AUTHOR: Nathalie Parent, psychologist
Adolescence is a period of transition, bringing many physical, psychological and social transformations, which cause major reorganization in the brains of teens. All of these changes come with increased vulnerability to psychological distress.
Sometimes, when a teen is going through a particularly difficult time, it may be necessary to take them to see a psychotherapist.
But how can you discuss this with them?
Breaking down fears with concrete examples
When we want to suggest to a teen who is struggling that they begin therapy, it is sometimes easier to talk about it when we have experienced it ourselves or noticed its benefits in others.
So, you can say to your teen:
“You know, Amélie saw a therapist for the same kind of problem and it really did her some good. Do you want to look together at finding a psychologist for you? You could even talk to Amélie about it if you want.”
“I know that what you’re feeling is painful. I feel like I can’t properly help, but I know that professionals can. I’m sure you’d like to feel better, right? We can look together for a psychologist that works for you, how does that sound? Take some time to think about it.”
You may need to bring it up a few times like this for your teen to decide. Respect their pace, as long as their life or development is not in danger.
Give control to your teen to maintain trust
Since adolescence is a time when a person’s autonomy is developing, it’s crucial to involve your teen in any processes or decisions that concern them and to ask for their agreement.
If you intend to talk to a practitioner or to their teacher, check what they think and ask them if there is anything that they’d prefer you to keep confidential in order to maintain the bond of trust with them.
If you think it’s best to discuss it, explain to them the importance of the duty you have as an adult and parent. What’s important is to not decide for them, to give them the feeling that they’re capable of making decisions, of reflecting on things and putting themselves on the path to their adult life.
However, in certain more serious cases, when their judgment is altered or if their life and/or development is in danger, you do not need their agreement to take action.
Hospitalization may be required, but there are many steps that can be taken before that point is reached.
Take stock of your own prejudices
There are still many prejudices about psychological difficulties. Feelings of shame, guilt or weakness still exist today. We sometimes even have trouble taking the psychological suffering of others seriously, even though it’s as important and real as physical suffering.
Would you doubt your child if they came to you with a broken leg? Would you say they’re weak and fragile because they had a sprain or developed psoriasis or diabetes?
Don’t hesitate to use these examples to talk about psychological suffering with your teen.
We are all at risk of experiencing mental difficulties, just like any physical illness, even if we know that many protective factors exist.