About therapy for teens: For teens only (Parents, don’t read this–see ‘parents’ section, below)
We offer a lot of therapy for teens, so we get it: Your parents are crazy at least some of the time. Ok, most of the time. We know. We agree. Honestly, a lot of the time, parents get in the way of their kids getting good help. We think it’s well meaning, we really do. You may or may not agree.
All the time we get phone calls and emails from teens looking for therapy for themselves. We take it as a sign that we must be doing something right that teens themselves are searching for therapy for teens.
But either way, if you’re going to get therapy for teens to get help dealing with the challenging stuff that’s going on in your life, including your parents, you’re going to need to get them on board. It isn’t just therapy for teens we offer:
We speak parent.
We’re pretty good at understanding what it is they’re concerned about and at figuring out why they’re giving you a hard time. In fact, we’ll probably be concerned about some of those same things. In providing therapy for teens, what we need is to find ways of sorting through those concerns and figuring out how we can get your parents to help make things better.
We can help get mom and dad (or mom or dad, or mom and mom, or dad and dad, or mom and dad and step dad, or mom and dad and mom’s girlfriend and grandma and Aunt Stephanie who lives downstairs) on board.
Therapy for teens doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom
If anybody’s going to therapy it’s a pretty safe bet they’ve got heavy stuff to deal with. It’s silly to deny that. But that doesn’t have to make the therapy dark and dreary. We can take the heavy stuff seriously and get to work on it with out the accompanying freak out. We deal with heavy stuff all the time. We have to be honest about what’s not working and get serious about fixing it. Maybe fixing it will involve sadness and anger, but it can also come with a sense of humor.
Therapy for teens is about more than problems
As we said, it’s usually problems that bring teens to therapy. But at its best, therapy for teens is an amazing place to help figure out who you are and what kind of life you want to build. In fact, doing that, even if it means taking a break from talking about the problems directly, can often be the very best way to deal with those problems.
We’re not old and stiff
Everyone in our practice has been around the block enough times to have the skills and experience as therapists and in life to have gotten good at this (and enough to help your parents feel satisfied that you’re seeing someone qualified). But, let’s just say… we’re not old fogies. We’re not going to greet you from behind a desk, take endless notes (or any notes, most likely) or sit through your session with a giant copy of the DSMV on our laps. We’re not likely to freak out about anything that’s going on in your life.
So, do I have to bring my mom?
While parents are not always involved in therapy for teens, it is usually important to include family in some way when offering therapy for teens to be sure they are in the loop in terms of how to best support you and what you are making happen in and out of therapy. We want you to be in the driver’s seat as much as possible in your therapy decisions. What’s best for you can look like a lot of different things- sometimes bringing in the whole family is called for so we can think about that option as well. Regardless, you will always be involved in making these decisions.
And what about confidentiality in therapy?
With almost anything that comes up in therapy, including therapy for teens, it stays in the room—not to be shared with anyone including your parents.
Ok, so we said almost anything. Firstly, if you’re talking about seriously hurting yourself or someone else, or are involved in something life threatening, we’re going to call your parents (and maybe 9-1-1). That’s not something we have a choice around, legally. Beyond that, there may be lots of things that come up where it’s probably a good idea that we talk to your parents. When that happens, we have to decide together how to proceed. What do you need to be safe? What do they need to know as people who have a pretty important role in your life? What can we guess the consequences might be in telling them? Or in not telling them? And of course, we’ll need to decide together how to tell them.
The short of it: There are some things that need to be secret, some things that can’t be, and some things that fall in a grey area. For those, we’ll figure it out together (and never go behind your back—no matter how many times mom calls begging us to do so).
What about meds?
Sometimes people ask about medications. We don’t require, push, or reject medications. Sometimes they’re incredibly helpful. Other times, not so much. And they always come with side effects and very real consequences. Ultimately it’s up to you and your parents, and we’ll help everyone decide what’s best.
It should be noted that we don’t prescribe meds (only a doctor or nurse practitioner can do that). We know a few good ones who can work closely with us if need be.
For parents only (teens, don’t read this)
Your kid is crazy. It’s not in your imagination.
