Talking about mental health is challenging — especially to your parents. Still, choosing to see a therapist at any age can be one of the most beneficial decisions you can make. Many teenagers struggling with social stigma, peer pressure, and anxiety fall for the traps of drugs and alcohol, which leads them to struggle with substance abuse in the end. If you’re trying to find the best way to talk to your parents about going to therapy, here are some tips to help you get ready for that conversation.
Make a Plan to Talk About It
Before we continue, know that wanting to seek mental health treatment is valid. Almost 20% of teenagers ages 13 to 18 have a mental health condition. Even with the stigma surrounding mental illness, finding the help you need is critical.
Above all, you want to avoid bringing the topic out of the blue. Consider touching on the subject of mental health from time to time. Test the waters by talking about news stories or make a commentary about mental health in general ahead of time. This might help you get a better idea of your parent’s views on therapy and mental wellness.
As you gain the courage to discuss the topic of seeing a therapist, consider writing down what you want to say. Since this is a very emotional subject, coming up with a plan and at least a general idea of what you want to talk about might make the conversation smoother. After all, bursting out “mom, dad, I want to see a therapist” without any context in the middle of dinner won’t get you any further.
Again, don’t just break the topic in the middle of a football game. Plan and make sure your parents will have enough time to discuss the situation with you. Don’t pick a moment or day that you’ll know they’ll be busy or occupied during other things. Think about a time and place that would be best to have a potentially stressful conversation.
After all, even if your parents are open and embracing the topic of mental health, they might not be the same way when it refers to you.
Try Different Outlets
In a perfect world, you’ll have a face-to-face conversation with your parents about your desire to see a therapist. However, that’s not always possible. Consider writing them a letter, sending them an email, or even talking about it through text messages. Approach these different communication methods the same as you would like a conversation in person. Try to explain to them why you’re choosing this method of communication over another, so they can respect your boundaries and work with you on talking about the matter at hand.
Be Honest and Open About Your Feelings
It can be utterly challenging to express your feelings when you’re not sure about what’s going on or how to explain it. When discussing the topic with your parents, remember that you don’t need to answer or explain every question. Share as much as you’re comfortable sharing and be honest about your feelings.
Try to explain yourself the best way you can and let them know that you’re still trying to figure out what’s happening. Mention that you feel perhaps seeing a therapist could help you figure out what’s going on and how to better channel or process that information.
Be Prepared for Backlash
There’s a possibility that your parents won’t want you to attend therapy or won’t support your decision to go. Some parents don’t believe treatment is effective or worth it. Thus they might be against your decision. Some may even go to the lengths of suggesting seeing a physician or the family doctor instead, attributing your struggles to something physical rather than mental.
It can be easy to blame your parents. But try to keep from blaming or accusing them and focus on yourself. If no matter your arguments, you don’t seem to steer the conversation, step away from the situation, and talk about it later. Remember that this might come as a shock to your parents. They might be sad that you’re struggling or guilty that they didn’t notice sooner.
If you face some backlash, try to ask them about their feelings to see if you can adjust your strategy and try again later.
How to Find Treatment
Luckily, nowadays, it is easier than ever to find a good therapist. From online therapists to in-person services, therapists can give you the medical advice and diagnosis you need to get better. When it comes to treatment, find a therapist who’s well-versed in the areas you’re struggling with the most. For example:
- Marriage and family therapists are great for anyone struggling with family dynamics.
- Psychotherapists with knowledge of cognitive-behavioral therapy can help anyone struggling with anxiety disorders or substance abuse problems.
- Relationship counselors can help those facing relationship issues with themselves or a loved one.
What matters is that you find a therapist that’s able to align with the needs and struggles you’re facing at the moment. Remember that finding a therapist can take time, and it should feel like a meaningful connection. Your therapist is something you trust, respect, and value. Even after heading to therapy, you’re allowed to change therapists if you feel they’re not the right fit. Don’t feel discouraged, especially if after talking about how you want to see a therapist and you don’t find the right one. Finding the right one might take some time.