Teens can struggle with addiction and depression as much as adults do, only with additional challenges created by hormonal changes, stressful life circumstances and other issues unique to teens. Learn how cognitive therapy and mindfulness approaches can support teens with co-occurring substance use and depressive disorders.

Linking Depression and Addiction

Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders result from a combination of issues where both need to be treated together in an integrated approach to ultimately be successful. Depressed teens may reach for drugs or alcohol as a way of lifting the spirits or to numb difficult thoughts and feelings. Depression and substance abuse thus feed into one another and one condition may make the other worse. Over time, a teen experiencing depression or anxiety who also uses drugs or alcohol are at risk for addiction and severe psychological and emotional damage down the road.


Talk Therapy

Treatment of depression and other mental health conditions can help treat addiction as well. Medication which may have been prescribed to treat depression can include Serotonin Specific Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as:

  • Bupropion
  • Fluoxetine
  • Sertraline

Some of the talk therapies for teens with depression and addiction may include:

  • Dialectic Behavioral Therapy
  • Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)
  • Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Adolescents with PTSD and Addictions

With some combination of cognitive therapy and/or mindfulness practice, the therapeutic elements can teach skills helpful for recovery in regards to both substance use and mental health conditions (especially depression).


Therapeutic Approaches

The following approaches may be used in the treatment of depression and addiction in teens:

Cognitive Restructuring: involves teaching people how to identify the thought or belief underlying a feeling such as depression or anxiety. Underlying premise is that certain patterns of automatic thinking have a direct example on feelings. Most often automatic thoughts are triggered by perceptions and experiences.

Cognitive therapy: plays a critical role in early treatment for teens in helping assess triggers or high-risk situations. Awareness of triggers can help identify circumstances which lead to drug use, provide insights into reasons why teen may be using and support the teen.

Mindfulness therapy: Mindfulness is the capacity to observe thoughts which appear in the mind without trying to push away. This involves cultivating presence of mind in the day-to-day awareness of nonjudgmental thoughts feelings and surroundings. Mindfulness provides an opportunity to:

  • Be present to thoughts that arise
  • Parse out thoughts from feelings
  • Observe clearly arising, maintaining and dissolution of the thought
  • Reduce mind’s tendency to exaggerate negative emotional states, diminish feelings of guilt, shame, blame and fear and self-criticism
  • Focus on clarity and perspective rather than avoidance, allowing the mind to move into the present.

Each individual teen will experience recovery differently and should try various therapeutic approaches to find the right one. Often, a combination of a few types will support a teen in creating the right team to provide help through addiction and depression.


If your teen is struggling with depression and addiction, help is available. Hired Power can provide resources and tools to identify the right therapeutic approach to dealing with your teen’s issues in a compassionate manner. Call us to find out how we can help you get started.


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