6 Reasons for Starting Therapy Immediately if your Child or Teen Asked For Help
Some kiddos start therapy because their parents want it for them. Other times, it’s because they have asked for it! Those are rare but special moments and it is very important to take the request seriously. Here’s a list of why you should start as soon has your child or teen has asked for therapy!
Reason 1- Keep the door open for more vulnerable communication.
Kids put themselves in a vulnerable position to ask for help. They risk being seen as weak or feeling embarrassed, shameful, or guilty for struggling. They risk offending their parents or making their parents feel badly they can’t be the ones to help. So if your child has overcome ALL of these things to ask for help, it must be pretty important! If you don’t respond favorably to the requests by providing support AND helping them get the outcome (starting therapy), you start a dynamic where your child feels uncomfortable coming to you for help in the future. Plus, they may start “asking” less skillful ways. Think: showing you through maladaptive behaviors.
Reason 2- What you see can be different from how they feel.
You don’t get to decide what they are feeling on the inside based on what you see on the outside. Plenty of children who seem like they are keeping it all together actually working very hard to make it appear that way. Covering up mental and emotional struggles like this is very energy consuming. The energy will eventually run dry and when that happens, they will likely crash. It is much easier to tackle therapy before the emotional crisis. All too often I see parents minimize requests for therapy. They think “things aren’t so bad yet” or that it can wait a little bit longer. But consider this: your kid has probably already been waiting to find the right time to ask. So they already HAVE waited a little bit longer. If they if they are asking now, get help now!
Reasons 3 & 4- The earlier therapy starts, the more effective it is. This saves parents time, money, and heartache!
Therapy for crisis management is usually focused on stabilization rather than treating or preventing ongoing underlying issues. Starting therapy sooner means skipping the steps for stabilization and getting to the good stuff right away! This saves you time and money in the long-run AND helps your kid! Also (and this is especially true of teenagers) motivation for self-improvement will decline over time. And becasue motivation is the most important aspect for change, it is important to channel all that good willingness early. This way therapists don’t have to use valuable therapy time to increase their motivation all over again. As if helping your kid heal isn’t reason enough, starting early will ultimately save your family time and money and heartache in the long run. As soon as your kid is ready, ACT! And if they are asking, they are ready!
Reason 5- Healthy independence means asking for help.
Independence doesn’t mean doing everything on your own. It means knowing who when and how to ask for help when then need it! And you want them to be independent, right?! Reinforce this step towards independence by supporting their request for help. No one equates hiring an accountant to help your taxes with being not independent. If anything it’s probably seen as a successful step of adulthood. So let’s not make hiring a therapist to help with mental health an issue of independence either!
Reason 6- Kids need to feel like they are taken seriously!
If they feel like they are struggling, trust that they mean it. One of the most basic developmental needs in childhood and adolescents is to develop autonomy. This includes being taken seriously and becoming the expert of their own lives. It’s important for self-worth and healthy family functioning to build this autonomy in your children and especially teenagers.
Don’t waste time on an endless search for the “perfect” fit if your child or teen has asked for therapy.Of course finding the right fit is important. But make sure this doesn’t turn into unconscious avoidance. There is no such thing as perfect so focus on progress not perfection. All of our therapists (as any good therapist should) will do a thorough assessment during the beginning few sessions to make sure they are able to actually help your family. And if not, they will recommend someone else who can. Leave that clinical part to us! We are trained to figure that out right away! We have the best therapists with open availability to treat clients ages 7 and up! Read more about what to expect with therapy for children and therapy for teens. And if you want more help figuring out what is or is not normal teenager behavior, check out this chart! Maybe you will realize they do in fact need it!
About The Author
Laura Goldstein, LCMFT is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist in Rockville Maryland and founder of Montgomery County Counseling Center, LLC. Laura obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Family Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Laura became intensively trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) through Behavioral Tech Linehan Institute in 2015. She is also Level 1 Trained in Gottman Couples Therapy. After working in both substance use and failure to launch IOP programs, Laura now works in her private practice alongside her excellent associates! Montgomery County Counseling Center serves individuals, families, parents, and couples who are struggling with intense emotions, fraught relationships, and maladaptive coping behaviors.
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