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May 4, 2023

How to Talk to Your Teen About Going to Therapy

Deciding whether your teenager needs therapy can be a difficult task, and initiating a conversation with them about it can be even more challenging. Therefore, when asking yourself the question “does my teenager need therapy,” it’s crucial to approach the situation with empathy and a willingness to understand their perspective. Seeking therapy is a sign of strength, not weakness, and counseling can provide valuable support and guidance as they navigate the complexities of adolescence.

Compassion, patience, and support without judgment are critical aspects of helping our teens to see how they may benefit from therapy. By fostering open communication and establishing a safe space for them to express their emotions, we can better understand their needs and guide them toward the help they may need. In addition, the Axis Parent’s Guide to Teen Emotion offers some advice that can help you better understand the emotions they may be experiencing.

How Therapy Can Help Teenagers

Therapy can be incredibly beneficial for teenagers. It can give them tools to develop essential coping skills, improve their emotional well-being, and foster healthy relationships with family and friends. Counseling can address a range of issues, from anxiety and depression to eating disorders and grief, providing the support and guidance needed to navigate these challenges.

As mentioned in Psalm 34:18 (NIV), “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Through therapy, your teen can experience God’s healing presence and develop a deeper understanding of their emotions.


What exactly is therapy?

Therapy, also known as counseling or psychotherapy, is a process where a trained mental health professional helps individuals explore and address emotional, behavioral, mental health, trauma, or relational challenges. It can involve various techniques and approaches, depending on the therapist’s expertise and the client’s needs.

How does confidentiality work in therapy?

In general, therapy sessions are confidential, meaning that the therapist cannot disclose information shared during sessions without the client’s permission. However, there are some exceptions, such as when there is a risk of harm to the client or others, or when required by law. Guidelines differ from state to state, so it is recommended that you check the specific regulations in your area to better understand how confidentiality and consent are handled in therapeutic settings.

What are you supposed to do in therapy?

In therapy, clients are encouraged to openly discuss their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with their therapist, who provides support, guidance, and feedback. The therapist may also introduce specific techniques or exercises to help clients develop new coping strategies and insights.

How long does therapy take?

The duration of therapy can vary widely, depending on the client’s needs, goals, and progress. Sessions can range from 30 minutes to an hour (though some can go longer).The therapeutic process can look different for different people; some individuals may benefit from short-term therapy (a few sessions), while others may require long-term therapy (several months or more).

How do I know if my teenager needs counseling?

Signs that your teenager may need therapy include significant changes in mood or behavior, withdrawal from friends and family, declining academic performance, or a sudden loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. If you’re unsure, consult with a mental health professional for guidance.

Is the Parent Involved in Therapy?

Parent involvement in therapy can vary depending on the specific situation and the therapist’s recommendations. In some cases, parents may participate in family therapy sessions, while in others they may receive updates or guidance from the therapist to support their teen’s progress at home.

Talking to Your Teen about the Decision to Begin Therapy

When talking with your teenager about starting therapy, it’s vital to approach the conversation with open-mindedness, empathy, and compassion. Create a safe and nurturing atmosphere that allows your teen to express their emotions and worries. As James 1:19 (NIV) advises, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Pay attention to your body language, tone, and choice of words to promote positive and productive dialogue.

You might initiate the conversation by saying something like, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been struggling with [specific issue], and I’m wondering if talking to a therapist might help. What are your thoughts on that?” Listen actively without judgment and be prepared to provide information about the therapy process. Address any misconceptions your teen may have and reassure them that seeking help is a way they can take care of themselves, no different than going to the doctor when they’re sick.

Discuss Confidentiality Boundaries to Information and Privacy

One aspect of therapy that your teenager may be concerned about is the confidentiality of the sessions. Reassure your teen that their conversations with the therapist will remain private, with a few exceptions, such as when there is a risk of harm to themselves or others. This assurance can help alleviate any worries they may have about sharing personal information and create a sense of trust in the therapeutic process.

