Three Tips For Talking To Your Teen About Seeing A Therapist

A therapist can be extremely helpful for a person who's struggling, but one of the biggest challenges can be going to see a therapist in the first place – especially if you are considering taking your teen. Getting outside help can be a difficult thing to bring up with him, so before you have that discussion, here are three things to keep in mind.

Therapy Is A Tool, Not A Punishment

Even if you haven't contributed to this yourself, your teen may feel like there is a stigma against therapy. He might think it's a treatment only crazy people need, or it may have been suggested as a repercussion (e.g., "If you keep that up, you're going to the doctor!"). One way to address this is by normalizing therapy when you talk about it; mention how you and/or people you know have been through that process and how it helped.

It's also helpful to bring it up in conversation when you and your teen are getting along, not after a fight. This helps by bringing up therapy in the context of a positive conversation, not in one that suggests he will be going to therapy as punishment for fighting with you (even if your relationship is why you want to go).

Make It A Suggestion, Not An Obligation

Even if you wholly intend on taking your teen with you, it's all about how you phrase it. When you bring up therapy, ask him if it's something he would consider doing – don't just say you're making an appointment without getting his input. If he feels like he can add to the discussion, he feels like his point of view is important, which is extremely beneficial.

If you meet some resistance, ask if he can attend just the first few sessions, and then make a decision from there. This still means he has to go, but by giving him a say, it means you are trying hard because you care. You can also offer to let him talk to a therapist by himself; this gives him more choices to work with, and can help him open up in a way he might be afraid to do if you're right beside him at all times.

Set The Right Expectations

Once you've discussed going to therapy, help your teen understand just what he's getting into. Help him picture what the experience will be like so he doesn't dread the first day. Discussing any potential issues helps set realistic expectations, and also helps you avoid coming off as a salesperson who just won't take no for an answer.

One thing to point out is that therapy is not an instant fix for anything. In fact, the first few sessions might leave him feeling worse, because treatment can take time. What's important is that he is actively taking a role in getting better, and he and his counselor can do that at a pace he is comfortable with.

Another fact might be that therapy is not a cold, clinical room with an impersonal doctor. He's not going to a lab; he's going to be in a comfortable room with someone who has a genuine interest in his well-being.

Finally, acknowledge that it can take time to find the right therapist. If he doesn't get along well with his therapist or her methods aren't working, it could be that the two just aren't compatible, and that he isn't at fault for that. So long as he's willing to try, let him know you have his back. For assistance, talk to a professional like Fairbanks Counseling & Adoption.