When your teen is acting out or showing signs of depression, anxiety, or stress, therapy can be a helpful solution. Today's teens have to contend with a lot of social and academic pressures, in addition to any family or personal issues they might have, and therapy can be a good way to help them cope with and manage all of these pressures. However, many parents don't know quite what to expect when they bring their teens to therapy. Take a look at a few things that you should expect to happen when your teen begins seeing a counselor.
Things May Get Worse Before They Get Better
It's not uncommon for parents to expect a quick change in their teenager's behavior once they begin counseling sessions. However, things may actually get worse before they get better. While sending your child to a therapist is often a good parenting decision, your teen may not see it that way. Since many teens only end up in counseling because a parent or another authority figure insists on it, they are often resistant to therapy, and may even act out more because they dislike being forced to go.
It takes time for a therapist to build up trust between themselves and your teenager. Therapy won't begin to have an effect until after your teenager and the therapist have established a rapport. How long your teen will need to be in therapy depends on their specific needs and goals, but be prepared to give the arrangement some time to begin working, even if you don't see results right away.
Your Teen's Counselor Won't Tell You Everything
If you're used to accompanying your teen into the exam room for doctor's appointments and attending conferences with their teachers, you might be surprised when you're not invited into the therapist's office with your teen, or when the counselor doesn't give you the specifics about what they discussed with your teen.
Just like an adult, your teen is entitled to confidentiality when they meet with a therapist. There are some exceptions – for example, the therapist is obligated to report abuse of a child, elderly, or disabled person, or a patient that may be a danger to themselves or someone else. Because your teen is not an adult, the therapist may be able to reveal some other things as well. However, for the most part, your teen's counselor won't be able to tell you what they discussed in private.
This confidentiality is important for your teen's treatment. If your teen doesn't trust the therapist to keep their conversations private, your teen will be less inclined to open up and be honest with their counselor. Your teen's counselor may be able to tell you in general terms whether your teen is making progress, but you shouldn't expect a detailed account of private conversations between your teen and the therapist.
You Will Still Need To Be Involved
Sometimes parents adopt a completely hands-off approach when it comes to their teen's therapy, but chances are that your teen's therapist won't recommend this either. While you may not be privy to the details that your teen reveals in their counseling session, your involvement is still important for your teen to make progress.
It's important for you to talk to the therapist regularly. You may be able to give them information that your teen can't or won't volunteer. For example, if there's a change in the household, like a separation or divorce, your teen may not want to talk about it right away, but their therapist should be aware anyway.
Your teen's therapist may also give you "homework" – exercises that can help you better communicate with and relate to your teenager. Your participation can make a big difference in your teen's progress. Make sure that you keep the lines of communication open between yourself and the therapist.
Therapy can make a big difference to a teen who is struggling and can help improve your relationship with your teen. Be sure to choose a therapist who is experienced in working with teens and families.