Talk therapy can be a tremendously powerful tool. But it can also be tantamount to trying to lead a conversation with a brick wall. It’s not just about the therapist and their skills. Therapy must be consensual and requires effort on every participant’s behalf. Therapy is often likened to a two-way street. Still, in many cases, it’s more like an intersection between multiple different parties, each taking an interest in self-improvement and mental health.
Teens seeking treatment – whether through their family or on their own – will always continue to receive the most influence from their parents and the rest of their community, whether it’s their friends and peers or those they admire from afar. Parents are encouraged to be involved in their teen’s treatment, even if that means trying out family therapy together.
If you’re unsure about seeking treatment alongside your child, it might help to clarify your concerns with your teen’s therapist and learn more about how their techniques might help you as well. Understanding how family therapy and other forms of group therapy can play a large role in treating your teen and improving their symptoms can also help.
Here are six therapy questions for teens and their parents to ask.
1. Is Therapy Effective for Teens?
Talk therapy is an evidence-based and proven treatment for many mental health issues among children, teenagers, and adults alike. It is often a first-line treatment for cases of depression and anxiety disorders, as well as conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated grief, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
But that is not to say that therapy is a panacea for mental health issues, that it always works, that it works the same for everyone, or that it is even the best option in every case. Like any other form of prescribed treatment, talk therapy has its risks, its issues, and its shortcomings – some of which are impossible to foresee.
Some teens might not respond well to therapy and are less inclined to work with a therapist. Some conditions are especially difficult to treat with therapy alone, such as conditions with symptoms of psychosis or certain personality disorders.
If you or your teen are considering therapy, or if a professional has recommended therapy to you, it might be a good idea to ask them more specifically: what can therapy do for me and my child? How can talk therapy or any other form of psychotherapy address the issues my teen has been experiencing?
2. How Long Will Therapy Last?
If you have never been to therapy before, you may want to find out what it means to be in treatment. How long do sessions typically last? How long does a therapist treat a single patient? Are there specific signs of remission for certain mental health issues, such as those your teen is diagnosed with? How do insurance companies handle treatments like therapy if they go on for longer than a few weeks? How are payments and compensation handled?
Practical questions regarding the length and extent of your teen’s treatment – with or without your involvement – are important.
But so is an understanding of what your teen’s prognosis might be. Certain mental health conditions are chronic or can develop into a lifelong conditions.
For example, a teen diagnosed with PMDD may be able to manage their symptoms through medication and therapy but may need to keep at it – both through medication and through behavioral modification, lifestyle changes, and so on – until menopause. Teens with ADHD may grow out of it, but not all do. Many adults continue to require medication such as Ritalin to focus on work and perform basic duties at home.
Your therapist may not be able to give you a concrete idea of how long your teen might be in treatment, especially if they have just gotten started. But in some cases, they can give you an idea of how long it took patients with similar cases to start feeling better or see an improvement in their symptoms.
3. What Kind of Therapy Will My Teen Be Treated With?
We’ve pointed it out earlier – talk therapy comes in different shapes and forms. While a lot of it is about conversation, there are different forms of therapy that may be more successful for some patients than others. Some therapists specialize in hypnosis.
Others utilize techniques such as EMDR or trainspotting to improve a patient’s symptoms. Some conditions respond better to exposure therapy than cognitive-behavioral therapy. Some personality disorders respond best to dialectical behavior therapy.
In some cases, animal-assisted therapy can help teens who struggle with anxiety begin to make headway in their treatment with the calming effect of an animal companion present or during the care of an animal such as a horse.
4. Do You Do Teletherapy?
There may be days when making treatment is not feasible. Or circumstances prevent you and your teen from regularly attending treatment at a pace that would be practical. In these cases, a therapist might recommend teletherapy.
Teletherapy has been shown to be just as effective as face-to-face therapy, with the added benefit of giving patients who might not feel comfortable talking in person or do not have the means to visit a therapist regularly to seek therapy, nonetheless.
5. What Can I Do to Help?
Therapists often encourage parents to be involved in their teen’s treatment. If you aren’t sure how to do so, a therapist is a perfect person to ask.
They may ask you to attend one of your teen’s sessions, schedule a family therapy session to delve deeper into your teen’s relationship with you or provide tips on how you can positively contribute to your teen’s mental health and help manage your own stressors in the meantime.
6. What Will Happen After Therapy?
A person may be in therapy consistently for weeks, months, or years at a time. They may be in therapy for a few months, then return years later when issues arise. Most mental health professionals do not see therapy as a cure but as a management tool – a training system to help patients better understand and contend with their mental health issues and affect their mood and behavior through conscious effort and the support of their loved ones.
It takes time for therapy to work, like any other treatment. Be patient, and find a therapist you enjoy working with – one that you and your teen trust and like.