How to Get Your Teen to Commit to Therapy

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Approaching the idea of therapy with your teen can be a difficult. It may bring up the question, "what is wrong with me? or the notion that you are disappointed or that your child isn't measuring up. 

Your child may be sensitive or easily embarrassed, making the conversation even more difficult to start. Or perhaps your teen would like help, but may avoid it for fear of being judged by others.

We think coming to therapy for the first time takes courage.  It is a new and potentially intimidating experience, especially if you don't know what to expect.

Below are a few tips for breaking the ice regarding therapy with your teen:

  1. Approach the subject when calm and the mood is right, not when angry or frustrated.  There needs to be sufficient balance for the topic to be explored rationally and for thoughtful questions and discussion to take shape.
  2. The idea should be presented in a helping, positive light. Your teen should never be made to feel that something is "wrong" with him or her. In fact, seeking help shows courage and logic.  Highlight that.
  3. If the subject of therapy is new to your family allow time for your teen to get use to the idea. It's usually not a decision that needs to be made quickly. In fact, therapy will work best when your teen is on board. 
  4. Be respectful of your teen's process in therapy. Making real change takes time, practice and failure. Be mindful of your own expectations and judgments and trust the process.

If the idea of therapy falls flat the first time around, don't give up. Another opportunity for discussion will present itself.  You may even be surprised when your teen brings it up to you. Hang in there and don't give up.  If help is necessary and your teen doesn't come around on his or her own, seek a consultation with a mental health professional on what specific approach can be helpful for you.

Most importantly, don't give up.  If you think professional help is necessary, continue to keep it in your mind and think of creative ways to talk about it and get commitment.