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Tips for Supporting a Friend With a Mental Illness

Tips for Supporting a Friend with a Mental Illness

The adolescent and teenage years are often the most vulnerable time for mental illnesses to develop. However, teens tend to feel more comfortable turning to their friends for help with their mental illness rather than talking with their parents or professionals.

If you and your friends look to each other for help, it is important to know how to support one another when it comes to mental health.

Understanding Mental Illness

It is not always obvious when someone is dealing with a mental illness. Mental illnesses are often referred to as “invisible illnesses” because a person’s symptoms are not always visible to those around them. While some people are comfortable with sharing their diagnoses, others feel uncomfortable.

While it can be frustrating to feel like your friend is withholding information from you, don’t take it personally if your friend does not open up to you right away. It is important to remember that not everyone has the same experience with mental illnesses.

What Can You Do to Support a Friend With a Mental Illness?

Friends are essential in your developmental process because they lend a sense of connection and add to your self-worth. As a teen, you may find that you and your friends turn to each other for help more than you turn to your parents. Therefore, learning about disorders and how they affect individuals provides the best opportunity to support them. Here are six tips to support your friends when they come to you for help:

  1. Listen to Them: People with a mental illness often feel like others don’t listen to their experiences and what they are going through. If your friends feel comfortable talking to you about their disorder, be respectful and listen without judgment. You don’t have to wholly understand their experience or know all of the answers to their questions. Sometimes, they are not looking for an answer. Sometimes showing them that you are willing to offer a listening ear can help them feel more comfortable with expressing how they feel.
  2. Learn the Warning Signs: Getting help as early as possible is important when treating a mental illness. Learning to spot the warning signs of mental illnesses can help your friend find proper treatment. Spotting the warning signs requires learning about specific disorders and the symptoms that encompass them. If you notice your friend behaving in unusual ways to how they usually carry themselves, this is also a clear indication that they might need help.
  3. Respect Their Boundaries: Allow your friends to share as much or as little as they would like about how they feel. Don’t push them to tell you more than what they feel comfortable with; doing so might cause them to pull away from you. They may have specific boundaries to help them deal with their symptoms and how they talk about them. They may also want to avoid specific topics that are too triggering for them, and you must respect this, too. It is important to talk with your friends about boundaries and remember to uphold these boundaries.
  4. Don’t Always Bring Up Their Illness: Some mental illnesses require constant attention including, medication, being aware of moods, dietary changes, and navigating life with coping mechanisms that keep their symptoms at ease. However, your friend is not their illness, and their mental illness does not need to be the topic of every discussion. Sometimes spending time with the people they love offers a break from having to acknowledge their illness. You don’t have to mention or discuss their illness every time you hang out with or talk to them.
  5. Don’t Tell Your Friend How They Should Feel: Each individual’s experience with a mental illness is their own experience. Even if you know a lot about other illnesses, it is important to remember that you are not a medical or mental health expert, so understand that there are many things you don’t know about their illness. Avoid acting like a therapist or a psychiatrist when addressing your friend’s feelings. When they share their feelings with you, it is important to remain a friend and listen.
  6. Keep Your Questions Open Ended: Asking open-ended questions allows your friend the chance to share what they would like. Instead of saying to them, “You seem sad or lethargic today,” you can ask, “How are you feeling today?” Asking how they feel rather than how you think they feel allows them to share what they would like and not feel pushed to answer something outside their comfort zone.

