Your teenager is having a hard time. You recognise they need help. Together you’ve tried a few things and so far, it appears that nothing is working.
You get them to the Doctor. The Doctor suggests medication, and therapy.
Good therapy will be a game changer for your teenager. A good therapist, counsellor or coach will be able to work with your teen and give them tools to move forward. Not only will your teen be supported as they venture along the very scary part of their life pathway that has suddenly detoured them through anxiety and depression, they will also learn tools that they will return to time and again throughout their life.
Now you need to find a therapist, or a counsellor, or a coach.
There are an enormous number of therapists, counsellors and coaches available. How do you pick the right one? This is important because a good therapist will teach them life tools to move through the problems that will, inevitably, arrive from time to time. They will teach your teen how to develop healthy coping strategies that boost their self-confidence and let them problem-solve as they need to.
You need to know that the professional you choose will be the right person to work with your teenager. This is the most important consideration – the connection your teenager makes with their therapist, counsellor or coach is crucial. Your teen won’t get maximum benefit from therapy if they’re not comfortable with the therapist. It’s all about personal connection.
You are now building a team of support people for your teenager, and it makes sense to know how this team member will work with other team members – including yourself. How will they communicate with you, or your teenager’s Doctor?
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It’s worth noting that a therapist will see your teenager for an hour a week or fortnight. You spend a lot more time than that with your teen, and a good therapist will be able to give you exercises to do with your teenager that will support their process between sessions.
Questions to ask would be:
- How will you get to know my teenager?
- How will you communicate their progress with me?
- What role do you see me playing in their recovery?
- What are your expectations of me?
- How will you follow up with the skills they are learning so I can support them?
- How long do you expect the programme of therapy to run for? Is there a review date?
- How will you show progress?
- What information would you like from me about my teenager?
An ideal programme of therapy for your teenager would involve you by:
- An initial joint meeting with you, your teenager and the therapist, counsellor or coach.
- Requesting you to attend a part of every 3rd or 4th session to jointly discuss progress and ways forward.
- Keeping you informed of ways you, and other family members, can help at home.
Once the therapy has commenced, it’s your teenager and the therapist’s process, not yours. Stick to checking in that the session has been okay, asking if there’s anything your teen would like to talk to you about and be guided by them. They may come out of a session not wanting to chat because they’re still processing what they discussed with their therapist. Your offer may be taken up at a future time.
Persist with therapy. If the first therapist isn’t the right person for your teenager, try another one. You may have to work with two or three therapists for a few sessions each before you find the right fit. Be guided by your impressions and how your teenager feels about the therapist and therapy. The most important thing is to keep going, the right therapist will be a key factor in how quickly your teen works through their anxiety and depression.
Have you considered enrolling in Bit-by-Bit – this online course combines home learning with group coaching for both you and your teenager. Research shows the earlier the intervention, the faster the recovery. Click here for more information.