Preparing Your Kid Or Teen for Counseling

Continuing with my AMA series this week! You can see the whole list of questions people asked me this past May right here.

If parents mention therapy, it might hurt their child’s self-esteem and make them even more anxious. How should one go about it?

Some kids are a little embarrassed to have to go to therapy, but nine times out of ten they become more comfortable with it after the initial session. On top of that, in my professional experience, younger children are super excited to go to counseling because they view it as an opportunity to play and hang out one-on-one with a safe grown up, and through counseling they learn the skills and tools needed to help manage their anxiety.

How can a parent prepare his/her teen for his/her first session?

I see this come up more for teens, especially for teenagers who don't have many friends already in counseling. So on the parent side, I recommend just telling your teen (or hesitant child) that counseling is something a lot of people do, and it's usually just an opportunity to build tools and get stuff of their chest. I would also encourage parents to use the "eat your vegetables" rule - try it out for one or two sessions, and then your teen gets to decide from there.

What information is good to share with them if they are worried or reluctant?

It's also helpful to review confidentiality, and how the therapist will keep information private unless it's info about hurting themselves, hurting someone else, or someone hurting them. Otherwise, the specifics will stay private (that way, your teen feels comfortable telling me how much they dislike your parenting style without being worried that I'll go and tell on them, AND I have an opportunity to help them process this while giving you separate parenting suggestions on our end).

More info on what sessions look like can be found right here: What Is Counseling Like?

It's all a journey...

It's also important to let them know that counseling is a process, so it might take a few times for that therapist to feel like a good fit - but, if that therapist doesn't feel like they're super helpful, maybe they should try meeting with someone else to see if that works better. That therapeutic fit is crucial.

Curious to hear more, or are you a little reluctant about counseling? Kelsey Torgerson specializes in anxiety and anger management for kids, stress for teens, and perfectionism in college students. You can reach her at kelsey@compassionatecounselingstl.com

She works in Clayton, MO and serves kids, teens, and college students throughout St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Ladue, University City, Town and Country, Webster Groves, Creve Couer, Kirkwood, Richmond Heights, and Brentwood.