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May 9, 2024

Parents’ Role in Teen Therapy

teen therapy

Seeking therapy, especially for adolescents, can be a pivotal step towards mental and emotional well-being. Sometimes it’s the teen who asks for therapy and the request is honored by the parents; sometimes it’s the parents who think their child has a problem and they don’t know how else to deal with it so they turn to therapy; sometimes it could be the school counsellor referring the teen to external counselling services. Whatever the reason, the journey towards healing isn’t just the responsibility of the therapist or solely the domain of the teen.

Parents play an integral role in the progress of their child’s therapy journey. That being said, it’s essential to understand that parental involvement doesn’t mean prying into the therapy sessions or demanding to know every detail of the conversations. Rather, it needs to be a supportive and collaborative approach that acknowledges the interconnectedness of family dynamics. Let’s dive into this!

Therapy isn’t a solo expedition, especially not for children; it’s a team effort. What this means is that while therapists provide invaluable guidance and support, they are not solitary agents of change. Teenagers exist within a family system, meaning that there is interaction with family members, and issues addressed in therapy often intersect with family dynamics. That’s why therapists need parents to be involved in the process – it is essential for comprehensive progress.

So, what does parental involvement entail? It starts with fostering open communication and trust within the family. Parents should create a safe space for their teens to express themselves freely, without fear of judgment or retribution. This involves active listening, empathy, and validating their experiences, even if they may differ from your own perspective.

Teenagers often feel misunderstood by their parents because of generational gaps in values and experiences, differing communication styles, parental expectations conflicting with their own desires and interests, and a perceived lack of empathy or validation for their emotions and experiences. Also during this time, teens experience changes hormonal fluctuations and cognitive development, which can intensify emotions and make effective communication more challenging

What parental support at home can look like is: Parents notice their teenager withdrawing due to school and social pressures. Instead of interrogating the child or coming in with solutions or sharing their own experience, they listen without judgment, validate their child’s feelings, and empathize with the difficulties. This fosters trust and understanding and when the child feels heard and supported, they are more likely to open up about their anxieties. Through this interaction, they cultivate a safe space for the child to express themselves and it is very important for a child to know that they can feel safe at home, not just within the therapeutic space.

Besides that, parents can support their teens by actively participating in therapy sessions when appropriate. This could involve attending family therapy sessions or meeting with the therapist separately to discuss progress and strategies for support at home. By being actively engaged in the therapeutic process, parents can gain insights into their child’s challenges, strengths, and goals, allowing for more effective support outside the therapy hour.

Yes, as a parent, if your child is under 18 years of age, you do have a right to know about their therapy progress and you can ask about what is discussed. However, it’s necessary to recognize the boundaries of parental involvement. While it’s natural to want to know what’s happening in your child’s life, respecting their privacy and autonomy is important. Therapy provides a confidential space for teens to explore their thoughts and feelings without fear of parental interference. Trusting the therapeutic process and allowing your child the space to navigate their journey independently can help foster growth and self-discovery.

At the end of the day, it’s not about micromanaging or controlling the process (read: and your child) but rather about offering unconditional support, fostering open communication, and actively participating in the therapeutic journey. By working together as a team, parents, therapists, and teens can create a nurturing environment for healing and growth.

For parents, you are wholly welcome and encouraged to attend your own therapy sessions. Your child has taken the courageous step to work on themselves, perhaps it may be beneficial for you to do the same.


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