If your teen is starting out with a new therapist, it’s important to know what you both can expect when developing that relationship and seeking help. Not only may your teen be anxious about what therapy will have in store, but it’s likely that you too have concerns about what will happen and how things will progress.
Knowing which questions to ask your teen’s new therapist will help to put your mind at rest and will also enable you to reassure your teenager about the experience that lies in store.
Teens And Therapy
Around a fifth of all teenagers today suffer from mental health problems, so it isn’t at all unusual for teens to require therapy. However, some young people are anxious about what the experience will be like and worry that they’ll be labeled as crazy simply for needing counseling. It’s important to reassure them that this isn’t the case.
All teenagers go through times when they feel or think about something which distresses them. However, when those unwanted feelings and thoughts go on to create further problems, it’s time to address them. Psychologists, therapists, and counselors are highly trained to do this and can offer the help that so many teenagers can benefit from.
Why Do Teenagers Suffer From Mental Health Issues?
There are numerous reasons why teenagers together are at risk of mental health issues. Sometimes, young people suffer from medical conditions which cause them to feel, act or think strangely. Others have experienced negative situations like violence or abuse. Sometimes, stress is the cause of mental health problems in teenagers, or sometimes the cause lies in the loss of an important relationship – perhaps a loved one’s death or relocation away from friends and family members.
What Kinds Of Therapy Are Available For Teenagers?
There are 3 primary forms of therapy available for teenagers – family, group and individual therapies. Often, a combination of types is offered. The kind of therapy given to a teenager will depend on the problem that they’re suffering from.
Individual therapy involves meeting with the therapist on a one to one basis to discuss issues. Every session lasts around 50 to 60 minutes and will center around identifying feelings about issues. Homework will often be given to work through those problems. Of course, therapy is entirely confidential, and therefore parents will not be informed about anything that is discussed unless the therapist believes that the young person may hurt themselves or another person. However, parents can still speak to the therapist about their teenager’s problems.
Group therapy involves several teenagers meeting together to support each other and to learn new ways of handling their issues. Often the group will consist of around 5 people with a leader who raises topics and asks questions. Group members are also encouraged to ask their own questions. Each session will usually last around 90 minutes.
Family therapy involves the teenager and their family going to therapy as a family. The focus of these sessions is on family issues. The therapist discourages interruptions so everyone gets the chance to discuss their concerns and feelings.
A combination of all three types of therapy will often be used to help troubled youngsters to fully explore their problems, get to the root of their issues and to identify ways of handling them and coping in a healthy way.
Getting On With The Therapist
It’s very important for your teenager to develop a positive relationship with their therapist. However, in some cases, they just won’t get along. You may be able to avoid this scenario by knowing which questions to ask the therapist in the first place. You should be able to get a feel for how well your son or daughter will get on with their new counselor.
The Importance Of Transparency
It can be very difficult for parents to admit that their teenager needs therapy, however, once the decision has been taken to get your child help, you need to take action to ensure that the therapist that you choose is the right one for your son or daughter. Forming a positive working relationship is essential and transparency lies at the heart of this.
You should arrange a meeting with your teen’s new therapist at which you can talk about all of their issues and their background including the events and stressors which could have triggered the changes that you’ve observed in their behavior. This is also a good time to address what you believe the treatment priorities are.
It’s always useful to explain any strategies that have already been tried with your teen, and what has and hasn’t worked in the past. Ironing out the logistics at this early stage is also important. This will avoid any misunderstands in the future.
Having Realistic Expectations
It’s only natural for any worried parent to be keen to know how long their child will need treatment and how quickly progress will be achieved. However, it’s important to have realistic expectations about the outcomes of therapy. Every teenager will make progress at different rates, and while it’s perfectly fine for any parent to ask about the estimated timeframe for treatment, it’s also important to understand that this timeframe is subject to change. The extent of your teen’s problems will affect the length of their treatment and the speed at which they’ll make progress.
Some teenagers resist treatment or need medication to take effect before they’re able to benefit from therapy. Sometimes, families are going through traumatic events such as a move or a divorce, and this also slows down the progress of treatment. It’s important, however, for all parents to recognize the importance of an involved and supportive family for any teenager to make progress in therapy.
The Importance Of The Parent/Therapist Relationship
Therapists are only able to see a snapshot of any teenager’s mood and behavior in their counseling sessions. Therefore, forging a strong working relationship with their patient’s parents is important. You are with your child 24/7 and so you are best placed to see how well their newly learned skills are being put into action, how well they are responding to medication and whether their symptoms are improving or worsening.
