Teen therapy for mental health can be a tough situation to handle. Kids are already reluctant to talk to their own parents, so the suggestion of talking to a professional may be less than enthusiastic. If you’ve already been struggling with your teen and have noticed signs they may be depressed, anxious, or suicidal, then it’s time to have that hard conversation.
It’s important to remember that it’s not your fault your teen is having mental health issues, and a professional can offer treatment and insight that goes beyond what we can offer as parents. The sooner they get help, the faster they will recover.
1. Get advice from your teenager’s doctor
First, set an appointment to review your teen’s overall health. Make sure they are up to date on physical exams, shots, and medical records. Your doctor will help you first rule out if there are any physical health ailments, apparent or not, that may be affecting your teen’s behavior or mental health.
If you’re wary about bringing up teen therapy, or behavioral problems during the appointment because your teen will react negatively, consider calling the doctor’s office beforehand. You can leave a message for your doctor or send an email mentioning the sensitivity of the subject you’d like to address. They will have resources and suggestions on changes you can make with your teen before jumping to alternate treatments like therapy or medication.
2. Talk to a school counselor
Talking to your teen’s school counselor can help you understand what has been going on in their school life and any problems they have been keeping from you. It can also give you insight into any behavioral signs that you haven’t noticed at home that infer you have to look into teen therapy.
The goal of a school counselor is to ensure your student’s success and provide support programs in times of need. They may offer teen therapy sessions on campus or talk space groups with peers. Even if they cannot help your teen directly, they will be a valuable resource in tracking your teen’s progress and success, eventually leading to noticeable academic success.
3. Sign up for online teen therapy
Online therapy, also known as teletherapy, has grown in popularity in the last few years and even more so during the last pandemic. As it turns out, people don’t need to leave their homes to talk it out. In fact, many people feel more comfortable opening up in teletherapy. The same can be for your teen.
They can connect through audio, video, or text chat, allowing them to communicate in the way they feel most comfortable. This can take away a level of discomfort and anxiety that comes from visiting an office in person. Teens can feel embarrassed or like they are being punished when you suggest going to therapy in the first place. Trying an online resource can inspire your teen to talk about their feelings and give them time to sort through their thoughts before engaging.
4. Find a psychologist or psychiatrist for teen therapy advice
Considering the above first, you may find it helpful to seek the help of a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. These professionals have gone through years of professional and medical training to treat both adults and teenagers. If your teen refuses to speak in a session and is very closed off, a psychologist will try different creative techniques to inspire engagement.
Try this psychologist recommended technique if you're struggling with talking to your teen.
Situation: Your teen won’t open up. In fact, they barely mumble a response when you ask how their day was.
Technique: Rebuild trust through topics based only on their interest. I.e. Try a different conversational avenue that has nothing to do with sharing feelings or the possibility of being reprimanded.
Music is a sound choice of subject because most teens can relate to some genre. It offers an opportunity to create a meaningful moment while exploring something your teen feels positively about. Notice that this moves from sharing feelings to sharing interests.
How to: Tell your teen you’ve noticed they listen to music, and ask them to play you their favorite song.
Avoid judgment or disdain for their music. Just listen, enjoy, and thank them for sharing.
Try this again on another day, without bringing up tough subjects, and share one of your favorites. This can help strengthen the relationship with your teen and get them on the road to opening up.
A psychiatrist, apart from your teen’s doctor, is the only one who can prescribe medication. In most cases, your teen’s doctor will refer you to a specialist instead of prescribing the same. Whether you feel comfortable with your teen on medication will be a personal choice, one that requires research and knowledge.
There is no shame in seeking help for your child. In the case of suicidal tendencies, drug addiction, or clinical depression, this may be the most helpful option.
5. Be patient and supportive
Coping skills are invaluable for both adults and teens, and can help everyone push through the hard times. Teen therapy or seeking help from a professional, can give your teen a new perspective on life and release repressed emotions. It is also a process that won’t happen overnight, so be patient with yourself and your teen.
The positive effects of teen therapy will last for years on end because the process rewires our brain to approach obstacles differently. Don’t be hesitant to get help for your teen. Notice the signs and reach out today.