When seeking therapy, teens and young adults often need support from their parents or guardians in order to sign-up or pay for counseling sessions. But, talking about your mental health challenges and asking your parents for therapy sessions can feel daunting. To help make this process feel more comfortable, we laid out the three steps for speaking with your parents about your mental health. Once you're ready to have the conversation, more questions will arise. We took 6 of the most common roadblocks to therapy and provided you with some tips and tricks to having these difficult conversations.
Going to therapy can be compared to going to a medical doctor, to a trusted adult for support, or to a coach or physical therapist for sports - pick an example you think your parents will relate to. You can explain that therapists are professionals with special expertise in mental and emotional health.
It may be helpful to lean into an example here, too, like visiting a physical therapist to resolve an injury. You can also outline some of the other benefits of improving mental health - like doing better in school, improving family and friend relationships, and improved physical health. You can also reference a known and respected person who has been open about mental health such as Olympians Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, Prince Harry, and actor Kristen Bell. Again, try your best to put yourself in your parents’ shoes, and think of examples they will understand and relate to. The message is that, while therapy may seem like something new, it’s actually something they’re familiar with and find trustworthy after all.
Therapists are trained specifically not to promote or impose their values on their clients. It’s the therapist’s job to get to know you and your family, and then find ways to support you that make sense in your family system. Even if you personally disagree with values that your parents hold, your therapist will not have an agenda to align you against your family or “turn you into” someone you’re not. Addressing this fear can help your parents feel more receptive to inviting another adult into your world.
You can explain that the purpose of therapy is actually the opposite of this - the therapist’s only agenda is to support you, not be judgmental. Plus your parents may be pleasantly surprised that getting support for their teen actually helps family conflict go down.
Talking about money can feel really hard, and parents may not be comfortable discussing the details of your family’s finances with you - that’s totally ok! This is a time when it might be easier to let an adult help you out. You can suggest talking to one of Joon’s Care Coordinators who can tell them exactly what the costs are and options for insurance and payment. It’s free and easy to schedule, and will also give them the opportunity to ask an expert the real, “hard” questions about therapy.
So you’ve done the hard work of convincing your parents to get you a therapist - now are they expecting to be involved at every step? Any therapist specializing in care for teens and young adults should have explicit and transparent policies about when and what they communicate with parents AND should be clear about communicating these policies to parents. At Joon, these policies are outlined at every step and reviewed frequently. The short (and reassuring) answer is that your therapy will focus on you, and will only involve your parents when it’s related to your therapy goals or immediate safety.
At the end of the day, your parents likely want the same thing you do - for you to feel OK. Approaching them calmly and giving them space to process new information will help get you a step closer. If your parents initially have a negative reaction, try giving it a few days to cool down, then consider revisiting the conversation in a different setting or future time. You can also consider recruiting another trusted adult to help with this talk, such as your school counselor, coach, pastor, or friend’s parent.
We’re so glad that you’re beginning this process to find a therapist. It takes bravery to tell others you want help, and you should take a moment to celebrate this for yourself and feel proud. When you’re ready, you can schedule a free consultation at joon.com, or call 425 522 3781. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7/365 via call, text, or online message, and has experts available for teens and young adults: 988.