In Session with “Dear Evan Hansen”

Dear Freudian Scripters, This podcast session is going to be amazing and here’s why….

Dr. Sam & Dr. Fran discuss the Broadway musical-turned-movie, Dear Evan Hansen. 
The doctors review Evan’s experiences as a teen in high school, including social interactions and family dynamics. Specifically, they share information about teenage mental health discussing anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide. What type of anxiety does Evan experience? While the movie portrays themes that may be emotionally heavy, it also normalizes one’s experiences with anxiety and depression, stressing the message that no one is alone. As Evan sings, when you’re broken on the ground, you will be found.

Importantly, the movie portrays snippets of treatment with characters chatting about psychiatric medications for anxiety and depressive symptoms. Dr. Sam and Dr. Fran dive into additional treatments for teens that are not shown in the movie. What types of treatment could be helpful for someone like Evan? 

Content Warning: episode discusses suicidal ideation and suicide

Glossary of Terms

Social anxiety disorder – a mental health diagnosis that involves persistent, intense fear  about specific social situations due to concerns that one will be judged negatively, embarrassed or humiliated.  Formally called “social phobia.” 

Panic attack an intense, brief period of anxiety characterized by physiological arousal including increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, and sometimes fainting

The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior – Theory developed by Thomas Joiner that posits that feelings of perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness lead to suicidal ideation. 

Thwarted belongingness feelings of isolation and loneliness; perception that one lacks mutually supportive relationships

Perceived burdensomeness feeling that one is a burden to friends and family

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) a type of psychological treatment that works on recognizing unhelpful thought and behavior patterns; based on the idea that your thoughts, emotions, and actions are connected

Cognitive distortions an exaggerated or irrational thought pattern; a primary focus of CBT treatment is to challenge cognitive distortions 

Cognitive (CBT) triangle a tool used in CBT to show how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected

Interpersonal psychotherapy a type of psychological treatment focused on relieving depressive symptoms by improving interpersonal functioning

Acceptance and Commitment Therapya type of psychological treatment that involves accepting difficult emotions and experiences and engaging in committed action towards valued activities 

Psychological flexibility the ability to be in contact with the present moment and changing behavior based on chosen values

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) a type of psychological treatment focused on building mindfulness skills, effectiveness in interpersonal relationships, emotion regulation strategies, and tolerating distress


If you or someone you know is struggling with or at risk for suicidal ideation and/or self-harm, you can get help by calling or texting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish) 1-800-273-8255.

A major topic of Dear Evan Hansen is adolescent mental health. Learn more about the rates of mental health conditions in adolescents here and here.

We discuss how Evan may be experiencing symptoms of social anxiety disorder and how this may be impacted his feelings of loneliness and suicidal ideation.

We introduce and briefly discuss Thomas Joiner’s Interpersonal Theory of Suicidal Behavior, read more about it here.

Although we don’t see Evan receive therapy in the movie, we share information on evidence-based treatments that could be a good fit for someone like Evan. Read more about some of them here and here.

Here are some additional resources on supporting children and adolescents with suicidal thoughts: