What To Expect From Teen Counseling

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated February 3, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Being a teenager can come with a unique set of challenges. Many teens may feel pressured during adolescence by heavy academic workloads, discovering their identity, or keeping up with social life.  

Some teenagers may experience bullying or peer pressure, and others may question their gender or sexual identity as they navigate relationships for the first time. Other adolescents might be diagnosed with a mental health condition or experience distressing symptoms. Teen counseling often seeks to help these individuals discover their place in the world and learn more about themselves.

Gain Professional Insight Into Common Adolescent Challenges

Why Should I Consider Teen Counseling For My Child?

While teens may seem like young adults, they often go through many significant physical, emotional, and physiological changes, which can feel challenging to cope with. Their brains are in the process of becoming fully formed, so they may struggle with decision-making, time management, and understanding their emotions. 

Many adolescents experience hormonal and bodily changes that could feel unfamiliar or overwhelming. With many internal and external changes from childhood, added stressors might cause teens to feel overwhelmed. Additionally, a wide variety of teens utilize social media. Social media in the 21st century has been linked to social comparison and lowered self-esteem in young people. 

When Should I Consider Teen Counseling? 

If teens reach the point where they feel difficulty handling school, social, or family stress, therapy may help them develop coping mechanisms. Despite this, many teens do not know that therapy is an option or might have heard mental health myths at school that deter them from wanting to try. 

Parents may consider teen counseling after they notice their children struggling with academics, self-esteem, or behavioral issues. Dropping grades or a significant precipitating event may also signify that your child could benefit from counseling.  

Before discussing the subject of counseling with your teen, consider allowing them to have a voice in the conversation. They might feel defensive or confused when you bring it up. Ask them how they'd feel speaking to a professional and if they want to help choose a therapist. You might also consider asking them when they'd feel most comfortable attending therapy and how often they want to go. 

Although you may have the "final word" in the conversation, including your teen could make the prospect of therapy sound more comforting to them. You can also explain the process and how it could benefit them. If you see a therapist yourself, explain how therapy benefits you and lead by example.

Teen Counseling Expectations For Parents

As a parent, knowing what to expect from teen counseling can be beneficial. The process may look slightly different from adult therapy. 

Teens May Receive Privacy In Therapy

You might not be invited to attend the session when your teen begins counseling. Parents often act as their child's representatives regarding medical decision-making. Although privacy clauses may not apply to minors in therapy, a therapist might ask a parent to agree to specific contracts before treating their child. In some cases, a therapist may not offer information to you if they believe it could harm the minor. 

Your Teen's Therapy May Seem Off-Topic

The type of therapy used with teens may depend on the precipitating problem. If you want your teen to attend therapy because they're struggling academically, the counselor may find underlying causes or other concerns to work through first. 

Often, 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

The Therapist May Collaborate With You 

As the parent, the therapist may speak to you about some of the concerns brought up in therapy, depending on their policies. As you collaborate with the therapist, you may choose to have open discussions with your child and improve dynamics at home. 

Try to respect your teen's privacy by not openly discussing their private information with them without consent. If you want to learn more, ask your teen if they're open to talking to you about what they learned in counseling.  

How To Find A Counselor For Your Teen

When looking for a counselor, you might meet with your teen's primary care physician or pediatrician and discuss a potential referral to a psychologist in your area that accepts your child's insurance plan. You might also consider several types of specialists, including: 

  • Counselors

  • Social workers

  • Psychiatrists

  • Psychologists

  • Neuropsychologists

  • Behavioral experts

  • Online counselors 

  • School counselors 

Each option may have a different cost, specialty, or expertise level. You can start your search online and call the professionals that stand out to you. 

How To Prepare Your Adolescent For Therapy

When you first talk to your teen about therapy, they may feel resistant. It can be normal for teens to resist what they're uncomfortable with. You might consider the following techniques to help your teen become open to the idea of therapy.

Let Them Lead

Teens may not enjoy it when decisions are made for them without their input. Before telling them to go to therapy, provide them with information about the therapy process and ask them if they think it could benefit them. 

Let them know that you support them, no matter what. If they decide to try therapy themselves, they may be more likely to approach it with an open mind.

Include Them In The Process

Teens are on their way to adulthood, so they may not want to be treated like young children. Consider allowing your child to help you choose a therapist and let them decide when to schedule their appointments. 

You might also let them see the research behind why you think therapy is a valuable choice. If they feel like you're a team, they may be more likely to follow through with your suggestion.

Going To Counseling As A Parent 

Knowing how to react when your child has trouble coping or adjusting to life as they transition to adulthood can be challenging. If this is the case for you, there are many ways to seek help, including therapist-assisted parenting strategies. 

A professional counselor may teach you more about your child's mental health condition and potentially help you through any resultant mental health issues you may be experiencing. Caring for your mental health may teach healthy coping strategies to your child and reduce stigmas around seeking support. 

Studies show that online therapy programs can help parents whose teenagers are experiencing complicated emotions related to teen 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. This recognition let the parents know when to step in and seek help for their children.  

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 critical topics or concepts.

Gain Professional Insight Into Common Adolescent Challenges

A qualified counselor can help you better guide your teenager when experiencing complicated emotions. If you're ready to try online counseling, consider a platform like BetterHelp for those over 18, which offers various online therapy methods and counselor options. If you hope to sign your teen up for online counseling, TeenCounseling is available to those ages 13-19. 

Takeaway

Knowing where to start looking for help can be difficult if your teenager is struggling with mental health challenges. By encouraging your teen to visit a counselor specializing in young adults, you may be able to get them the support they need to handle teenage life.  

If you're facing your challenges related to your teenager's struggles, counseling is also available for parents. Consider reaching out online or in your area to get started.

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