A lot of adults can find it difficult to attend therapy for the first time, so it should come as no surprise that teenagers can feel the same.
However, except for situations where your teen is at immediate risk of harm, being forced or coerced into therapy will often fail to provide the positive outcomes that you so sorely desire for them.
As psychologists, we rely on the expertise that our clients have about their own life, experiences, thoughts and behaviours. Even the best evidence-based treatments are unlikely to bring lasting change if a client is unwilling to engage, consider and apply the various skills and reflections to their situation. By contrast, in allowing time, and being patient for your teen to open up to the possibility of therapy, can lead to not only positive therapy experiences in the short term, but also encourage a lifetime of help-seeking when things get difficult or professional help is needed.
While the process can be difficult and distressing for parents, here are some ways to proceed if your teen is resistant to seeking help;
- Listen: In a gentle, non-judgemental conversation, find out what their concerns or reservations are. Many reasons may be valid or something you can help them to work through.
- Lead by example: Often parent-training and learning ways to interact with, coach and support your teen through difficult circumstances can be a great first step in supporting both your teen, and the whole family.
- Be prepared: If they start to consider the idea of therapy, providing information or showing your teen a photo of their psychologist or practice can reduce some of the initial uncertainty or anxiety about talking to someone they’ve never met before.
- Utilise online supports: Encourage your teen to use online, self-help or chat services available through various platforms. This can spark interest, promote understanding and build confidence to start with a psychologist. Helpful websites include;
Emily is in her final year of a Master of Clinical Psychology at the University of Sydney. As part of her studies, Emily has completed placements for adult therapy, family therapy and in community mental
health. This included facilitating a telehealth DBT group (skills for emotional distress and regulation). She also has experience as a co-facilitator of a group therapy program for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, targeting social anxiety and social functioning, for which her publication of the results is currently under review.
Prior to completing her masters, Emily worked in private practice as a provisional psychologist, working with children and adults with disabilities and co-morbid mental health concerns.