially have not yet learned the tools to deal with their emotions, and may not feel comfortable talking to family or friends about their problems.

therapist talking with counseling group

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 20 people over the age of 12 report feeling depressed. Whether your teen is dealing with anger issues, anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, self-harm, or an eating disorder, therapy can be a great benefit to them, even if their problems don’t seem very severe. Here are some ways counseling can benefit your teen.

They will feel heard and validated

The Center for Young Women’s Health says that if you have symptoms of depression for more than two weeks, it’s time to get help. By encouraging your teen to talk to someone, you are validating that their feelings are real and not their fault. The therapist will further make them feel validated by confirming that they are not wrong to feel the way they do. Many teens’ depression stem from feeling alone or like no one is listening to or believing them. Talking to a therapist can help just by making them feel heard, and not like they are making their problems up.

They will be given coping mechanisms and tools

As adults, years of experience have taught us how to cope with our feelings and given us tools to overcome them, and even we can all benefit from therapy. Teens do not have the skills adults do to deal with their emotions. Therapy will give them healthy coping mechanisms to deal with their problems now and for the rest of their lives. Building healthy habits as teens and learning to cope with emotions in a healthy way will help them for the rest of their lives, even if they are only in therapy for a short time.

They will gain perspective

Being depressed or having another mental health issue can distort reality in ways it is hard for teens to realize for themselves. A therapist can help illuminate these perceptions and how they may not be accurate. For instance, if a teen is feeling depressed because they feel like no one likes them, a therapist can help them see that this may not be the case. People may not see them the way they think they do. For teens, they may not even be consciously aware they have these thoughts, and even if they do, may not realize why they think them or that they may not be true. Realizing many of their depressing or anxious thoughts are fears rather than realities can be an enormous relief.

There is very little risk or negative consequences of counseling for adolescents. If they are harming themselves or have thoughts of suicide, it is essential to get professional help right away, but even if their problems seem mild or less severe, therapy can provide benefit to their health and increase the quality of their daily life for now and for the rest of their lives.

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Doorways Offering Free 15 Minute Parent Consultations

Wonder if you need to hire a teen counselor? Talk to one of our therapists!


Raising a teenager can be a daunting responsibility. Even parents who seem to “have it all together” are facing challenges that generations before them did not encounter. Technology, social media, violence and increasingly busy schedules are just a few issues that make parenting a teen more difficult than ever before.

Too many parents wonder:

  • Does my teen need help or not?
  • Why am I struggling with communicating with my teen?
  • Am I losing control?

Doorways, a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, recognizes that parents need help. The team of providers at Doorways offers services geared specifically towards adolescents and their families. Beginning in October and running through December 31st, Doorways will offer free 15-minute Parent Consultations. Parents will have the opportunity talk in person or over the phone with a counselor on staff at Doorways.

What: Free 15-minute phone consultation with a certified therapist specializing on counseling for teens and adolescents

Why: Parents and guardians of teenagers need help, support and resources, have questions

When: By telephone or in person appointment

How: Call Doorways at 602-997-2880 for availability and to schedule an in-person or phone appointment

Parents seeking to find hope and healing for troubled teens, or just need some input on how to tackle a specific issue can find support and resources at Doorways. The adolescent and young counseling organization in Phoenix hopes to come alongside and renew a sense of hope and healing in these families. The highly qualified providers at Doorways have a true heart for young people and are committed to equipping both young people and parents to navigate through whatever issues they might be facing.


The ABCs of Children’s Mental Health

Mental Health Resources

Here are some great resources to help you understand the ABC’s of mental health (photo credit:

May is Children’s Mental Health Month which is a great time to talk about where parents can find more information about the mental health conditions their adolescents may be struggling with. While there is no substitute for the expertise and information provided by a qualified mental health practitioner, this version of the ABCs can help parents learn more about the mental health conditions commonly seen in teenagers so they have the information they need in order to know when it is time to seek help, what questions to ask, and how to ensure their child or teenager gets the mental health support and services they need.


Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens: A Parent’s Guide from the National Institute of Mental Health
  • Children and Teens with Bipolar Disorder from
  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder from the National Alliance on Mental Illness


Cutting and Self Harm

  • Understanding Teen Cutting and Self Injury from
  • Self Injury and Cutting from the Mayo Clinic
  • Self Injury in Adolescents from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • A Silent Cry for Help: Understanding Self Harm from Psychology Today


Eating Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • OCD in Children and Teens from the International OCD Foundation
  • Child and Adolescent OCD from the National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • OCD in Teens from Beyond OCD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Suicide Prevention

  • Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide website
  • Preventing Youth Suicide – Tips for Parents and Educators from the National Association of School Psychologists
  • Teen Suicide is Preventable from the American Psychological Association
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
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4 Common Types of Counseling, Explained

In honor of National Counseling Month,here are the different types of counseling we offer at Doorways (photo credit:

In honor of National Counseling Month, here are just four different types of counseling we offer at Doorways (photo credit:

April is Counseling Awareness Month which provides us with an excellent opportunity to talk about the different types of therapy that are often grouped under the “counseling” category.

For anyone new to mental health services, it can feel like the providers you are working with are speaking a different language.

Because there are several different therapeutic techniques available, seeking out services for your teen can easily become overwhelming.

To help you feel more comfortable reaching out and getting your teenager the help he or she needs, here is a breakdown of the most common types of psychotherapy in use today.

Gaining a basic understanding of the types of services available can help you to make an informed decision.

To help, here is a basic overview for each of the four most common types of counseling or therapeutic techniques used with teens.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

When people talk about going to “therapy” this is generally what they mean.  CBT is one of the most common types of therapy provided to teens and is often used as a foundation for treatment that can be combined with other types of therapy.

The premise of CBT is that our early lives including our childhood, upbringing, and the environment in which we were raised dictate who we become.

This means that the dysfunctional patterns and coping strategies we learned in our childhood and adolescence follow-us into adulthood.

CBT works to identify and replace the dysfunctional areas with healthy alternatives primarily through talk therapy.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy uses key behavioral modifications to effect change in thought patterns and emotional responses.

It is much more structured than CBT and focuses on changing behaviors in order to overcome challenges.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT uses the same techniques for learning to regulate and manage emotion as CBT but pairs them with practices like mindfulness and acceptance.

Although this type of therapy was originally developed as a way to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it is also proving to be effective at helping those who participate in self-harm like cutting and those with mood spectrum disorders.

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy takes a completely different approach to helping those with mental health concerns that the behavior-based therapies listed above.

Here, any dysfunction resulting from childhood experiences, traumatic events, or learned behaviors is irrelevant.  Instead, this method of treatment centers on self-actualization, fostering the idea that people are responsible for their own choices and that what matters is taking responsibility for the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are being experienced.

It is important to remember that these are only the most common therapeutic approaches used in treating mental health concerns that are often combined with these foundational techniques to better meet the needs of the individual client.

Most mental health providers will have a variety of tools in their toolbox which enables them to tailor their approach to treatment to the strategies, techniques, and tactics that are the most suitable for the situation.

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Only Half of Teens with Mental Health Issues Get Treatment

Teen Counseling

Help ensure your teen gets the help they may need (photo credit:

A recent study published in the journal Psychiatric Services indicates that more than half of all teenagers dealing with mental health disorders go untreated. Additionally, even when these kinds of disorders receive some treatment, the person doing the treating may not be a mental health provider.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, Harvard Medical School, and the National Institute of Mental Health. Using the results from the National Co-morbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement, the team looked at data from more than 10,000 U.S. teenagers. Their findings underline the importance of getting teenagers the help and support they need to overcome the challenges that often accompany mental health issues.

The study showed that of those teens with had a psychiatric disorder, only 25-45% had received any kind of treatment for that disorder in the previous 12 months. The findings, however, are not consistent across the board. Teens with specific mental health problems including ADHD, Conduct Disorder, and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, were more likely to receive treatment with at least 70% of the participants with those conditions receiving treatment in the previous year.

On the flip side, teens with phobias and anxiety disorders were the least likely to have received treatment in the past 12 months with only about 40% for each condition.

Only 23% of the teens who are getting some help with their mental health issues are receiving that help from traditional mental health providers like therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Many teens are being treated by alternative providers like the guidance counselor at their school or their pediatrician. In some cases, the person providing the majority of the teen’s mental health treatment and support is their parole officer.

