Let’s talk about teens and how to speak to them about therapy. Teens are more socialized to therapy than you might think. It’s in their music, on tv and if anything, they may just be struggling with how to talk to you about it. If talking to your teenager about therapy is uncomfortable, this blog is a great place to start.
When bringing up the subject, the first thing is being honest with them and letting them know that you have noticed some changes with [be specific- like their mood and actions], that’s unlike them, and it seems to be impacting [insert aspect of their life].
Take a moment to validate their struggles, be honest about what you may be struggling with when it comes to the issue, and how much you love and want the best for them. For example, you may say, “You’ve been spending more time in your room and seem quieter and down since starting this new school. I know change is hard for me, but how is it going for you?”. is everything ok with you?”.
Sharing your emotions may not be easy, especially if you haven’t been encouraged to do so in your own life. If anything, keep in mind the goal of reaching and supporting your young person. Their wellbeing is a huge motivator to push past your own discomforts.
How Parents Can Open The Door to Therapy
Once you begin to hear and understand their perspective, you can always suggest therapy or counseling as one way for them to get unbiased support and help themselves. Explaining to them what therapy is- a space for someone else besides a parent to listen to them, without judgment, protecting their privacy, and maybe lend some skills and resources.
I think as parents, it’s ok to admit, we don’t know everything, and we don’t know how to help. Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R
There is still a lot of stigma behind going to therapy and seeking help. Still, at the same time, people like Naomi Osaka or artists like Logic have normalized conversations about mental health, even though having those conversations may not be easy. You can open up about your own ideas about seeking help, including a cultural perspective and your genuine hopes for them.
As teens are so impressionable and tend to look outside family networks for direction, it is critical for them to have someone to talk to.
When should a parent call a therapist?
- Overthinking/excessive worry
- Perfectionism around tasks including school work
- Changes in sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Low self-esteem or lack of confidence
- Substance abuse/use
- Thoughts of suicide or expressing wishing they weren’t here
Overall your teen will have moody moments and natural changes that occur during this stage of development in their lives. However, if those issues are way out of character for them, persist past 2-3 weeks, or other unusual behaviors, it’s a good idea to follow up with a professional.
What should you expect when you start therapy?
Once you reach out and contact a therapist (please be patient, as it can take some time to get a call back), they will schedule an initial session. The first session is designed to figure out what brings you to therapy, so the therapist can better understand the concerns and determine if they are the best qualified to support you. They will ask questions about the family structure and dynamics, how school is going, your early life development, how you usually cope with stressors, your strengths, and several other essential questions. It’s a comprehensive assessment often referred to as an intake.
The following sessions are used to create a plan to best support you with goals you both agree to work on. The therapist is there to help that person discover new ways to understand their experiences and try to better cope or navigate existing problems.
Reach Out Together
Once you decide you are both ready to proceed, inform your teen about their options when it comes to therapy. We offer virtual online individual and group therapy for teens that is accessible and convenient for their
schedule and in-person therapy. While we’ve found our teens connect better in person with their therapist, for some talking to a therapist online can be less intimidating or also just convenient to their schedule.
Let your teen know their options, and explore different therapists and forms of therapy together. Then, make the appointment and encourage your teen to play an active role in their own wellness.
The following are a list of websites that can be useful in obtaining a therapist:
You can learn more about our teen counseling services and contact us anytime for more information. We’re also happy to answer your child’s questions and provide personalized feedback about how we may help them address specific problems if needed.
Piece cowritten by Social Work Intern Kilcy Martinez and Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R, Psychotherapist, Coach & Mental Health Consultant