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Convince Them To Get Counseling?

Does thinking of your teen in a therapist’s office seem like something out of Good Will Hunting – they manipulate, irritate and cajole the therapist so nothing is accomplished? Or maybe the mere mention of counseling causes your teen or child to roll their eyes and tune you out.

If it does, then this episode of Parental Guidance is perfect for you. Today we’ll discuss the best way to talk about counseling with a teen you care about and how to set healthy expectations for the experience.

“The brave among us will face our challenges.”

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The question of how to get a teen or child to go to counseling is a good one and one I wish was talked about more. Here are three ways to start the therapy conversation and get them started.

1. First it’s absolutely vital to remove the stigma. Everybody on the planet is a little bit dysfunctional, let’s all stop and admit it! If you are alive you need counseling. All of us have challenges but the brave among us will face our challenges.

When you suggest counseling the other person hears judgment or they hear they are a screwed up, horrible human being! Because of that you have to work hard to remove the unfortunate stigma that counseling sometimes carries.

If you’ve been to counseling lead with that. You can say something like, “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about or feel bad about. All of us have problems; all of us need a non-bias 3rd party to help us sort through the challenges we’re going through.”

2. Your second step is to help them find a compatible counselor. Compatibility with a counselor is important. There are counselors who are a great fit, and those who are a bad fit. It’s not a knock on them, it’s just that they are not necessarily a right fit.

You can find a counselor through your church, your local chapter of Big Brothers and Big Sisters or even by asking your friends for recommendations if they have gone to therapy. After you identify a few good local mental health professionals, be sure you find someone who doesn’t talk down to the young person but understands the frustrations or challenges and things he or she is going through.

3. And finally, set healthy expectations from the start. A blunt truth no one tells you before you go to counseling is that counseling is going to suck for the first couple of weeks. You’re going to leave feeling worse than when you went in.

This sounds weird but set that expectation up front so they know this will happen – they’ll see it as a sign they are making progress. this way they’ll see this feeling bad as a they are on the right track, not a red flag.

Then give the kid an “out”. Say “I challenge you to see this counselor, everyone says they are awesome. Counseling isn’t something to be embarrassed about, I’ve gone myself. Every human being on the planet needs it, unless they’re trying to act perfect and like they don’t have any problems!

“Here’s my challenge to you: I want you to try just 5 sessions with Dr. So and So. Remember the first few may be awkward, painful or not that great. If after 5 sessions you don’t feel it’s valuable and you haven’t gained any perspective on the challenges you’re going through, you can come to me and say I want out. No questions asked, I won’t harass you or give you a hard time.”

Often giving them that out can be the needed motivator to get them there and keep them there.


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  • Have you gone to therapy, what was your experience?
  • Have you been able to get your kid or some young person you care about to get them there?
  • Do you know of a national network of mental health professionals?
  • What are some tips or strategies you can share with us that have worked? What have you done that’s backfired?

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