While there are many reasons that teens are not getting the help they need in terms of their mental health, one thing that parents can do to combat this problem is to know how to tell when their teen is struggling. In order for teens to get the mental health treatment, support, and services they need to overcome these problems or to learn to manage these disorders, they need their parents to be behind them, seeking out the services they need, and fighting for the care that will be most beneficial to them. Parents can’t do what needs to be done to get their teen the necessary treatment if they aren’t aware that there is a problem.

To help change this dynamic and get more teens the treatment they need to thrive, here are some of the signs parents can look for that may indicate their teen is dealing with a mental health disorder.

  • Mood Swings – While teenagers are generally moody, these kinds of mood swings would be uncharacteristic for your child.
  • Changes in Behavior – Major changes in short timeframes should also be suspect. These kinds of changes can include personality changes, sleeping or eating habit changes, or big changes in personal style or their circle of friends.
  • Dropping Grades
  • Lower energy
  • Frequent non-specific illness like stomachaches, headaches, etc.
  • Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol
  • Decreases in personal hygiene

If your teen is displaying these signs, find a qualified mental health provider for them. This person can assess their condition, identify and diagnose any problems, and provide a plan for treatment and management.

Benefits of Family Counseling

Family Counseling

Read more to learn the benefits of family counseling (photo credit:

When one person in a family unit is struggling, the entire family suffers, and it can be difficult to make real changes unless the family is working together.  This is the foundation on which family counseling is built.  Families can seek this kind of counseling for a variety of reasons and it can be very beneficial in families with a teenager in trouble.

The end goal of family counseling should always be to build a strong, healthy, happy family.  Depending on the issues at hand, the family counseling sessions may include two, three, or any other number of family members.  Counseling sessions can include some family members on certain days and others on different days.  Who attends is as personal to each family as what brought them there in the first place.

If you are considering family counseling, here are some of the benefits you and your family can get from participating:

1.     Improved Communication

Family counseling is an excellent way to overcome communication challenges and for everyone in the family to learn how to communicate more effectively.  For many families, communication is a key starting point because until the lines of communication are open and operating, it can be very difficult to tackle other issues successfully.

2.     Support for Substance Abuse Treatment

For families dealing with the aftermath of a substance abuse problem, family counseling can provide a safe place to learn how to support the family member with the problem.  It can also help to heal the wounds to other family members caused by the addiction.

3.     Building Stronger Bonds

One of the most rewarding and little recognized benefits of family counseling is building stronger family bonds.  With the guidance of their chosen provider, families can learn to listen more effectively, empathize more completely, and understand the wants and needs of the others in their family.  The skills learned in family counseling help build these bonds and strengthen the overall family structure.

4.     Dealing with Grief and Loss

One of the most difficult things for families to survive is the loss of a family member.  Regardless of whether the person lost was a parent, child, or sibling, learning to accept the loss and move through the grieving process together can not only build those strong bonds but ensure that everyone makes it through that process healthy and whole.

5.     Managing Mental Health Conditions

Families who are dealing with an ongoing or chronic mental health condition can also benefit from family counseling.  These kinds of conditions can include depression, anxiety disorders like OCD, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and self harm.

6.     Dealing with Dysfunction

The bottom line is that family counseling can help family units learn to understand and overcome whatever dysfunction is currently plaguing them.  By providing family members with a safe space to share feelings and teaching them how to communicate and be supportive of each other, family counseling helps build the kind of bonds that keep families together, even during the toughest times.

National Nurse Practitioner Week celebrated Nov 10-16

Nurse practitioners provide more than 155,000 solutions to the health care crisis

National Nurse Practitioner Week celebrated Nov 10-16


As the health care provider shortage continues to top the national agenda, it is important that the public be aware that there are more than 155,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) in the United States who provide high-quality, cost-effective, comprehensive, patient-centered care to patients across the country.


NPs are licensed, expert clinicians with advanced education (most have master’s and many have doctorate degrees) and extensive clinical training who provide primary, acute and specialty health care services. In addition to providing a full range of services, NPs work as partners with their patients, guiding them to make educated health care decisions and healthy lifestyle choices. The confidence that patients have in NP-delivered health care is evidenced by the more than 600 million visits made to NPs every year.


NPs are informed regarding the unique concerns of diverse patient populations and in touch with the needs of each individual. Through a partnership with the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and Joining Forces (a White House initiative to raise awareness of the health care needs of veterans, active service members and their families), NPs are increasingly well-prepared to care for this important patient group.


