Father and son speaking about therapy and mental health options.

3 Steps to Talking to Your Parents About Therapy

It can feel intimidating to talk to your parents about starting therapy. While talking about mental health and the benefits of therapy has become more comfortable for many teens, it may feel like your parents are “behind the times.” Cultural differences can add to this, especially if therapy is an unfamiliar or stigmatized practice in your parents’ culture or family background.  Below are some recommendations for how to start the conversation.

First, schedule a specific time to talk with your parents about therapy.

All too often, we bring up therapy when times are stressful and emotions are high. You’ve just had a panic attack, or your parents found out you are self-injuring, or you’ve just had a huge conflict about grades, chores, or family obligations. Your desire to share your mental health concerns is very real at these times… but intense emotions and useful problem-solving don’t usually go hand in hand! Scheduling time ensures that everyone comes to the conversation calm and ready. 

Second, make a plan for what you want to say.

Usually the best place to start is with your own experience. Consider making a list of what you have been experiencing and feeling that makes you think you’d like therapy. Start by using “I” statements to express your feelings, then connect those feelings with how they are impacting you - Are these feelings making you struggle at school or with friends? Are these feelings contributing to conflict at home? Are you thinking about hurting yourself? This can be vulnerable, but expressing how you are feeling and how it is affecting your life is a great starting place for asking for therapy.

Third, anticipate your parents’ concerns and be prepared to respond to them.

Many parents worry that their teen will use therapy as a platform to blame parents for their problems. Others believe that the “real problem” is simply motivation and effort - if you were simply to work harder at school you’d do better, for example. Many parents are simply unfamiliar with or distrustful of therapists based on cultural background or personal experience. Anticipating their concerns may help you prepare talking points that address them.

Have more questions? Here are six common roadblocks teens report when trying to talk with their parents, along with some ideas about how to handle them. 

In conclusion, the most important thing to remember in these conversations is to remember that 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.

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December 14, 2022
Amy Mezulis, PhD | Co-Founder & Chief Clinical Officer

Amy Mezulis, PhD | Co-Founder & Chief Clinical Officer

Amy Mezulis, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist who received her BA from Harvard University and her MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from University of Wisconsin – Madison. Dr. Mezulis provides services to older children, adolescents and adults utilizing an evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral approach that includes mindfulness and acceptance-based treatments. Dr. Mezulis has specialized training in mood and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, suicidality and self-injury, trauma, substance use, and adolescent development. She is Professor Emeritus at Seattle Pacific University, where she previously chaired the Clinical Psychology PhD program and continues to supervise doctoral trainees.

Katey Nicolai, PhD | VP of Clinical Services

Katey Nicolai, PhD | VP of Clinical Services

Katey Nicolai, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist who received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Seattle Pacific University. Dr. Nicolai provides services to adolescents and adults using evidence-based treatment rooted in cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic therapies, including Dialectical Behavior Therapy, interpersonal therapy, and family systems. Dr. Nicolai has specialized training in treating trauma and PTSD, personality disorders, self-harm and suicidailty, family problems, emotion dysregulation, and mood and anxiety disorders.

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