Being a teenager can be extremely difficult. Teenagers undergo many changes physically, emotionally, and psychologically, which can be challenging to cope with. It is common for teens to face various pressures, from heavy academic workloads and selecting a future career path to forming their sense of identity. Some teenagers may experience bullying or peer pressure or question their gender or sexual identity as they navigate relationships for the first time. Additionally, the prevalence of social media in today’s culture has been linked to social comparison and lowered self-esteem. With all of the stresses of our modern world, many teens can benefit from counseling as they navigate these challenges.
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 may 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 a larger precipitating event almost always cause negative social behaviors. When you decide that your teen should attend counseling, you're not only allowing them to work through their current struggles, but you're also giving them the chance to work through past events that may be troubling them.
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.
When your teen begins counseling, you may be surprised to find that you're not expected or even invited to attend. You may be surprised to learn that the counselor cannot share information regarding these sessions with you as this violates 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 confidentiality rules 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 very little autonomy from their parents.
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 is 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.
As previously mentioned, all of the information your teen shares with the therapist is considered confidential, with the exception of anything the therapist is legally mandated 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 they need, and you will be informed. Otherwise, your teen will still be working through any concerns they may have without having to worry about the repercussions of sharing their feelings.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any abuse, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for support and resources.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free, confidential, and available 24/7.
When you first talk to your teen about therapy, they may feel resistant. This is normal, so try not to worry. You might consider the following techniques to help your teen become open to the idea of therapy:
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. Let them know that you support them, no matter what. If they make the decision, they're much more likely to follow through and benefit from it.
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 to give it a try, you'll buy their tickets to see their favorite band. This will incentivize them without locking them into a long-term counseling relationship. They may find that they get something out of therapy and choose to continue seeing their counselor. Find something your child loves and see if they're willing to give therapy a try in return.
Teens are on their way to adulthood, and they probably don't want to be treated like young children. 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.
It can be difficult to know how to react when your child has trouble coping or adjusting to life as they transition to adulthood. If this is the case, there are many ways to seek help, including therapist-assisted parenting strategies. They can teach you more about your child’s mental health condition and potentially help you through any resultant mental health issues you may be experiencing.
Studies show that online therapy programs can help parents whose teenagers are experiencing complicated emotions related to mental health issues. One study published in Internet Interventions—a peer-reviewed scientific journal—found that an online parenting platform was effective in helping parents recognize symptoms of depression and anxiety in their teens. The report posits that therapist-assisted interventions can help parents motivate their children to continue treatment. This form of treatment utilizes therapist-assisted videoconferencing and interactive educational resources to reinforce important topics or concepts. Online therapy provides remote access to these tools, increasing accessibility and eliminating many common barriers to treatment, such as perceived stigma, financial burden, and geographical limitations.
With BetterHelp, you’ll be able to attend therapy sessions remotely—via live chat, messaging, voice call, or videoconferencing. And you’ll have the option of messaging your therapist outside of sessions. When you want to discuss a specific issue or have a question, send a message, and your therapist will get back to you as soon as they can. A qualified counselor can help you better guide your teenager when they are experiencing complicated emotions. Below, you'll find reviews of BetterHelp counselors who have worked with people of all ages.
"Charlotte helped me figure out the root of some of my problems from middle school to understand my current self better. Thanks to her, I'll continue to work on those things and let go of the past."
"She is 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.