1. Parenting
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Mental Health Terms Used in Treating Troubled Teens

A Parent's Guide to Medical Terms

By

Updated September 29, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

mental health definitions confused mom

Sometimes parents just need to know what the definition of a mental health term is before they can communication about or to their teen.

Photo by Truds09.

If you're dealing with therapists or treatment programs to help your troubled teen you will hear mental health terms that are unfamiliar. Here's a guide to mental health jargon related to treating teens:

Acting Out
Acting out describes a common teen pattern of exhibiting inappropriate behavior that is covering up deeper feelings or issues...

Addiction
Addiction describes an uncontrollable need to keep repeating certain behaviors, in spite of the physical or psychological harm it causes. The addictive cycle usually begins with seeking pleasure or avoiding pain and this pattern is repeated until the behavior becomes very much out of control...

Against Medical Advice (AMA)
The term Against Medical Advice (also referred to as AMA) is used to describe the decision to leave a residential treatment program prior to the recommended time for discharge...

Boundaries
The concept of boundaries is an important one in treating troubled teens. This term refers to both understanding and setting healthy limits with other people, learning how to treat others without violating their personal space...

Case Management
Case management is a term used to describe the active process of managing the mental health resources needed by a teen to maximize the process of healing...

Clinical Intervention
Clinical intervention describes numerous professional methods designed to help a teen who is having problems they can't or aren't handling successfully on their own...

Confidentiality
Confidentiality in therapy describes a teens' right to privacy, to know that the personal disclosures they make in a session are not shared with anyone else, unless there is permission given by the teen to do so. Teens often have concerns about talking to adults...

Denial
A teen in denial doesn't consider how their decisions may have created the problems they are having, or take into account the harm they may be causing themselves or others. Learn how denial in troubled teens is expressed and how it keeps teens from healing...

Detoxification
Detoxification refers to the process of purging drugs or alcohol from the body as an initial step in treating drug abuse in teens. This is necessary so the teen no longer experiences the drugs effects and can begin to deal with the underlying reasons for turning to drugs...

Diagnosis
The term diagnosis refers to the process of evaluating troubled teen problems and symptoms and naming them based on information that has been extensively researched...

Discharge Plan
A discharge plan is a written document that defines the follow-up care for a teen upon leaving a residential treatment program. A good discharge plan is critical to ensuring that a teen maintains the progress and positive changes made while in treatment...

Dual Diagnosis
Dual diagnosis describes the combination of a mental health disorder and the abuse of drugs, problems that commonly occur together. Research suggests about half of teens abusing drugs also have underlying mental health issues that haven't been identified or addressed...

Dysfunctional
The term dysfunctional is defined as 'abnormal or impaired functioning' on the part of an individual person, between people in a relationship, or amongst members of a family. Poor functioning refers to both behavior and relationships that aren't working and have one or more negative, unhealthy aspects to them...

Empathy
Empathy is a term used to describe the capacity to both recognize and relate to what another person is feeling. It refers to understanding the inner experience of another, to imagine what they are feeling by standing in their mental shoes...

Empower
In the mental health field this term is used to describe helping or teaching someone ways to enhance their sense of well being to feel more powerful and in charge of their own destiny...

Enabling
Enabling is a term used to describe doing something for someone that they are capable of doing for themselves. This concept was developed in the treatment of substance abuse to explain the motivation and problems faced by loved ones who allow an addict to keep using...

Evaluation
Evaluation refers to a comprehensive review that includes structured ways of getting information about a teens' current functioning and the problems they are experiencing. This process is usually one of the initial steps taken in developing an accurate picture of what may be causing the problems a teen is having...

Feedback
The term feedback in general usage is defined as 'information in response to an inquiry.' In the mental health field this term has been adapted a bit to describe the process of providing detailed information to someone in an effort to provide insight into their behavior...

Home Passes
Home passes are used in residential treatment programs to help a teen transition to returning to live at home. In making this a structured process families have the opportunity to get help in making changes and dealing with problems that come up during home passes...

Individual Treatment Plan
An individual treatment plan is a written document identifying the specific problems that bring a teen into residential treatment and defining measurable goals for change...

