7 Therapeutic Activities for Teens that They Actually Appreciate

Written by Howard Spector on September 5, 2016

Choose from this list of therapeutic activities for teens during your next session

This post is very personal for me as I am the proud father of two teenagers. So learning about some things like the positive aspects of social media and even video games was very normalizing for me. Whether you see teens in your practice or have them as children or in your life in some other way, there’s some good info here for you and your colleagues and friends.

It’s easy to assume that teenagers have it easy, with no mortgage to pay and no children of their own. However, teens are often highly stressed. According to the American Psychological Association, “Teens report that their stress level during the school year far exceeds what they believe to be healthy (5.8 versus 3.9 on a 10-point scale) and tops adults’ average reported stress levels (5.8 for teens versus 5.1 for adults).” So, which therapeutic activities for teens will you recommend for lowering stress?

Between school, extracurricular activities, homework, and sometimes even jobs, teens don’t have much downtime for themselves, so therapeutic “homework” needs to be enjoyable enough that your clients actually do it. Here are seven therapeutic activities for teens to try outside of counseling. Allow your clients to take the lead and tell you what helps them, but also encourage them to expand their horizons and try new activities.

1. Exercising

01-7-therapeutic-activities-for-teens-that-they-actually-appreciateThe Journal of School Health recently published a studyindicating that “just two hours of extra physical activity each week can improve school performance.”

Some of your teenage clientele will jump at the chance to spend more time playing sports such as football, baseball, or soccer, but others who are less physically agile may feel uneasy about exercise. Encourage them to try something new such as yoga, or if it’s necessary they start small, suggest walking their dog.

2. Reading

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
– Dr. Suess

There are numerous benefits of reading from increasing intelligence to exploring new worlds – without the need for travel. However, there’s another reason reading made it onto the list of therapeutic activities for teens. In a recent study published in Science, it was proven that good literary fiction helps readers understand or empathize with the characters.

“Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies,” David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano wrote about their findings.

3. Spending Time with Friends

One of the best therapeutic activities for teens is spending time with their friends. Fostering relationships at an early age isn’t merely a psychological milestone, but it is also physiologically significant, as well. A recent study of middle school students published in the journal Child Development found that friendships in school lower the production of cortisol while those bullied had increased cortisol levels.

4. Playing Video Games

02-7-therapeutic-activities-for-teens-that-they-actually-appreciateDid you think video games would make the list of therapeutic activities for teens? The journal Computers in Human Behavior recently published a study with 491 middle school students that found that regardless of race or gender, the more the children played computer games, the higher they scored on a standardized creativity test.

“Much to my surprise, it didn’t matter whether you were playing aggressive games or sports games, not a bit,” said psychologist Linda Jackson, who was in charge of the study.

5. Sleeping

According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need between 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep daily. Sleep helps the body reset and relax, so “prescribe” your clients a full night of sleep as part of their treatment plan.

Dr. Nanci Yuan, medical director of the Sleep Center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital,recommends that all screens (such as cell phones, tablets, and televisions connected to gaming consoles) be shut off one, or preferably two, hours before bedtime for optimal rest.

6. Laughing

“Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain,” explains the Mayo Clinic. Teens can get their daily dose of laughs in whatever way works for them, such as viral videos, sharing bad puns with friends, or watching their favorite comedy.

7. Social Media


03-7-therapeutic-activities-for-teens-that-they-actually-appreciateAccording to
the Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens report, teenagers in the United States spend, on average, nine hours a day on social media. While that number may be staggering, it’s important to meet clients where they’re at, and right now, it’s on social media.

If Instagram is your client’s network of choice, challenge him or her to share uplifting quotes instead of selfies. Ask YouTubers to create playlists of funny or motivational clips they can access during low moments.

Of course, I want to encourage you to let SimplePractice help you run your business, and schedule the next appointment before your teen client leaves your office. It’s simple to try out SimplePractice today for free.

I’d love to hear what therapeutic activities for teens would you add to this list? Or start a discussion about things you’d like to learn more about from our community. Use the comments section below.

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About the Author

Howard is the CEO and Co-founder of SimplePractice. Howard has over 20 years of experience in the information technology industry. He is proud to have earned his MA in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute.

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