As an Administrative Assistant at Healing First Counseling, I take the majority of the calls and correspond with parents.
Parenting is difficult on so many levels, but it can be elevated when we see our teens struggling. This blog is specifically created for parents who need help communicating with their teens related to therapy. Here are some most commonly asked questions:
How do we help our teens to understand their emotions and use proper tools to cope?
Are they struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma or bullying?
Is making and keeping friendships difficult?
Are their grades dropping, or do you see lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed?
Are they more isolated and don’t generally leave their room?
Why are they not talking to us parents about their concerns?
First, is your teen willing to consider counseling? If yes, you are already past the hardest part. Let them know that asking for help or agreeing to go to therapy is the first big step in healing. Try to be supportive in helping them find the right therapist and remind them that they have a say in who they feel comfortable with. This way if they do not feel comfortable or connected with their therapist, they can try a different therapist until they find the right fit.
Questions to consider together:
1. Do you prefer a male or female therapist?
2. Would you feel a better connection with someone younger or older?
3. Is there anything specific you feel your counselor should be specialized in? (Examples
include ADHD, anxiety, depression, LBGTQ)
What if your teen hasn’t opened up and asked for help? Start by having an open discussion with your teen. If your teen isn’t willing to listen or talk, write a letter in a supportive tone that they can read when alone. “I know you are struggling. I am always here to help, but maybe having someone other than myself that you can confide in will be more beneficial. Would you be willing to commit to at least two sessions?” For younger teens, it may help to have a list of therapists they can choose from. If they are older, you can show your teen a few therapists to choose, but let them know they are welcome to search for one on their own that fit criteria such as location, price, and insurance. When teens feel like they have a say in the matter and have their own choices, they may feel more open to the concept of counseling. Counseling comes in all forms, so you can also discuss various options.
Should we do face to face or teletherapy?
While we always feel like there is a stronger connection with in-person sessions, would they consider virtual to start, then eventually move to in person? Some teens tend to get more out of in person sessions since distractions and privacy can be an issue in virtual sessions.
Would the teen prefer a group setting? Many practices offer small teen group sessions for peer support in discussing school pressure, peer pressure, anxiety, and family conflict. This option is usually great once the teen has completed prior individual counseling sessions and cleared by a professional. The therapist may also help with referring the teen to an appropriate group based on the client’s needs. How much information will the therapist share with the parents? It’s also important that teens feel a safe, secure place to be themselves. Help them understand what confidentiality means and your role as a parent when it comes to counseling. Therapists generally lay out the laws of confidentiality during the first session. The therapist and the teen connect and work together towards client’s concerns and struggles. Trust is built to ensure the teenager feels cared for and supported.
What does this mean for parents?
As much as we want to know how a session is going, try to refrain from “what did you talk about today?” Topics and issues discussed will not be turned around and discussed with parents unless there is a threat to themselves (drug usage, sexual activity, suicidal plan etc.) a threat to others (plan to hurt another student etc.), or past abuse has been disclosed during the session.
Why is my teen avoiding discussing concerns with me? As children grow and get closer to adulthood, they tend to want more control and independence from their parents. This doesn’t mean the parents are doing a bad job! Teens are worried about their parents’ reactions to concerns and tend to hide emotions that may be difficult for parents to bare. This may be why they feel more comfortable sharing information with a trained professional who will know ways in which to work with the struggle at hand.
You can still stay supportive and let your teen know it’s okay to not be okay and ask for help! Let’s work together to ensure we provide effective tools for our teens to face the difficulties of life.
-Jennifer Ramirez, Administrative Assistant
Click to learn more about our Teen and Adolescents Services.