Inpatient Treatment
Inpatient treatment refers to programs for teens that provide therapeutic care and supervision 24-hours a day in a residential facility where the teen lives while participating in treatment...

Medication
The term medication refers to psychotropic medications used therapeutically to treat a variety of emotional and behavioral problems such as anxiety or attention deficit disorder in teens...

Mental Health Disorder
The term mental health disorder describes any serious emotional problem that causes distress and requires professional intervention. This type of disruption in both psychological and behavioral functioning can significantly impact how a teen thinks, feels and acts...

Multi-Family Groups
Multi-family groups are a type of therapy used in residential treatment programs for teens. In multi-family groups the family members of teens in a residential program meet together as a group with a therapist facilitating the discussion based on the members needs...

Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions describe a type of question asked in a certain way to elicit a thoughtful, interesting response. Therapists are trained to ask open-ended questions in psychotherapy in order to get a troubled teen to share information, and in doing so trust and rapport are developed...

Outpatient Treatment
Outpatient treatment for teens refers to any mental health service that is offered in the community to help a teen while they continue living at home...

Pathology
In dealing with a troubled teen parents may hear the term pathology, which can be confusing because medical and mental health professionals may use this term in slightly different ways...

Pharmacotherapy
Pharmacotherapy is a medical term that simply means treating the symptoms of mental or physical illness by using prescribed drugs, also called medications or pharmaceuticals. These drugs are developed to interact with the nervous system and chemistry of the brain...

Phase System
A phase system is a behavior modification program used in residential treatment programs for teens. It is used on a daily basis as a road map to help teens successfully work through the program by spelling out what behaviors are expected from them...

Presenting Problem
Presenting problem is a term used by therapists to define the primary problem, or problems, that result in a teen needing professional help...

Prognosis
The term prognosis refers to making an educated guess about the expected outcome of mental health treatment, a prediction of the process a teen may have to go through in order to heal, and the extent of healing expected to take place...

Psychotherapy
The term psychotherapy describes the treatment of psychological and emotional problems through the interaction between therapist and patient - a process that can help teens heal, learn new ways of coping and resolve painful situations...

Purging
Purging describes various behaviors used to expel food from the body, a pattern of behavior that occurs with certain eating disorders. Purging is most often seen in troubled teens who are suffering from bulimia...

Rapport
The term rapport describes an essential aspect of the communication between a troubled teen and the therapist working with them that includes a sense of safety and trust...

Reframing
Reframing describes a technique used in therapy to help create a different way of looking at a situation, person, or relationship by changing its meaning. The essential idea behind reframing is that a persons point-of-view depends on the frame it is viewed in...

Relapse
Relapse is a term used in the treatment of substance abuse. It refers to a person in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse who starts using again, in fact the word itself is defined as "the act of returning to a previous condition"...

Resistance
The term resistance describes a common response from teens when confronted about their behavior or attitude, and encouraged to get help in dealing with the underlying causes...

Role-Playing
Role-playing is a therapy technique that can be very effective in helping troubled teens. The term describes a therapeutic process of assuming a specific role in order to try out different ways of behaving or relating to others...

Rule-Out
The term rule-out, or ruling-out, is used by mental health professionals in determining the most accurate diagnosis to explain the problems a teen is having. Accurate diagnosis in troubled teens is difficult...

Self-Medicating
The term self-medicating describes using drugs (including alcohol) in an attempt to cope with the symptoms of an underlying emotional or psychological disorder. This is a pattern often seen in teens who are abusing drugs...

Suicidal Ideation
Suicidal ideation describes thoughts, fantasies, ideas or images related to committing suicide. the terms is also sometimes referred to as suicidal thinking...

Symptoms
Symptoms refer to any sign, indicator or evidence that suggest a teen may be suffering from an underlying mental health disorder or experiencing other problems that need to be correctly identified and addressed...

Treatment Team
The term treatment team describes the group of mental health professionals who work together to treat teens in residential treatment programs...

Warning Signs
The term warning signs refers to behaviors that strongly suggest a teen is experiencing significant challenges in their growth and development...

Quick Links: Trouble Teens Articles | Quiz Is Your Teen At-Risk?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.