teenager in therapy, when to call your teen's therapist in the dc area
Parent Coaching, Teenagers

When (And How) to Call to Your Teen’s Therapist

So when it IS a good idea to call to your teen’s therapist?!

Last week, I wrote about all the reasons why you should NOT reach out to your teen’s therapist. Or at least not without your teenager present. Now I am here to talk about when you can (and should) call your teen’s therapist. Even without your teen involved.

And here’s a tip: read this every so often to remind yourself of the plan so you don’t have to come find this article in a moment of distress! Trust me, you won’t be thinking about this! 

1- Your child is in IMMINENT danger

By “imminent danger”, I mean that if they waited until next session, your teenager would be in life-threatening harm. If that’s the case you should call your teenager’s therapist.

This means asking yourself two important questions about how you determine “imminent danger”.

Are my perceptions of imminent danger based on objective observations? Or are they influenced by my fears or assumptions?

If it’s latter, that your emotions intensify your perception of the danger, I’d suggest going back to last week’s article.  Try any of those solutions first! Those skills will help your self regulation so that you can get a better read on the situation.


Is my child going to be safe over the next 24 hours? Next hour?

They’ll be safe over 24 hours

So you believe your child will be safe over the next 24 hours. But possibly not the whole week. Go ahead and call or email your teen’s therapist. Be prepared that the therapist may take 24 hours to call you back. Practice some self soothing in the meantime and keep a close eye on your child.

Keep it short, concise, and to the point. Provided them with your observations only. Don’t tell them about your interpretations or assumptions of these observations. Nor what you think your kid is thinking or planning or feeling.

It’s worth it to still cc your teenager on any email or try to include them in a call. But if they refuse, go forward with the conversation regardless.

No, they won’t be safe over 24 hours

If, even with increased supervision, your child is at urgent risk, reach out to your child’s therapist immediately. And if they do not pick up, leave a voicemail. Then call the Montgomery County Crisis Center or your local equivalent.

If they are already in danger or will be within the next few hours

Skip all of the other calls and call 911 first. Only after your child is in safe hands should you THEN call your teenager’s therapist to update them.

2- Your Teen’s Therapist Recommends A Higher Level of Care

If the therapist identifies that your teenager needs more support that what they can offer, they will likely recommend a higher level of care. This means something like an intensive outpatient program or a residential treatment program.

When this happens, the therapist’s goals shift. Instead of working with your teen on quality of life goals, they instead shift to treatment coordination. They are motivating your teen towards a willing transition. They want to make it as smooth as possible.

Advising parents on how to do this skillfully is a linchpin in a successful transition. Many therapists will speak with parents directly to coach them through that transition, both logistically and clinically.

The therapeutic relationship will be ending as soon as your teen has transitioned. So protecting it is a slightly lower priority as compared to getting your child to their next treatment program safely and willingly.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still very important. It’s just no longer the MOST important. Teenage therapists will often risk the short-term rapport rupture in order to prioritize long-term safety and effective treatment.

3- Your teen’s therapist reaches out to you

If your teen’s therapist reaches out to you directly, follow their lead. Allow the therapist to reach out to when they need information to do their job. They will take good care of the boundaries to protect confidentiality and rapport with your teenager. 

A good adolescent therapist will always ensure that speaking with you is going to HELP treatment rather than HURT it.

Working With a Parent Coach or Family Therapist Makes This Easier

If you work with a parent coach or family therapist, you don’t have to do all of this work to figure it out! Your therapist can guide you on how, when, and why to reach out to your child’s therapist.

Plus, they can be in direct communication with your child’s therapist. This will likely reduce your sense of urgency to give your teen’s therapist information. Also, it will give you a sense of reassurance that your goals are also being addressed in your teenager’s therapy.

Working with a parent coach is the best advice I have for any parent of a teenager with high-risk behaviors!


About The Author

Laura Goldstein, family therapist and DBT expert

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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