Taking Your Teen to a Therapist: What Parents Should Know

Last updated on June 8th, 2024 at 10:43 am

Teen mental health is a critical aspect of their overall well-being, yet it is often overlooked or misunderstood. Adolescents today navigate a world filled with unique challenges and pressures, from academic expectations to social media influences, which can contribute to a wide range of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or eating disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health research from 2023, 1 in 5 teens will experience a severe mental health disorder and half of all lifetime cases begin by age 14. 

As such, parents must recognize the signs that their teenager may need professional help and support them in seeking treatment. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents. Timely intervention through therapy can play a pivotal role in addressing these issues. As parents, understanding the signs of mental health struggles and the benefits of therapy can be instrumental in supporting teen’s mental health.

Identify the signs

Symptoms can range from changes in sleeping or eating patterns, withdrawal from activities or friends, declining grades, or mood swings. If your teen exhibits such signs for an extended period, consider seeking professional help. Additionally, be aware of your teen’s overall behavior and any significant changes. Teenagers struggling with mental health may exhibit irritability, anger, or aggression as a defense mechanism to cope with their struggles. Other red flags include risky behaviors such as substance abuse or self-harm. For more severe conditions like psychosis or suicidal thoughts, seek immediate medical attention.

Find the right therapist

It’s essential to find a mental health professional who specializes in adolescent mental health and with whom your teen feels comfortable. Consider seeking recommendations from your child’s school counselor or pediatrician. You can also research therapists in your area and read reviews to find the right fit for your teen. It’s crucial to involve your teenager in this process as they are more likely to open up and build a trusting relationship with a therapist they feel comfortable with. From the best therapists Denver has to offer to a therapist in your area, make sure to find a professional who has experience working with adolescents and can offer evidence-based treatment. Most importantly, ensure that your teen feels heard and understood by the therapist.

Prepare your teen

Have an open conversation with your teen about therapy. Explain why it’s beneficial and what to expect during sessions. Reassure them that seeking help is a sign of strength, and it’s natural to feel uncomfortable or vulnerable during therapy. Also, address any concerns your teen may have, such as confidentiality or the duration of treatment. If your teen is hesitant, consider attending the first session with them to ease their anxiety and show support. Furthermore, encourage your teen to ask questions and express their feelings during therapy. This helps them actively participate in the process and get the most out of each session.

Stay involved

After therapy begins, continue to show support. Encourage open communication, respect their privacy, and be patient with the process. Therapy is not a quick fix, and it may take time for your teen to see progress. Additionally, be aware of potential barriers such as transportation or financial constraints and work with the therapist to find solutions if necessary. Stay informed about your child’s treatment plan, but also respect their autonomy in therapy. Even though you may not attend sessions, your involvement and support play a crucial role in your teen’s recovery. For example, you can help your teen practice coping skills or remind them of upcoming appointments.

Two parents leaning on a wooden fence.

Coordinate with the school

Keeping school counselors or teachers in the loop can provide additional support for your teen during this time. They can help monitor academic progress and offer accommodations if needed. Moreover, they can work with the therapist to ensure consistency in treatment and address any concerns that may arise at school. Furthermore, schools often have resources such as support groups or mental health services that can supplement therapy and help your teen feel more supported. Involving the school can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and promote a supportive environment for all students.

Take care of yourself

Dealing with a teen’s mental health issues can be challenging for parents too. Make sure you are also taking care of your own mental health. Seek support if needed. Connect with other parents who have gone through a similar experience. Also, practice self-care and set boundaries to avoid burnout. Taking care of yourself will also show your teen the importance of mental health and reduce any feelings of guilt or burden that they may have. Furthermore, your well-being and support are vital for your teen’s recovery, so prioritize it.

Taking your teen to therapy can be a daunting process for both you and your child. But remember, seeking help is a sign of strength and can greatly benefit your teen’s mental health. By recognizing the signs, finding the right therapist, preparing your child, staying involved, involving the school, and taking care of yourself; you are equipping your teen with valuable tools to navigate their struggles and live a happier and healthier life. Remember to be patient and supportive throughout this process, and always prioritize your teen’s mental health.

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