Teens, Mental Health, and the Developing Brain

Being a teenager comes with many challenges. During this time we are met with an increasingly challenging academic workload, navigating more complex social interactions and relationships, striving for autonomy, and managing changes in the body, to name a few. 

The brain of an adolescent is growing and changing. These changes lead to emotional maturation and the development of executive functioning. Executive functions are “higher level cognitive processes of planning, decision making, problem solving, action sequencing, task assignment and organization, effortful and persistent goal pursuit, inhibition of competing impulses, flexibility in goal selection, and goal-conflict resolution. These often involve the use of language, judgment, abstraction and concept formation, and logic and reasoning.”*

Research with animals has found that stressors during adolescence can impact the develop of the parts of the brain responsible for emotions, emotion regulation or response, and executive functioning.** These changes can lead to patterns of activation in the brain that may not best serve the individual in navigating a problem. 

Luckily, the brain is more malleable during adolescence. Neurons that fire together, wire together. Therapy allows for new beliefs, values, morals to be formed and practiced regularly. This continued effort creates new neuronal structures in the brain. 

Early intervention for a teen struggling with stressors and mental health concerns not only impacts the teens quality of life but will also physically affect brain development. 


To learn more about how we work with teens, visit our teens page.


*APA Dictionary of Psychology https://dictionary.apa.org/executive-functions

** Abrams, Z. (2022, August 25). What neuroscience tells us about the teenage brain. Monitor on Psychology, 53(5). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/07/feature-neuroscience-teen-brain