As a teen, if you're interested in coming in for counseling or if someone else (your parents, your guidance counselor, etc.) has suggested it, you may have some questions. We'll try to answer them here!
There's absolutely nothing wrong with getting help with your hard-to-solve problems. In fact, sometimes it helps to have someone remind you that what you are dealing with is difficult, and that you aren't crazy for feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or upset! It takes a lot of courage and maturity to work towards solving your problems, even with help, rather than ignoring them and hoping that they will go away.
Sometimes people resist the idea of therapy because they don’t fully understand what it is, or they are only familiar with the “old-fashioned” version of therapy. Most of the therapists in our office focus on short-term therapy, meaning we do not plan to have you in our office every week for the next 10 years! We are going to meet with you, set goals, and start working towards those goals as quickly as we can. Sometimes, it helps to change your parents’ mind if you can get another adult in your life on board with the idea and they can help you talk with your parents.
A therapist will not tell anyone, even your parents, what is discussed in a one-on-one session without your permission. The only exception to this rule is if we believe you are at risk of harming yourself or someone else. Most often, your therapist will let you know if a discussion needs to happen with your parents. It’s very important that you be able to trust your therapist and feel comfortable sharing your thoughts in order to make progress. Most of us here will talk with you (and your parent) about privacy in the first session, so you can ask any questions that you have.
A minor between the ages of 14 and 17 has the right to consent to treatment. Parents also have the right to consent to treatment. But the information discussed during a one-on-one session remains primarily between the adolescent and the therapist. Most of our therapists will, when it's appropriate, encourage an adolescent to include their parents from time to time in sessions, mostly to be used as supports and because you can’t expect the entire family dynamic to change if youre only working with one person in the family. However, without the adolescent’s consent, information is only disclosed to parents if there is a risk of the adolescent being harmed or being harmful to someone else. If an adolescent signs a release to speak with their parents, according to HIPAA, therapists are to share only the minimum amount of information necessary to accomplish the intended purpose of the request. Most often, that is to make sure an adolescent is safe.
There are many different therapists with many different ways of doing therapy. At RBE, we understand that it might not be a perfect fit the first time around! Sometimes it does take a few sessions to feel comfortable enough to really share information, but if right at the start you think it doesn’t feel right, let us know and we’ll try a different therapist. No hurt feelings; we are most concerned that you feel comfortable and can work toward your goals.
How the sessions work are up to you. If you feel comfortable with having your parent join you in sessions, especially the first one, we welcome that. If you are ready to dive in without them with you, that is okay, too! Sometimes, parents like to let us know what is concerning them as well. We can work with you and your parents to make sure everyone's needs are being met.
Teens talk to us about a lot of things, but the most frequent goals we hear about are:
Counseling (or therapy) is meant to be a safe place for you to address your concerns or problems while learning new skills for how to manage situations. Therapists want to know what is working in your life in order to help you use the things you are doing well and the strengths that you have to manage what might not be going as well. It’s a place to problem solve and try out new skills without consequences. We also think it sometimes helps to have someone to bounce ideas off of who isn’t directly involved in your day-to-day life.