How to Discuss the Options of Therapy with a Teenager

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It’s no doubt that being a teenager is a difficult time to navigate for a majority of adolescents. Puberty and hormones put pressure on an already challenging point in life as teens navigate the bridge between child and adult, social and personal identity, and stigmas surrounding almost everything they say and do. Even though the negative stigmas surrounding therapy and seeking mental health help have reduced in recent years, it may still be difficult for younger individuals to admit they need that kind of assistance

As a parent, guardian, or even a concerned friend, it can be just as unstable to bring up the suggestion of therapy. However, if you believe a teenager you know could benefit from seeing a mental health professional from services like MyTherapist, it’s important to start that discussion somewhere. It’s not a bad idea to be the first one to bring up the subject, especially when there are so many reasons a person may need therapy beyond just mental health conditions: general life advice, diagnosing underlying conditions, providing a neutral party to vent to, etc. If you’re looking for a way to discuss the option of therapy with a teenager, here are a few tips and suggestions that can help your conversation.

Practicing Open Conversations

One of the best ways you can help a teenager be more open to a discussion about mental health and therapy is to normalize the topic. It’s helpful to bring up general topics and talking points rather than starting out with something like “So what do you think about going to therapy?” By helping them become educated on options, treatment, and general reasons to visit, they may come to this conclusion themselves.

The common phrase “kids are a sponge” refers to the uncanny ability children have to retain information and habits from those around them. If you’ve ever said a swear word around a toddler, you know how quickly younger individuals can mimic the adults they’re around. Teenagers are the same – they’ll pick up on the subtle cues you leave about a subject. If you’re weary and hesitant to discuss it, they’re more likely to shy away from the point; if you’re confident and nonchalant, it shows them it’s just another typical conversation they can bring up.

Discussing General Options

It’s a good idea for one of your main talking points to be about the various reasons a person may seek out a therapist. It’s not always to talk about a mental health condition or concern. Mental health professionals, especially those with expertise in talking with younger individuals, are a great resource for teens to go to when they need a neutral party’s opinion. Therapy can be a helpful first step in teaching a teenager the importance of building a support system around people they trust.  

It’s important to make it clear that a parent or guardian doesn’t necessarily need to be present for these meetings. Teenagers are used to the other adults in their life reporting back to their parents – grades, performance, etc. Think back to problems you had in high school: did you confide in your parents, another adult, or someone your age so it wouldn’t eventually get you into trouble? It’s not necessarily about keeping secrets but more about the fear of repercussions for many people still living under someone else’s roof. Knowing they have the room to speak freely to an adult that can help them without “ratting them out” to their parents can be a relief for some kids. 

Making the Most Comfortable Conclusion For Them

If you’re concerned about getting mental health assistance for a teenager you know, chances are you’re looking out for their wellbeing. With their best interests at heart, throughout your conversations and research keep in mind that this is a resource for them to take advantage of in their own way. Letting them take the lead on discussions, answering questions with honesty and supporting resources they can look into themselves, and giving them space to research on their own time will help enforce the idea that this is their choice.