Young Adult Mental Health & Substance Abuse Treatment Centers

The 5 Most Powerful Young Adult Tools Learned in Therapy

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Many young adults enter therapy at a crisis point, when they are struggling with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or another mental health issue. Treatment can support them to address underlying trauma and attachment wounds, so they can return to their lives stronger and more resilient.

Moreover, the benefits of therapy go beyond the short term. The therapeutic experience can be a gift that keeps on giving, because the tools learned in therapy will serve young adults for the rest of their lives.

The Benefits of Therapy for Young Adults

“What skills do I learn in treatment?” is a question young people often ask when considering whether or not to begin the therapeutic process. Understanding more about what they will be learning and what they will take away can help young adults find the motivation to start the healing journey.

Entering therapy or starting outpatient or residential treatment can be frightening. Therefore, it’s helpful for young adults to know that their time in therapy has the potential to be life changing and to positively affect every aspect of their well-being—from relationships to work to physical health.

5 Essential Tools Learned in Therapy

Below are five of the most powerful tools learned in therapy. These therapeutic skills can help young people navigate life immediately after treatment, and also positively inform their experiences and relationships as they move into the future.

1. Emotional Self-Regulation

Emotional self-regulation refers to the ability to manage one’s own difficult emotions, like stress and frustration, productively and thoughtfully, rather than allowing them to have free rein over one’s mind and actions. The tools learned in therapy enhance young adults’ self-regulation skills in areas such as problem-solving, self-monitoring of goals, persistence with long-term projects, delayed gratification, and the ability to seek help when necessary.

This is often an undeveloped skill in young adults, as the brain does not fully mature until a person’s mid-20s. In fact, the areas controlling executive functions such as emotional self-regulation don’t come online until the last stages of this maturation. Therapy can help build self-regulation on a conscious level in tandem with the neurobiological growth process.

Know the Facts

A study of 239 university students found that those who were better able to regulate their emotions also reported higher levels of general well-being.

2. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness—the ability to take a step back and observe oneself without judgment—is a skill that develops with time and maturity. Even though young adults often spend a lot of time curating the way they appear to the rest of the world, whether in social media or IRL, they’re often still developing the skill of seeing themselves clearly.

Through evidence-based therapeutic modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), young adults learn skills for checking in with themselves, recognizing their triggers, and witnessing their own thoughts and behaviors with less reactivity. They learn how to tap into their meaning and purpose, who they want to be in the world, and how they want to show up in their relationships and in their community.

3. Compassion for Self and Others

Self-awareness goes hand in hand with self-compassion. Multiple studies prove that self-compassion is directly associated with better mental health, and is even more beneficial than self-esteem. Self-compassion is also associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression and reduced substance use.

Moreover, the self-compassion tools learned in therapy also help young adults grow their compassion for others. Compassion and empathy involve a willingness to step outside of one’s own viewpoint and consider the impact of your words and behaviors on others. Practicing empathy empowers young adults to strengthen their relationships by treating others as they wish to be treated, and striving to understand them as they wish to be understood.

4. Skills in Relationship Building and Setting Healthy Boundaries

Some of the most important tools learned in therapy are the ones that support the creation of positive and healthy relationships. These skills are particularly essential at this stage of life, because young adulthood is the time when relationships outside the family became paramount.

At Newport Institute, the therapeutic process guides clients in forming authentic connections with others while at the same time learning more about themselves. Young adults learn how to take responsibility for their role within relationships, and to open up about what they’re feeling and what they need, while also offering caring and support.

Along with the communication tools learned in therapy, clients learn skills for setting healthy boundaries with peers, family members, or colleagues. That includes defining boundaries within relationships, clearly stating those boundaries as necessary, and taking appropriate steps to maintain self-care when boundaries are crossed, as in codependent relationships.

5. The DBT Skill of Radical Acceptance

The practice of radical acceptance has its roots in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and refers to accepting situations for what they are rather than fighting against them and trying to change them. The DBT skill of distress tolerance supports young adults to practice radical acceptance through reframing difficult situations and choosing not to engage in negative judgments and emotional reactivity. This essence of this skill is the idea that we cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it.

Radical acceptance doesn’t mean deciding not to take action to make things better. Rather, it’s a tool learned in therapy that gives young adults the ability to move past resentment and anger and into a more calm and productive mindset. DBT mindfulness techniques help young adults stay in the present moment without having to categorize their circumstances as “good” or “bad.” From this place of radical acceptance, they can see things more clearly and make wiser choices about how to move forward. 

The Benefits of Therapy at Newport Institute

At Newport Institute, young adults address the root causes of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and co-occurring disorders. Guided by expert clinicians using modalities such as CBT, DBT, and Attachment-Based Family Therapy, our clients uncover and heal past trauma. In addition, they learn new approaches to navigating the stressors and turbulence of this pivotal stage of identity formation.

Ultimately, our clinical model of care not only addresses the root causes of mental health and co-occurring disorders, it also gives young people skills to enhance their strengths and self-awareness. Contact us today to learn more about Newport Institute’s industry-leading treatment designed especially for young adults.


Clin Psychol Sci. 2017 Jan 1; 5(1): 37–51.

Mindfulness. 2012; 3(4): 308–317.

Emotion. 2010 Dec; 10(6): 923–933.

Res Personality. 2007; 41(1): 139–154.

Mental Health / October 13, 2021 / by Newport Institute