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When is it time to seek therapy? A brief guide for teens and their parents by Erin Worden, M.A., L.P.C.

May 22, 2013

As a counselor who specializes in counseling teenagers and young adults, there are several ideas that could be useful to either teenagers or their parents when considering the option of therapy.

For teens:

One of the first things to consider is some of the typical signs of depression or anxiety that might show up in teens or young adults. This is a not a comprehensive symptom list, but answering yes to some of these questions might shed light on your emotional need to receive therapy. Ask yourself:

  • Am I having a hard time enjoying things that I typically might enjoy?
  • Have my sleep habits changed? Am I sleeping more frequently or having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep at night?
  • Am I agitated or distracted? Is this even affecting my grades in school or my performance/attention at a job or extracurricular activity that I don’t typically have trouble focusing on?
  • Am I eating more than I should or not as much as I should?
  • Am I often feeling sad or crying more than I usually do?
  • Do I feel the desire to hole-up and spend time by myself when I typically might enjoy the company of others?
  • Am I “tied up in knots” inside and frequently feeling anxious?
  • Am I having panic attacks or feeling frequently overwhelmed?
  • Do things put me “on edge” that didn’t used to? Are there social, academic or family situations that I fear?
  • Am I just having a hard time liking myself or even wanting to treat myself well?

For parents:

Evaluating your teenager for the above symptoms is definitely important for parents, but undoubtedly the most useful idea that I would share with the parent of a teenager is readiness. Readiness is the idea that your teenager is ready to talk to someone about the things they are struggling with. A parent might feel that a teenager exhibits many of symptoms above, and she might be deeply concerned for her teen; however, if a parent forces her child to come to therapy, the process is often unproductive. I have met with many teens that are unresponsive or even resistant to the therapy process simply because they felt forced to come. A parent can measure the readiness of his teen or young adult by asking questions like these:

  • I’m concerned about you lately and wonder if you would feel more comfortable talking to someone other than me (or other support people)?
  • Would you be open to the idea of talking to a person who understands the kinds of issues you’re dealing with?
  • Would you be willing to give counseling a shot by attending one session to see if it might be helpful?

Many teens are surprised by the usefulness of therapy at improving their daily functioning, reducing their symptoms and raising their overall contentment level. Teens assessing the seriousness of their own symptoms and parents considering their teen’s readiness can help to lay the groundwork for a productive therapy process.

 

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