It is also essential for you as a parent to respect your child’s privacy and establish boundaries. As a parent, it’s important to have a conversation with the therapist about confidentiality, understanding their guidelines and what information may be shared with you. Focus on creating a supportive environment where your teen feels comfortable discussing their feelings with you about their therapy sessions, should they choose to do so. By respecting their privacy and maintaining healthy boundaries, you can foster a supportive environment in which your teen feels comfortable seeking professional help and exploring their thoughts and emotions in therapy, while also knowing they can trust you to respect their privacy.

How to Prepare Your Teen for Their First Therapy Session

To help ease your teen into the idea of therapy, have a discussion with them about what they can expect during their first session. Explain the general format of a therapy session, which typically involves the therapist asking questions about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences to better understand their concerns. Encourage your teen to engage in the process by asking questions and voicing any worries they may have about therapy, reminding them that the therapist’s role is to assist and support them.

If your teen seems hesitant or uneasy, remind them of the passage in Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV), “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” By preparing your teen for their therapy session and providing emotional support, you can help them feel more ready and willing to make this process their own.

What to Do When Your Teen Refuses Therapy

If your child refuses to talk to a therapist, make a genuine effort to understand their reasons and keep in mind that they may not fully understand some of those reasons themselves. Listen without judgment to their concerns and look for possible unspoken apprehensions. For example, they might express an unwillingness to open up to a stranger, so it’s possible they feel embarrassed or worried about being judged. You can reassure them that therapy is a safe space for them to express their feelings without judgment. As a parent, you can study resources such as the Axis Parent’s Guide to Depression and Anxiety or the Parent’s Guide to Fear and Worry to help you understand what your teen is experiencing, allowing you to better empathize with and support them.

If they still resist, you may want to compromise with alternative forms of support, such as teen mental health groups, online counseling, or mentorship programs. These options might feel less intrusive to your teen and may offer some of the same benefits as therapy. If they can become comfortable with the idea of speaking about their emotions in a less intimidating way, they may be more accepting of the idea of participating in traditional therapy.

Tips for Supporting Your Teen Throughout the Therapy Process

  1. Encourage open communication: Regularly check in with your teen about their progress in therapy, offering a supportive and non-judgmental space for them to share their experiences.
  2. Be patient: Remember that change takes time, and it’s essential to be patient and understanding as your teen works through their challenges.
  3. Educate yourself: Stay informed about your teen’s specific issues and treatment approaches by referring to resources such as the Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders, the Parent’s Guide to Sexual Assault, the Parent’s Guide to Anxiety, or the Parent’s Guide to Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention. In addition, the Parent’s Guide to Friendship may give you insight into supporting your teen through challenging social situations. If they are experiencing loss, the Parent’s Guide to Walking Through Grief can provide the guidance you may need to help them process their emotions.
  4. Collaborate with the therapist: Maintain open communication with your teen’s therapist, while respecting your teen’s privacy. This can help you stay involved in their progress and provide support at home.
  5. Lead by example: Model healthy coping strategies and emotional expression, demonstrating that it’s normal to seek help when needed. If you’ve attended therapy yourself, consider sharing your positive experiences to help normalize the process. If it’s something that feels helpful, you might even want to consider pursuing therapy yourself and being in that process at the same time as your teen can create a unique kind of support for them.
  6. Foster a supportive environment: Create a home environment that encourages non-judgmental open communication, emotional expression, and mutual support.

As you support your teenager through the challenges of adolescence, remember that patience, understanding, and open communication without judgment are crucial. By encouraging your teenager to attend therapy, you’re equipping them with essential tools to manage their emotions and better understand themselves. This investment in their emotional and spiritual well-being can create a solid foundation for their future, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling life.

In moments of doubt, reflect on Proverbs 22:6 (NIV), which says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” For more resources on helping your teen navigate the challenges of adolescence, visit us at and sign up for the newsletter to stay informed about the things impacting your teen’s world.

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