Although some teenagers decide that they want to see a therapist on their own, more often than not, parents are the ones making this decision. Not surprisingly, parents often face a significant amount of resistance from their teen who may initially be opposed to the entire notion of therapy. Despite the fact that the stigma around therapy has decreased dramatically over the past several years, many teenagers still believe that therapy is only for people who are “crazy” or “screwed up.” As a result, parents are often hesitant to even broach the topic with their adolescent, even if their teen is struggling and therapy is exactly what they need.
Here are three helpful tips for parents who are facing the difficult challenge of talking to their teen about seeing a therapist.
Although you may be tempted to not be completely direct with your teenager out of fear that they will get angry, become upset, or flat out refuse to go, it is critical that you are honest and direct with them about therapy from the start.The last thing you want to do is mislead them in anyway because that would only foster distrust towards both you and the therapist. Talk to them well before an appointment is scheduled so there are no surprises, and they know exactly what to expect. Establishing an open and honest tone from the get-go will help facilitate a more positive therapy experience.
Often times, your teen’s resistance to therapy stems from anxiety, fear, or even shame about what it means to them to see a therapist. If they have never been to therapy before, it is important to spend time talking to them about it. Just listening to them and giving them the space to express their concerns about therapy not only reduces their anxiety, but it also gives you the opportunity to provide comfort, answer their questions, and clarify any misperceptions that they may have about therapy.
“You Have To Go To Therapy, But You Get To Decide What Therapist You Want To See.”
Though it is my last tip, it may be the most important one: give your child a sense of control over the process. The less control they feel they have, the more opposition you will face. Your teen must know that even if they do not have a choice about whether or not to go to therapy, who they end up seeing is completely their decision. I have found that using this approach increases teens’ openness to therapy. This also ensures that the fit between your teen and the therapist they end up seeing is a good one. The match between client and therapist is crucial for any effective work to happen. If your child doesn’t feel safe and comfortable in the room it is not only a waste of time, but also a waste of money. Just as an adult gets a sense of whether they connect with a therapist after the initial session, so do teens! It is important to honor their ability to assess a good fit for them and allow them to decide which therapist they work with.
Everyone, especially teenagers, face many challenges in a lifetime, which can create a sense of being alone and feeling helpless. Choosing the right therapist for you or your child is an important decision, as this relationship is the foundation for successful therapy. My office is conveniently located in Hermosa Beach and I provide therapy services to children, teens, adults and couples in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo and the entire South Bay area.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my practice or to find out more about the services that I offer.