Therapy for Your Teen

Take the time to find the best therapist for your teen.
Give the time for the therapeutic relationship to develop and work.

Therapy for Your TeenFinding a therapist for your teen takes time but it’s worth the effort. You’ll want to find a qualified professional who has experience working with adolescents and with your child’s issue (e.g., death of a family member or friend, self-injury, eating disorder, abuse or other trauma, anxiety, adoption). Gender is also important. For example, will your son relate better to a male or female therapist?

There are several ways to get referrals, including the following:

  • Check with your insurance for any limitations.
  • Talk to family members, friends, and other parents for their recommendations. If you participate in a support group, ask other members for their recommendations.
  • Ask your child’s primary care physician or your family doctor for a referral. Tell the doctor what is important to you in choosing a therapist so he or she can make appropriate recommendations.
  • Inquire at your church, synagogue, or place of worship.
  • Call professional mental health organizations for referrals.
  • Network the resources listed on your state’s Family Help page.
  • Call 2-1-1, a free and confidential information and referral service for a variety of resources, including mental health organizations, crisis centers, and faith-based family services. 

A professional who works very well with one person may not be a good choice for another, so it’s important to find a therapist you feel will work well with your child and with you..

First, talk with the therapist on the phone to make sure he/she works with adolescents and is also knowledgeable about your child’s issues. You’ll also want to ask about fees and insurance.

Then, meet with the therapist ― without your child present ― to discuss method(s) of treatment used, confidentiality policy, specific concerns, expectations, and desired outcomes.

If you feel comfortable with the therapist and believe the therapist will be a good fit for your teen, you’ll also want to give information about his/her history, health, personality, strengths and weaknesses, and relationships with family, friends, and peers.

Talking about thoughts, feelings, and painful situations is not easy, especially for adolescents. It takes time for a teen to open up and be vulnerable, to trust that being honest will not result in the judgment and rejection that confirms these underlying fears:

I really am not good enough.
It was all my fault.
I deserved it
I am unloveable.

Resistance to therapy is common in adolescents, especially if they did not want to go. Refusing to speak at all, lying and distorting the truth through exaggeration and omission are ways adolescents use to be in control and continue a power struggle with authority. Good therapists recognize this manipulative behavior and work to establish a trusting therapeutic relationship.

If your teen wants help and is willing to participate in therapy with honesty and openness, self-awareness and positive changes in attitude and behavior can occur. It just takes time.

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