National Nurse Practitioner Week, November 11 – 17, 2012 is a time to celebrate these exceptional health care providers and to remind lawmakers of the importance of removing outdated barriers to practice so that NPs will be allowed to practice to the full extent of their experience and education. Nurse practitioners are informed, in touch and involved, making them the health care providers of choice for millions and a solution to the primary care crisis in America.


Jan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP-BC is the Founder and owner of Doorways, LLC in Arizona. She is a Nationally Board Certified Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who specializes in adolescent treatment. Her desire is to provide quality psychological, nutritional and psychiatric care for adolescents and young adults in an outpatient, faith-based setting. Doorways has been open for 4 ½ years and has seen significant growth as they address the needs in this difficult developmental time period of adolescence and young adulthood.


The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is the oldest and largest national professional organization for nurse practitioners (NPs) of all specialties. AANP represents the interests of approximately 155,000 nurse practitioners in the country and advocates for the active role of NPs as providers of high-quality, cost-effective, comprehensive, patient-centered and personalized health.

When it Comes to Information, More is Not Always Better – Part 2

Teen Tech Week Quiz

When it comes to information, more isn’t always better, especially when it comes to our teens. (Photo credit: Anoka County Library)

In part 2 of this series, information on additional mental health conditions is covered.  Read Part 1 of the series here.

Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens: A Parent’s Guide from the National Institute of Mental Health – Provides a great overview specific geared towards parents
  • Children and Teens with Bipolar Disorder from – Great section on what parents can do to help and support their bipolar teens
  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology – Gives a general overview with links to other resources
  • Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder from the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Helpful overview of symptoms, treatments, side effects, and other information about this disorder

Cutting and Self Harm

  • Understanding Teen Cutting and Self Injury from – General information about self injury including signs, risk factors, and how to get help.
  • Self Injury and Cutting from the Mayo Clinic – Offers a definition, causes, symptoms, and information on getting help
  • Self Injury in Adolescents from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology – Covers the different types of behavior classified as self injury and offers information on why teens use this as a coping strategy
  • A Silent Cry for Help: Understanding Self Harm from Psychology Today – A look at self harm including symptoms, causes, and what parents can do to help if they suspect their child is cutting.


  • from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Great resource for parents that provides information on how to combat the negative effects of bullying.
  • Bully-Proofing Your Kids from CNN – In-depth article examining what parents can do to help their children avoid and overcome bullying
  • How Parents, Teachers, and Kids Can Take Action to Prevent Bullying from the American Psychological Association – Provides a report with targeted sections for each group outlining what to look for and how to help prevent bullying behavior
  • Bullying: What Parents Can Do from the National Crime Prevention Council – Offers parents strategies on what to do if their child is being bullied or if their child is the bully

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents from  the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology – Provides a good overview of OCD in adolescents and provides links to other resources
  • OCD in Children and Teens from the International OCD Foundation – Offers parents insight in what it is like to live with OCD, an overview of treatment options, and a resource for finding help locally.
  • Child and Adolescent OCD from the National Alliance on Mental Illness – Gives parents a good overview of the most common obsessions and compulsions experienced by children and teens and discusses the effect OCD can have on the overall family
  • OCD in Teens from Beyond OCD – Offers a section of information ”Just for Teens” about this disorder that includes an overview of the disorder, a list of symptoms, information on why therapy works, and links to other resources

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • PTSD in Children and Teens from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Gives parents a comprehensive overview of what causes PTSD in children, what PTSD looks like in children, and the long term effects of trauma on children
  • PTSD isn’t Just a War Wound, Teens Suffer Too from National Public Radio – Offers anecdotal information about PTSD in teens and includes links to other resources including a recording of the story on “All Things Considered
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology – Provides an overview of the disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Teens from the U.S. Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health as published in the journal World Psychiatry – Article offering an in-depth and clinically detailed description of PTSD in teens including risk factors, how it is diagnosed, and different forms of treatment

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder

  • What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder from the National Institute of Mental Health – Offers an overview of the disorder, the symptoms, causes, and treatment option
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder from Teen Mental Health – Provides information on symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, risk factors, and how to help support loved ones with the disorder
  • Panic Disorder in Children and Adolescents from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • Panic Disorder from Teen Mental Health – Provides information on symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, risk factors, and how to help support loved ones with the disorder