What To Expect From Teenage Counseling

By: Jessica Anderson

Updated May 21, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn

Today's teenagers are under more stress than the teens of prior generations. (In fact, teenagers who were in high school during times of war are the only noted exception, but that's because those teens were at risk of being drafted.) Today's teens are exposed to peer pressure and social media in addition to the stress that comes with discovering who they want to become in the future. In addition, they have a larger workload at school and need to take a variety of standardized tests every year. They may also worry about finding the right career or getting into the right college. With all of the stresses of our modern world, many teens can benefit from counseling as they navigate these challenges.

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Why Should I Consider Teen Counseling?

It's important to remember that, although teens are becoming adults, they're still very much children. Their brains are in the process of becoming fully formed, so they're not yet able to make decisions or handle mature situations as well as adults can. At the same time, their bodies are growing, and they struggle with the side effects of budding hormones. The addition of external stressors can easily tip teens over the edge, even if they're struggling with things that seem small to adults.

To make matters worse, today's teens are also spending less and less time with their families because their parents tend to work longer hours while teens spend more time on extracurricular activities and schoolwork. Family time is essential in keeping stress levels low. Because of this, the lack of adequate family time can add to the challenges that teens face today.

When teens reach the point where they cannot effectively handle school, social, or family stress, therapy can help them learn to cope. In fact, studies show that 2 out of 3 teens benefit significantly from talk therapy. Many parents consider this option after they notice their teen struggling with academics or behavioral issues. However, it's important to note that dropping grades and negative social behaviors are almost always caused by a larger precipitating event. When you decide that your teen should attend counseling, you're not only giving them the opportunity to work through their current struggles, but you're also giving them the chance to work through past events that may be troubling them.

Teen Counseling Expectations For Parents

As a parent, it can be helpful to know what to expect from teen counseling. Read on to learn more about what you might experience.

Even Teens Receive Privacy in Therapy

When your teen begins counseling, you may be surprised to find that you're not expected or even invited to attend. You may further be surprised to learn that the counselor cannot share information regarding these sessions with you as this is a violation of therapist-client confidentiality. The therapist can provide general information regarding progress, diagnosis, and referrals (if any), but that's it.

You may feel resistant to the idea that the therapist is bound by rules of confidentiality when your child is still a minor. However, this allows your teen to express their thoughts and emotions openly without the fear of consequences. This is very important to teens because they value their privacy and often feel they have very little autonomy from their parents.

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Your Teen's Therapy May Seem Off Topic

The type of therapy used with teens depends on the precipitating problem. If you want your teen to attend therapy because they're struggling academically, the counselor may start there and then dive deeper. Why? Establishing rapport and trust are essential in therapy. After the initial intake session (with or without the parents), the therapist may spend the next session getting to know the teen. Make sure to trust the process, even if it seems off topic from the outside.

Therapists are Mandated Reporters

As previously, all of the information your teen shares with the therapist is considered confidential with the exception of anything the therapist is legally required to report. These exceptions include the intent to harm themselves or others, sexual or physical abuse, and suicidal thoughts. You may find comfort in this; if there's a serious issue, your teen will receive the help he or she needs, and you will be informed.

How To Prepare Your Teen For Counseling

When you first talk to your teen about therapy, they may feel resistant. This is normal, so try not to worry. If you're able to meet your teen where they are and support them, you can probably convince them to get the help they need. Try the following techniques to help your teen begin therapy.

Let Them Lead

Teens don't typically like it when decisions are made for them. Before telling them they need to go to therapy, give them information on the process and ask them if they think it could benefit them. If they make the decision, they're much more likely to follow through and benefit from it.

Offer Incentives

If your teen is having a hard time accepting the idea of therapy, consider offering a reward. For example, you could tell them that, if they attend a single session just to give it a try, you'll buy them tickets to see their favorite band. Find something your child loves and see if they're willing to give therapy a try in return.

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Include Them in the Process

Teens are on their way to adulthood, and they probably don't want to be treated like a young child. With that in mind, consider allowing your child to help you choose a therapist and let them decide when they'd like to schedule their appointments. You might also let them see the research behind why you think therapy is a good idea. If they feel like you're a team, they may be more likely to follow through with your suggestion.

Creative Therapy Environments

Counseling can benefit teens in a myriad of ways. However, it may be difficult to get a teen to agree to see a therapist because they're concerned about privacy, among other things. With this in mind, you might want to explore online counseling through a service like BetterHelp. At BetterHelp.com, your teen can have 24/7 access to email, chat, or video communication with a qualified, licensed therapist. If your teen can communicate with a therapist privately from the comfort of their own home, they may be more likely to attend counseling. Below, you'll find reviews of BetterHelp counselors who have worked with people of all ages.

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Counselor Reviews

"Charlotte helped me figure out the root of some of my problems from middle school to better understand my current self. Thanks to her I'll continue to work on those things and let go of the past."

"She amazing with helping me figure things out. If I didn't have this app or Amanda while I'm at school, I don't think I'd make it."


Getting a teen to attend counseling may be a challenge, but it's usually in their best interest. Luckily, there are ways to ease them into the process. Let them lead, reward them, and consider creative options like BetterHelp. With your assistance and teen counseling, your teen can have a happier, healthier life. Take the first step today.

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