Therapist Relationship with Teenage Clients

Q. My child does not want to go to counseling and doesn’t think it will help, how do I know if it will and if the therapist is the right one for them?

A. Children and teenagers do not typically want to be in therapy. You may need to try to separate their feelings about going to therapy from their feelings about their therapist. This can sometimes be hard when your child won’t talk to you about what goes on in therapy and really does not have to. You can try to start a conversation about how they feel about their therapist and what they like about them without asking questions about what they talk about in session. For instance you could ask questions such as “What do you think of Jessica?” and “Do you think she understands what you are going through?” If you get the feeling your child is finding your questions to be invasive, it is best to back down.

      Give the therapist some time to make a connection with your child and for results to become apparent. Over time your child should resent going to counseling less if they have made a connection with their therapist. If your child consistently states that they do not like or trust their therapist, it is a good sign that it is not the right therapist for them.

      As far as if therapy will help, only time will tell. I will say that if your child does not like their therapist, chances are it won’t, however, because your child won’t feel heard, understood, and will not take their counselor seriously, all of which is important if progress is to be made. Look for changes in their behavior, not only for the reason that you have them going to counseling but in all aspects of their life. Keep in mind that sometimes things get worse before they get better as well.

      If you still aren’t sure, you can always ask for an update from the therapist. My recommendation is that updates be given in front of your child so they can hear exactly what is being said and will continue to develop trust in the therapeutic relationship. If the counselor has something to say that should not be said in front of your child, they will have sense enough to not add it in at that time.

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