Tips To Encourage Your Teen To Give Therapy A Try
Teens can be tough to talk to.
Especially a teen who needs therapy.
Maybe they’re too depressed or angry to say much. Perhaps your relationship is fragile and you don’t know what to say. Or maybe you broached the topic already.
How did that go? Were you barraged with “I don’t want to,” I can’t believe you said that”, or I’m not crazy!” Was there stony silence, door slamming, tears?
Teens who are hurting may be suspicious of your motives and worried about what getting “professional help” says about them. Try to be patient. Teens are often reluctant to do what their parents suggest. That’s okay. But they still need help. You’ll just need to be a bit more creative and strategic about getting them to see your point and into a counselor’s office.
Try these tips to encourage your teen to give therapy an honest try:
Empathize and lean into why your teen may be suspicious of therapy
- Has he/ she tried it already and didn’t care for it?
- Is the whole idea too embarrassing?
- Does he or she feel weak, like a loser, frustrated at not being able to fix things alone?
- Does he/or she feel beyond help?
- Is he or she defensive because everyone keeps pointing out his or her problems?
- Does he/she believe therapy can’t help or is too late.
- Naturally your teen longs for more control and independence. Honor that. Make space for respectful discussion. This is the time to be your most understanding. Though you may still be the best judge of their need for care, you can attentively listen to their perspective first. The insight and boost to your relationship are time well spent.
Erect a Strict “No Judgment” Zone
To be judged or continually reminded of their missteps when they are already feeling insecure, or misunderstood really hurts. The idea of sitting with an unfamiliar adult for that kind of experience probably seems equally unappealing.
It’s important to time your discussions about therapy appropriately. Therapy as punishment for messing up, or choosing poorly, will not endear you or the idea of therapy to him or her.
The stigma attached to the words “professional help” may be a real concern for your teen. Be clear that your goal is to give your teen the chance to feel better. Assure them that they deserve positive attention. Therapy is not meant to embarrass, demean, or judge them.
Employ a Therapy Trial Period
- Above all, tell your teen the truth about therapy (“It may be tough initially”),
- Offer a reasonable time span (“give it at least three to five sessions”).
- Communicate that they will have many opportunities to share their feelings.
- Assure that you will hear them out, and honor their feelings regarding therapy
- Be open and responsive if the counselor is not a good fit.
Ensure Confidentiality, Support, and Respect
If your relationship has been contentious or disruptive, you may need to reassure your teen of his or her emotional safety and confidentiality with you and the therapist. Try to frame therapy as an exercise in personal freedom and expression, rather than constraint or control. Emphasize that he or she gets to share without fear of pressure or punishment. Let your teen know that therapy is a chance to talk about him or herself, with the expectation of privacy and understanding. There is no tattling in therapy.
Ongoing encouragement, (and realistic expectations) will help your teen see therapy as an option worth exploring. Lead by example, let your teen know that you’re willing to work on some of your challenges and issues. Pledge to listen and remain available throughout their process. Help him or her feel supported and express confidence that therapy will help you both feel better.