It’s therefore important to form a team with your teenager’s therapist, with the common goal of assisting your child to get better, and this means that you need to communicate effectively with each other.
Effective Communication With Your Teenager’s Therapist
There are several things you should keep in mind to improve your communication with your teenager’s therapist.
- Respect your knowledge – yes, your son or daughter’s therapist is an expert when it comes to therapeutic interventions, however, you’re an expert on your own child. That knowledge is very important and you shouldn’t be afraid to tell their therapist about your gut feelings.
- Plan ahead – if you’re able to pinpoint exactly what you’re concerned about before speaking to the therapist, you’ll be better placed to convey those worries. Keep notes about your observations and if you notice any new behaviors you can tell their therapist in detail.
- Ask for help when you need to – when your teenager requires therapy it can be difficult to cope. Often you feel judged by other people. However your teen’s therapist isn’t there to judge you, they’re there to help. It’s ok to ask for advice about the best way to handle your teenager and their problems.
- Include details – don’t be vague about your son or daughter’s problems or behaviors. Don’t just summarize everything with generalities. It’s important to include details to make it very clear what you’re talking about.
- Be curious – it’s ok to disagree with the conclusion that your teen’s therapist has drawn. Don’t just shoot them down in flames, however. Get more information and be curious about why they’ve drawn those conclusions and also express your viewpoint. This will help everything to become clear and give your teen the best chance of receiving the most appropriate treatment.
- Ask the right questions – it’s important to know what you need to ask your teen’s therapist to get the most out of the arrangement. Next, we’ll take a look at what those questions should be.
Asking The Right Questions
Before getting started with therapy, it’s important to have a full and frank conversation with your teenager’s new therapist. While bearing everything we’ve said above in mind, it’s important to ask a few key questions to ensure that you’ve made the right choice of therapist for your son or daughter and to help reassure you that they will be giving your child the best quality care.
Here are five important questions which you should raise from the get-go with any therapist that you choose for your son or daughter.
1. Why Have You Chosen To Work With Teenagers?
This may seem like a totally irrelevant question when all you want to know is whether this particular therapist can help your teenager to get better, however, it’s a very pertinent thing to ask. Somebody who works with teens must have a passion for their work. Young people have developing minds, and that can be very overwhelming, especially if they’re coping with behavioral or emotional issues too.
A skilled therapist can make an enormous difference in your teenager’s life, so hiring the right therapist who loves their work and who takes a genuine interest in helping young people to cope and to navigate through their problems is essential.
3. What Lessons Have Your Gained From Working With Teenagers?
Anyone who works in the therapy field is sure to have learned many things through their line of business. All good therapists find that the young people that they work with have an impact on their life view and world perception. By asking this question, you’ll be able to determine whether they’ve become disillusioned with their work as well as the important life lessons that they’ve gained from working with troubled youngsters.
3. How Would You Help A Resistant Patient?
Some teens going into therapy are very resistant to help. Some are attending against their will. Others are distrustful of other people and some are simply too shy to say anything at the start. However, skilled therapists have the ability to encourage and persuade young people to respond by building up trust and having patience. Your teenager’s therapist should be able to tell you about the different techniques and methods which they’d employ in such a situation.
4. Is There Anything You Wish That You’d Known When You Began Working In This Field?
This is another revealing question which will tell you a lot about your teen’s therapist. Wisdom comes with experience and wherever we are in our lives, we’re growing and learning all the time. In the counseling field, while studying and training is important, it’s impossible to truly gain a full understanding of how the teenage mind works without hands-on experience in the therapy room. By asking your teenager’s therapist about the things they wish they’d been aware of when first embarking on their career path, they’ll be able to tell you about the ways in which they’ve grown and improved as a therapist.
5. How Else Can I Help My Teen?
Although seeing a therapist can be a vital element in your teenager’s route to recovery, it isn’t the only thing that can help. One question you should definitely ask their therapist is what else they recommend to help your son or daughter to improve their mental and emotional well-being. A good therapist will recognize the need for outside help as well as the therapy that they provide and will give you some clear ideas about ways in which you can assist your child’s recovery.
Getting Therapy For Your Teenager
Although having a child who is in therapy is never going to be easy, if you can be confident that you’ve made the right choice of therapist, things will be a lot smoother. By asking these key questions, you’ll be able to determine whether you’ve chosen wisely so that your son or daughter can have the best chance of a full and speedy recovery from their mental health issues.
If you’re looking for a therapist for your teenaged child’s needs, why not reach out to Beachside Teen Treatment Center? Find out how we can help your family today!