How to Ask For Therapy

Young teenager on phone asking parents for therapy
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Are you scared to ask for therapy from your parents or guardians? Are you wondering how to ask for therapy? Or are you asking yourself when should a teenager see a therapist?

It is OK to have these questions, and you’ve come to the right place. You may be worried about how your parents or guardians respond, or that you may upset them if you tell them you are struggling and need to talk to a therapist. While asking for therapy can feel overwhelming, there are some specific ways to talk to parents about mental health. This article will give you tips for talking about therapy and helping them understand your mental health needs.

How Can Therapy Help Teenagers?

Therapy is beneficial for everyone. Especially since the past three years have been extremely difficult for people all over the world. Depending on how old you are, you may also have experienced many scary and difficult things happening in the world. In your lifetime, you likely have experienced a global pandemic, several major natural disasters, and at least one major world war – on top of the normal rollercoaster of emotions that teenagers go through. 

Add to that any additional mental health struggles, food insecurities, or abuse, and it’s no wonder you’re looking for help. 

Just any one of those things impacts a person’s mental health and wellbeing. And you’re not alone. As a teenager, you can especially benefit from therapy due to the vulnerable phase of life you are in. 

Global research on child and adolescent mental health found that mental health problems have been steadily rising over the last several years. The World Health Organization found that one in seven 10-19-year-olds experiences a mental disorder. The most common mental health disorders for teenagers are depression and anxiety. 

What can teenagers learn in therapy?

Going to therapy can have many benefits. And despite what people may think, you don’t have to be at a breaking point or have severe symptoms in order to attend therapy. 

Therapy can:

  • Help you gain a better understanding of yourself
  • Learn about connections between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Explore more effective coping skills
  • Identify better ways to communicate with others

If you are reading this, it’s likely you have started to think about how therapy can benefit you. 

When Should a Teenager See a Therapist?

Listen to yourself as you know yourself best. If you feel you would benefit from speaking to a mental health professional, then it’s time. 

Each person is different, so there isn’t a specific time to know when to go to therapy. However, if you feel that you have questions or concerns that affect your mental health and you aren’t able to address them on your own, it can be a good time to start therapy. 

Additionally, you may feel like you’ve tried alternative things to manage your feelings, such as exercising, journaling, or talking with friends. If you still don’t feel like yourself, or your symptoms aren’t going away after a sustainable period of time, then it might be a good time to find a therapist who specializes in teenagers. 

Some other signs that it’s time for a teenager to start therapy include:

  • You don’t feel like yourself, and you don’t understand why
  • Your thoughts, behaviors, or mood have changed significantly
  • You notice you are having different responses than your friends or others you know (e.g., everyone else around you is enjoying themselves, but you can’t seem to, no matter what you do)
  • You are struggling to function doing everyday things, such as eating, showering, concentrating, getting your homework done
  • You have strong feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness  
  • You’ve had a major loss in your life (e.g., loved one’s death, recent move, loss of friendship)

Therapy is definitely recommended if you are having thoughts of suicide, wanting to hurt yourself or someone else, or you are experiencing abuse or neglect of any kind. 

It can be difficult to know how to ask for therapy when you feel this way, but know that even thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or others can be normal. These feelings need to be talked about with a mental health professional so they can help you come up with healthy solutions and help you reduce those distressing thoughts. 

Additionally, if you have started hearing or seeing things that others are not hearing or seeing, this may be a sign to immediately reach out for help to a mental health professional. 

Remember, therapy can be helpful for anyone, even if you aren’t hearing voices or feeling like you want to hurt yourself. It may seem unusual at first to share your life stories with a stranger, but that is probably one of the best parts of therapy: the opportunity to speak freely with a neutral, impartial professional who cares about your growth, but who is not personally invested in the situation at hand.

How Do I Talk to My Parents About Mental Health?

Talking to your parents about mental health may seem scary, especially if you have grown up in a house where mental health is not talked about, or if you have been taught to feel  shame when you express  your emotions. 

It can be helpful to think about how you might want someone to have a difficult conversation with you. When having such conversations, it’s important to remember to come at it from your own place of calm, be clear on what you want and need, and have knowledge or solutions to share. 

Additionally, in any difficult conversation, including how to ask for therapy, try to remain curious and open about your parents’ thoughts, reactions, and perspectives. 

7 Tips on How to Ask Your Parents for Therapy 

  1. Plan the Delivery: It may be helpful to think about not only the way you will deliver asking for therapy, but also the time you speak to your parents. For example, if they have a stressful job, it may not be the best time to start the conversation right after they get home from work. Find a time to have the conversation when they aren’t already overwhelmed or distracted.
  1. Consider Text or Email: If you feel uncomfortable starting a face-to-face conversation about how to ask for therapy, try alternative ways to communicate, such as with a text or email. Mental Health America has a helpful letter template to help you get started if you are still struggling with the words.
  1. Come to the Conversation with Research: If you have found information that has helped you understand why you want to ask your parents for therapy, print out the information to bring to the conversation. Many times parents react out of fear due to their lack of understanding of mental health and what it means for you. They may even feel your mental health is a result of mistakes they made as parents. Your research can prevent them from being defensive by helping them better understand your experience with your  mental health. 
  1. Have a Clear Ask: If you have some ideas, let them know how they can help you (i.e., making an appointment with your primary care provider, or reaching out to a few therapists near you). 
  1. Be Firm and Clear: Let them know you want and need help. Try as best as possible to describe the feelings and/or symptoms that have led you to ask your parents for  mental health support. If you can, make a list prior to the conversation of what you have noticed, how you are feeling, and how long it has been going on. You don’t have to give them all the details, but share enough information to help them understand why you need to talk to a professional. 
  1. Prepare for How They May React: Your parents may surprise you and be open to helping you start therapy.  They may be glad you told them you wanted help. However, other responses may also occur. Sometimes parents may feel guilty for not knowing you were suffering. Or they may feel hurt because they don’t understand why you can’t just talk to them. Remember, they are adults, and it is not your job to help them sort through these feelings. If they react defensively or are unsupportive, it is not your fault. If your parents react with hurt or guilt, or say no, give it a little time. They may just need some time to process what was said to them.
  1. Practice with a Trusted Friend or Relative: If you are still scared to ask for therapy or talk to your parents about mental health, is there another person in your life you trust to talk to? This person could help you practice what you are going to say, and help you plan your next steps on how to ask your parents for therapy. Additionally, if you have a school counselor, they may be a good place to start, as you can see them while you are at school. They may help you start the conversation with your parents. 

It’s OK to Be Scared to Ask for Therapy

It’s totally normal to have feelings of being scared to ask for therapy. Even though mental health is becoming less stigmatizing, thinking about having the talk to parents about mental health can still feel dreadful. Keep in mind that you want to have this conversation for a reason, as you’ve identified some things you are struggling with and need help.  

Be prepared, they may not react the way you would like them to. Also, if talking with your parents doesn’t go the best the first time, remember you can always try again or another time. 

Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you have the above tips, you’ve practiced, researched, and you have a clear answer for what you need from your parents. You’ve got this! You have everything you need on how to ask for therapy.

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