It can be scary watching your friends manage their mental illnesses, especially during the adolescent stage. Clearfork Academy specializes in teen addiction and mental health treatment and offers specialized programs that help teens manage mental illnesses and substance use disorders. In addition to our clinical approaches, we also utilize holistic approaches such as art and adventure therapy. If your child is currently experiencing a substance use disorder that is interfering with their mental health, we will safely guide them through the detox and withdrawal phase of treatment. From there, we will get to the root of their substance use and identify any underlying conditions such as mental illnesses that may be influencing their substance use. Our goal is to help your teen reach sobriety and maintain long-term sobriety by teaching them healthy coping strategies and life skills. If your teen needs treatment, don’t wait. Call Clearfork Academy today at (888) 966-8604

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How to Find a Therapist Who Is a Good Fit for You?

close up of a therapist during session

Choosing a therapist that’s a good fit for your teen can be both challenging and overwhelming. However, with some guidance, patience, and persistence you will find the right therapist. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things you can consider that will help you in your search to find a suitable therapist for your teenage son.

What Are the Types of Teen Counseling?

While there is a range of therapies, there are three main types of therapies that can benefit your teen’s needs.  

They include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT works best for those with an eating disorder, stress, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), SUD,  or social anxiety disorder. This form of psychotherapy will teach your teen to identify, change, and manage the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that negatively affect their well-being. CBT will help your teen gain the ability to identify the stressors that lead to their behaviors, like using substances, and learn coping techniques to help them change these behaviors.
  • Family Systematic Therapy (FTS): FTS is a holistic approach to mental health that emphasizes the importance of family systems in the development, maintenance, and resolution of mental health problems. This treatment method helps people understand the core problems affecting their relationships with others and assists them in making changes to improve their lives. It is a treatment plan that allows teens to learn healthy, productive life skills and behavior management skills.
  • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: This form of therapy calls for participants to explore their innermost thoughts and feelings head-on to identify underlying conflicts or motivations for behavior. Therapists most often use psychodynamic psychotherapy in cases of mood disorders and psychological trauma. Psychodynamic psychotherapy will allow your teen to recover from these issues and achieve better mental wellness and long-term recovery. Their therapist helps them determine the reasons for their initial substance use and find an alternative for substance use.

Factors in Choosing a Therapist

When choosing an effective therapist, consider these factors.

  • Cost: Therapy ranges from $25 per session up to $200 per hour. Therefore, you should consider how many sessions are needed to improve your son’s condition. Depending on the length of care, this can potentially affect you financially. Fortunately, most therapists accept insurance or accept new participants via sliding scale payments.
  • Goals and Needs: Understand your son’s goals and needs. Your son may have been unsuccessful with past therapists because they didn’t have the right skills to address the issue. However, if your son is interested in working on their anxiety, depression, or relationship issues along with SUD, then a therapist specializing in those areas will be a good match.
  • Understands the Depth of SUD: SUD is a progressive disease with many different stages and effects on the body and mind. The potential therapist must understand this to effectively help an individual with a SUD in their recovery process. They must also be willing to put in time and effort into working with them to bring them back from the depths of SUD.
  • Specializations: Specialized therapists have a professional background, a strong support network, and a specialized set of techniques for treating different types of SUD or mental health issues. They demonstrate their specialty via evidence of their case studies, training, and experience.
  • Fully Qualified: Many regulations protect the public from unqualified therapists and ensure that therapists’ practices are ethical and legitimate. Therapists who are in good standing with the State will be licensed to practice. Most licenses call for therapists to hold at least a Master’s degree in a mental health field and complete hours of continuing education or training.
  • Cultural Background: A therapist should be mindful of the culture of the client. A culturally sensitive therapist can help you better understand your experience and find the best ways to express how you feel.
  • Progress: When a good therapist starts with a new person, they provide a treatment plan. The plan helps both you and the therapist track your progress and recognize the benefits of these therapy sessions.
  • Therapeutic Options: A range of therapy options can assist a person with a SUD. Therapists usually use psychotherapy and behavioral therapies. Many modalities fall under these two broad categories. It’s essential to consider and discuss these options with therapists to determine the best therapy for your son.

Therapists can assess your son’s needs and recommend treatment options to help your son achieve long-term wellness. Therapy is an important tool for self-care, achieving personal goals, and overcoming depression, anxiety, and SUD. It’s not just about what the participants want, it is about what the therapist can do to help their participants achieve the life they deserve.

