Reasons Teens Go to Therapists
Sometimes when teens are going through a hard time, such as family troubles or problems in school, they might feel more supported if they talk to a therapist. They may be feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed by what’s been happening — and need help sorting out their feelings, finding solutions to their problems, or just feeling better. In short, therapy offers people support when they are going through difficult times.
There are many situations in which therapy can help but here are some examples:
- feels sad, depressed, worried, shy, or just stressed out
- wants to sort out problems like managing anger or coping with peer pressure
- wants to build self-confidence or figure out ways to make more friends
- is trying to cope with a traumatic event, death of a loved one, or worry over world events
- has a habit he or she would like to get rid of, such as nail biting, hair pulling, smoking, or spending too much money, or getting hooked on medications, drugs, or pills
- is dieting or overeating for too long or it becomes a problem (eating disorders)
- is dealing with an attention problem (ADHD) or a learning problem
- is coping with a chronic illness (such as diabetes or asthma) or a new diagnosis of a serious problem such as HIV, cancer, or a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- is dealing with family changes such as separation and divorce, or family problems such as alcoholism or addiction
Deciding to seek help for something you’re going through can be really difficult. Going to therapy may or may not be your idea. Sometimes parents or teachers bring up the idea because they notice you are dealing with a difficult situation, are losing weight, or that you seem unusually sad, worried, angry, or upset. You might have welcomed the idea or even felt relieved but it is also common to feel criticized or embarrassed. You may not believe talking to someone can help! When therapy is someone else’s idea, at first you might feel like resisting it but learning a bit more about what therapy involves and what to expect can help make it feel OK.
What Is Therapy?
Therapy isn’t just for mental health. You’ve probably heard people talk about other types of medical therapy (such as physical therapy or chemotherapy) but the word “therapy” is most often used to mean psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”) – basically, it is a process that’s a lot like learning. Through therapy, you will learn about yourself. You will discover ways to overcome difficulties, develop inner strengths or skills, or make changes in yourself or your situation. Often, it just feels good to have a person to vent to, and other times it’s useful to learn different techniques to help deal with stress.
A psychotherapist (therapist, for short) is a person who has been professionally trained to help people deal with stress or other problems. Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and school psychologists are the titles of some of the licensed professionals who work as therapists. The letters following a therapist’s name (for example, MD, PhD, PsyD, EdD, MA, LCSW, LPC) refer to the education and degree that therapist has received. For example, the PhD after my name shows that I earned a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. Some therapists work in hospitals, clinics, or counseling centers. Others work in schools or in psychotherapy offices, often called a “private practice” or “group practice.”
What Happens During Therapy?
When you and I meet, we will talk about your feelings, thoughts, relationships, and important values. At the beginning, therapy sessions are focused on talking about what you’d like to work on and setting goals. Here is a list of common goals:
- improving self-esteem and gaining confidence
- feeling less depressed or less anxious
- figuring out how to make more friends
- improving grades at school
- making healthier choices (for example, about relationships or eating) and ending self-defeating behaviors
- learning to manage anger and frustration
During the first visit, you will be asked to talk a bit about yourself: problems, concerns, and symptoms you may be having: or the problems your parents or teachers are concerned about. I will also likely meet with your parent/caregiver so we can go over information about confidentiality.
After 1-2 sessions, we will then talk about your understanding of what is going on with you, how therapy could help, and what the process will involve. Together, we will decide on the goals for therapy. For example, we could decide to help you develop better relationship skills or coping skills, including ways to build confidence, express feelings, or manage anger. We also might go over new skills or help you to think about a situation in a new way.
How Private Is It?
Therapists respect the privacy of their clients and they keep things they’re told confidential. I will not tell anyone else – including parents – about what you talk about in your sessions unless you give me permission. A therapist is the one person you can tell your troubles to without worrying about “gossip.” For example, you may have been told by a family member that he/she does not want you to talk about your parents’ upcoming divorce. Therapy is a place where it is OK to talk about your feelings in this difficult situation without having to worry about “talking about private family matters” before your family is ready.
The only exception to confidentiality is if I believe you may harm yourself or others or are in danger of being harmed yourself. I want to keep you safe! If privacy and confidentiality worries you, be sure to bring it up during our first meeting. I feel it is extremely important to feel comfortable enough to talk openly about your situation.
Does It Mean I’m Crazy?
No. In fact, many people in your class have probably seen a therapist at some point — just like students often see coaches or tutors for extra help with sports or schoolwork. Getting help in dealing with emotions and stressful situations is as important to your overall health as getting help with a medical problem like asthma or diabetes.
There’s nothing wrong with getting help with problems that are hard to solve alone. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It takes a lot of courage and maturity to look for solutions to problems instead of ignoring or hiding them and allowing them to become worse.
Therapy is helpful to people of all ages and with problems that range from mild to much more serious. Some people still hold on to old beliefs about therapy, such as thinking that teens “will grow out of” their problems but in reality that might take longer than you would like, or may not happen. Therapy can help people feel better, be stronger, and make good choices as well as discover more about themselves. Those who work with therapists might learn about motivations that lead them to behave in certain ways or about inner strengths they have. Maybe you’ll learn new coping skills, develop more patience, or learn to like yourself better. Maybe you’ll find new ways to handle problems that come up or new ways to handle yourself in tough situations.
You don’t have to hide the fact that you’re going to a therapist, but you also don’t have to tell anyone if you’d prefer not to. Some people find that talking to a few close friends about their therapy helps them to work out their problems and feel like they’re not alone. Other people choose not to tell anyone, especially if they feel that others won’t understand. Either way, it’s a personal decision.
What Should I Expect Now?
Thank you for taking the time to read this information. If your parent has scheduled an appointment for you I look forward to meeting and will do whatever I can in our first appointment to help you feel comfortable!
Please do not hesitate to call me ahead of time if you have any concerns or questions. I can be reached at 707-239-2782. I look forward to talking to you soon!