We do a lot of therapy with teens, and teenagers talk to us a lot in therapy about what they’re dealing with–depression, anxiety, school, eating problems, bullying, trauma, preparing for college, grades, sex and sexuality. One of the great challenges of parenting teenagers is that there’s a lot to worry about, but you rarely have the whole story and they don’t always seem interested in help.
The first appointment:
Although we do get a fair number of calls and emails from teens who’ve searched for therapy for teens and found us online themselves and want to make an appointment (which we do once their parents are on board), plenty of parents call to ask about therapy and are nervous about getting their kid to go along.
What we always say in this case is that if you can get them to show up for the first appointment, our job is to take it from there. Part of the skill of being therapists who work with adolescents is to figure out how to connect in the first session and help them see the value in coming back next week, and we have a pretty good success rate with that.
As far as making that first appointment happen, honestly, you’ve got to do whatever it takes. Be serious with your kid about what your concerns are, let them know you’re asking them to come in once and they don’t need to be ready to commit to more than that. Honor the fact that, however involved in the therapy you end up being, ultimately, this is an important relationship that will be deeply personal to them (at least if it’s going to work). You need a therapist you feel comfortable with, who you trust will take things seriously and will really help your kid, but you’ve also got to get your teenager to sign on. If it makes sense, share our website with them (we’re also on Facebook and Twitter) and even invite them to email or call themselves to talk about what the work would look like. And in a pinch, there’s nothing wrong with begging or bribery to help make that first session happen. Seriously.
What the heck is wrong with my kid?
Parents get a reputation for being disconnected from their kid’s struggles, but we’ve found that doesn’t usually match up with the reality. Teenagers can be legitimately confusing (and sometimes that’s because they want to be confusing) but plenty of parents are involved in their teens lives and still struggle to connect with what’s going on or, more relevantly, to help.
What’s important to know about how we see teenagers’ emotionality is that we don’t just blow problems off as “teenage angst” or “just a phase.” Sure, teens can have mood swings and emotional outbursts that are hard to explain, but much of the time (much more than gets credited) what’s behind that “moodiness” is some very real pain that needs some very real attention.
Do I come to the session? Will I know what’s being talked about?
Teenagers fall in a funny sort of in-between that can make these questions tricky. On the one hand, having a parent (or parents) involved in the therapy can be crucial in helping get issues out in the open so they can be dealt with. Sometimes we give parents guidance in how best to support their child through hard stuff. Part of this work is supporting a parent and child to communicate better about what’s going on in their life together.
On the other hand, teenagers also generally need space from parents to have room to talk about things they don’t know how to talk about with their parents (or in ways they don’t want to talk with their parents). Everyone deserves some privacy in their emotional lives.
To be clear: There are some things that just aren’t going to be kept secret. We’re honest and upfront with everyone (including teens) about that. If a teenager is talking about hurting him or herself, or someone else, or is involved in a serious, dangerous situation, we’re going to bring their parents into the loop. Other things need to be kept private, even if mom and dad really, really want to know. And then there’s the grey area. Of course this can be challenging for parents. Often they’re worried, or want to be sure that certain issues are being talked about (and that the therapist even knows they’re happening). There’s likely some delicate navigating that needs to happen, and our job is to lead that process. We work with teens to talk through the consequences of sharing versus not, the pros and cons of secrets, and understanding what parents may feel when they are not included in some vital happenings in their kids’ lives. We do that with respect for everyone and transparency. It’s delicate at times. It should be.
You are an important part of your child’s therapy.
You can be crucial in supporting your child around what they are working on and towards. While you might not always be physically present, your support matters and we will be in communication as much as you, your child, and their therapist decides is appropriate. Sometimes coming in for sessions will be needed, either alone or with the whole family. At the same time, we want this place to be a safe zone for your child so we work hard to be sure that happens. Family sessions do not have to be horrible. We want to create something positive and meaningful in our time together so you can feel good about it when you walk out of here.
Medications are not something we push or reject. Sometimes they are helpful in supporting people briefly or for longer periods of time. We work with some great psychiatrists to determine if and when medications are appropriate. If they are then we prefer to maintain communication to be sure you and your child receive well coordinated care.