Opening the Dialogue: A Guide for Parents
Talking to Your Teen About Starting Therapy
It’s not uncommon for teens to be resistant to the idea of therapy. Navigating this conversation can be challenging, but it’s a crucial step towards their mental and emotional well-being. This article offers guidance on how to approach this delicate subject, fostering understanding and openness.
Understanding the Resistance
Why might your teen resist therapy?
- Stigma: Teens may fear judgment or societal stigma associated with therapy.
- Independence: Adolescents often value their independence and may view therapy as an intrusion.
- Misconceptions: They may have misconceptions about therapy, thinking it’s only for severe problems.
- Lack of Trust: Trust in the therapeutic process may be lacking, hindering their willingness to engage.
- Parental involvement: Teens may feel like the parents and therapist will gang up on them, or that the therapist will just tell the teen what the parents want them to say.
Starting the Conversation
Tips for a productive dialogue:
- Choose the Right Time: Find a quiet and comfortable time to talk, ensuring minimal distractions.
- Express Concerns, Not Judgment: Use “I” statements to share your concerns without sounding accusatory. For example, “I’ve noticed you seem to be struggling lately, and I’m concerned.”
- Be Open and Non-judgmental: Assure them that therapy is a safe space to express feelings without judgment.
- Educate About Therapy: Demystify therapy by explaining its purpose and benefits. Share stories of people who have benefited from seeking help.
- Explain that therapy entails full confidentiality. Anything they share with their therapist will be kept confidential. The only exception is if the therapist thinks they are in danger.
Common concerns and suggested responses:
- “I don’t need therapy.”
- Response: “Therapy isn’t just for extreme situations. It’s a tool to help you navigate life’s challenges and understand yourself better.”
- “I can handle it on my own.”
- Response: “It’s okay to ask for help. Therapy can provide new perspectives and coping strategies that you might find beneficial.”
- “I don’t want to talk to a stranger.”
- Response: “Therapists are trained professionals who are there to support and guide you. They can offer a fresh perspective without judgment. (I found a therapist who seems really cool and specializes in teens.)”
- “What will people think?”
- Response: “What matters most is your well-being. Seeking help is a sign of strength, and people who care about you will understand that.”
Taking the Next Steps
- Trial Period: Suggest trying a few sessions to see if it feels helpful. Many teens find it beneficial once they experience it.
- Normalize the Process: Share stories of other teens who have benefited from therapy to reduce stigma.
- Family Support: Emphasize that therapy is not a solitary journey; family support can make a significant difference.
- Research Together: Explore potential therapists together, considering their interests and preferences.
Starting the conversation about therapy with your teen is a courageous step towards their well-being. By approaching the discussion with empathy, openness, and education, you lay the foundation for a healthier and more supportive future.
If you have further questions or concerns, consider reaching out to mental health professionals who specialize in adolescent therapy.
Remember, seeking help is a strength, not a weakness. Together, as a family, you can embark on a journey towards understanding, growth, and resilience.
Note: This article is a general guide and not a substitute for professional advice. Always consult with mental health professionals for personalized assistance.