Does it feel like an epic battle to get teens to therapy? In this blog I cover the 5 most common arguments teens have against therapy, followed by my 5 most common (and hopefully persuasive) counterpoints.
What does being a “teen expert” mean?
I specialize in working with adolescents and young adults struggling with depression, anxiety, self-harm, binge eating, and emotion dysregulation. It takes a certain type of person and energy to work with this age group. While the therapeutic interventions are similar to that of adults, the delivery, pace, and overall tone of therapy often need to be adapted to meet the needs of adolescents and young adults. This means I take a flexible and fun approach to therapy, often using humor and relatable examples to help teens and young adults connect with the therapeutic skills and material.
5 Common Questions (Barriers) Teens Bring to Therapy….And My Answers:
1. “Why do I have to talk to a therapist? I’m not crazy!”
While younger generations are starting to separate the commonly held stigma of therapy and mental health, that negative perception still persists. I work hard to dispel the idea that you have to “be crazy” to talk to a therapist. People with anxiety or depression aren’t “crazy!” They are your friends, family, or neighbors (or yourself) that are often struggling silently. In my sessions, I often talk about the power of having an objective voice to help even when you are struggling with regular life stuff. Your life doesn’t have to look like a scene out of Girl Interrupted to justify therapy. Life can often be hard enough with our everyday stress, why make it harder trying to overcome something alone when there is help out there!?
2. “So do we just talk the whole time?” or “I have plenty of friends, I don’t need another person to talk to!”
Yes, we do a lot of talking, but the type of therapy I do tends to focus on skill building: real strategies to use in the in moment that help you cope more effectively. I don’t want my teen clients coming to me for the rest of their lives! I want them to learn concrete skills to use on their own so they can grow independently and not have to see me forever! As for the friends question: It is great if you are lucky enough to have friends that listen and really get you. What I also say is: A therapist would bring not only a listening ear but ways to actively get you feeling more in control of your emotions (which friends are not always equipped to do)!
3. “Why would I tell a therapist anything, they are just going to tell my parents everything I say!”
As an adolescent specialist, I make the rules and boundaries around confidentiality and it’s limits very clear from the beginning, for both teens and their parents. If a teen does not feel safe and secure in the therapy room, it is unlikely therapy will get very far! If there is something I think may be worth sharing with their parents, I always check in with my teens first. And if there is a case in which I have to talk to the parents, I will always give my teens time to ask me questions and process before I touch base with the parents.
4. “My parent basically dragged me here. What is this going to do for me?”
About half of the teens and young adults I see feel as though they have been dragged to an appointment. Chances are that if they are being dragged, there is likely something we can work on to help them! I feel as though my flexible and open approach helps teens feel connected and safe, and I almost always have even the most resistant teens willing to come back by the end of the first session!
5. “A therapist is just going to tell me what to do, and I’ve had enough of that!”
That is actually a common misunderstanding about what therapists do. If you have a counselor that just lectures you all the time, you might not have found the right therapist! While I am the expert when it comes to therapy and skills, you are the expert when it comes to you. I work to join you on your journey and work together, not shove you in the direction I think is best.
It’s All About the Fit!
Research tells us that one of the most important things in terms of getting positive outcomes from therapy is the therapeutic alliance or the relationship you have with your therapist. You do like them? Do you trust them? Do you feel comfortable? If you or your teen answers “no” to any of those questions, it may be making therapy even more difficult. Which makes sense: how can you share the most personal aspects of yourself with someone you don’t trust? Are you likely to listen to any suggestions they have if you don’t even like them? When looking for a therapist for your teen, it is important, perhaps even essential to find someone that “fits!”
Here at Integrated Care Clinic, we have an amazing group of clinicians that are specialized in working with teens and young adults. If you feel like your teen would benefit from therapy, please give us a call today and connected with a clinician that speaks your teen’s language!