At Clearfork Academy, we understand the importance of therapy. Each participant of our treatment program receives an aftercare plan that guides their search for a suitable therapist. Our treatment facilities provide participants therapy with fully licensed therapists. Our range of effective therapies to treat SUD includes cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and family therapy. Each of our therapies holds benefits that will serve your son’s recovery long after treatment. They will also be among peers that share similar experiences which helps cultivate a strong support network that will offer the comfort and security they need. If your teenage son is currently struggling to overcome a SUD and needs help, don’t wait. We provide admissions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so you can reach out the moment you need help. Find out more information about our programs by contacting us at Clearfork Acadamy today by calling (866) 650-5212. 

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The Top 5 Reasons Therapists Are Choosing Clearfork Academy



Your clients turn to you for guidance when they need substance abuse and/or mental health treatment. They ask you where to go, and who can help them and their family. We know you only want to refer your clients to treatment facilities you can genuinely trust. You want a place that’s equipped and qualified to handle each specific issue and diagnosis that your client is facing. 


If you’re looking for the best treatment facility to collaborate with, we are here to help! At Clearfork Academy, we offer gender-specific, faith-based, treatment for boys ages 13-18. We’ve successfully helped thousands of teen boys find a new path and create a new legacy.


Here are the top five reasons we are the #1 choice for many therapists:

1. Our Services

  • Residential Treatment
    Unlike others that only offer a 28-day treatment option, our program is a full 13 weeks long. We use that time to help our patients focus on their recovery, learn life skills, and learn how to lead a better life.
  • Medical Detox
    As patients begin to clear their body of substances, our medical staff customizes and oversees their care. The health and safety of our boys is always a top priority.

2. Qualified Staff

  • Master Level Clinicians
    At Clearfork Academy, we are well-equipped to treat multiple mental health diagnoses. Our masters level licensed therapists meet individually with each patient. They work to help these boys understand the underlying causes of their addiction, and find lasting change.
  • On-Site Nurses
    The health of our patients is of the utmost importance. For that reason, there is a nurse on-site 24-7. Our nurses oversee the detox process, and treat any other health concerns as needed.

3. Family Care

  • Family Therapy
    At Clearfork Academy, we have a full-time family therapist on staff. Substance abuse and mental health treatment is a family issue, so we care for the entire family. Additionally, the support of family plays a huge role in the success of many teens in treatment.
  • Family Support Groups
    Our family support group meets every Tuesday. It is our goal to be engaged with the families of our patients, and to stay engaged with them. This support group is for the families of current patients, and for the families of our alumni. We are here for the families of these boys for as long as they need us!

4. Treatment Modalities

At Clearfork Academy, we utilize a variety treatment modalities based on the patient and their specific needs. Through these different therapy options, we are able to successfully treat multiple diagnoses, including trauma and depression.

5. Aftercare

  • A Plan For Success
    On the first day of treatment, our team begins working on an aftercare plan for each patient. When boys leave our facility, we want them to be well-equipped to continue their recovery journey.
  • Alumni Team
    From the moment of admission, our patients become a part of the Clearfork family. We love inviting our alumni back to share their stories of hope with current patients. Our team is always available to assist with resources, guidance and recognition of important benchmarks no matter how long it’s been since graduation.


Over the years we have built relationships with many therapists. Our relationships are built on trust. When a therapist refers one of their clients to Clearfork Academy, they are able to rest assured with 100% confidence that their client and family are receiving the best treatment available. 


“My experience referring young men to Clearfork Academy has been positive. From the admissions process to returning to me for aftercare, I felt informed and engaged. More importantly, their active, intentional, & therapeutic approach helps teens work toward healing and living a life in recovery.” – Cristal Clark, LPC-S


If you’d like to learn more about the treatments available at Clearfork Academy, the first step is to connect with us and schedule a lunch or campus tour. Please give Missy a call at (214) 592-7012, email, or visit our website at