Tori (Goodling) Tatum
How to get your teen invested in therapy:
- Normalize the Experience of Therapy: Not everyone in your community sees a therapist, but more people do than you realize. Therapy can be helpful for everyone throughout different seasons of life. We don’t always need it, but we all could use it at some point.
- Attend Counseling Yourself: Teens, much like the rest of us, do not like to be singled out. Therapy is helpful for the individual. However, just like in a marriage, when the entire system is investing in change, there is a greater chance for improvement.
- Discuss Ownership of Privacy: This can be a scary concept for parents and yet an exciting one for your teen. Much like an adult, teenagers also have a right to their privacy. In therapy, this means that whatever they say is kept confidential between therapist and client. The only time this confidentiality is broken is if the teen has communicated that they are of harm to themselves or to someone else (as well as if they have been physically and/or sexually abused). At this point, precautions are taken, and the guardian is notified via the client and therapist together. Having someone to talk to that is unrelated to family and outside their social network can be a huge advantage. (Just as a side note: your child’s safety is our number one concern. If we are worried about it, you will know.)
- Talk about the BENEFITS:
- Investing in yourself is always worth it. Teens invest in friends, extra-curricular activities, social media, summer jobs, hobbies, and family (when they’re lucky!) All of which are great things to invest in. However, investing in yourself is investing in the one relationship you are GUARANTEED to have your ENTIRE life. Making sure you are healthy and happy is well worth the investment.
- You learn new ways of dealing with old and new problems. Believe it or not, teenagers pick up on their parents coping skills. This means that if you feel like you don’t handle stress well, they likely agree, and will typically handle it similarly. So, discussing this with them might look like…”I see that you’ve been overwhelmed lately, and I know what that is like. Sometimes when I am overwhelmed I don’t handle it the best that I could. Talking with a therapist could give you new ways to cope with your stress that look different than mine. They could help me as well…”
- Therapy with teenagers is often different from therapy with adults. Sharing can be combined with music, sports, creativity, games, and more. It can be fun and something they begin to look forward to.
- You gain an advocate. Some things are just hard to say. Through therapy, you can learn new ways to communicate what you need and want. Your therapist is there to listen, validate, teach, and assist.