While our society is becoming much more accepting of mental illness, we still have a very long way to go. Mental health issues are often stigmatized and this stigma can have very harmful consequences. In fact, people with mental illness often internalize the negative things that society believes about them (ie. that they are incompetent, untrustworthy and irrational) leading to stress that is sometimes more harmful than the mental illness itself. People with mental illness sometimes keep quiet about their struggles out of fear—fear of being ostracized, isolated and judged by their peers.
Your teen has been struggling and now they’re finally on the road to health, but they’re feeling ashamed and secretive about going to therapy. Here’s how you can help your child accept (and even celebrate) the fact that they’re in therapy.
Talk about it.
Ask your teen why it bothers them that they’re in therapy. They might respond with something along the lines of ‘I feel embarrassed’ or ‘I just don’t understand why I need to go to therapy when my friends don’t’. At this stage in the game, your best bet is to simply listen to their concerns and to keep the lines of communication open.
Try to work the positive aspects of therapy into conversation. Discuss how they seem less stressed after a session or any other changes that you notice. Remind your teen of the benefits, but don’t overshadow their concerns. Acknowledge that their frustration is valid but remind them that everyone needs help sometimes.
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There are many misconceptions about what going to therapy means, but the fact of the matter is that while some people don’t understand therapy, most people do. Back in 2004, Psychology Today conducted a survey that found that around 30 million U.S. adults go to therapy. That’s a lot of people. And that was more than 10 years ago. The conversation around therapy and its benefits has opened up and more and more people are talking openly about their therapy visits.
There’s a great article in Forbes about reasons to give therapy a try: the author writes “…therapy is not just something that smart people use, it’s something that most everybody should probably try during at least some point in their lives.” Encourage your teen to explore the great things about therapy, the things that may even give them a leg-up on their peers, like learning to deal with their emotions, passive aggressive behavior and learning to visualize their problems.
Support your teen.
Going to therapy is nothing to be ashamed of. Would you feel embarrassed if you had a bad flu and went to see the doctor? Absolutely not. Therapy is a solution to a problem and a highly effective solution at that. Effective therapy may mean that your teen doesn’t have to take medication (though this is something to discuss further with your doctor) and it may mean that your teen is able to face and work through issues that have plagued them for years. Be wary of contributing to the stigma your child is already feeling: stay open-minded and engaged in their therapeutic process and (with their permission) be open with the people in your life about their situation. Don’t hide the fact that your child is in therapy, celebrate it!
If you have questions or want more advice on helping your teen adjust to therapy, contact the professionals at Newport Academy.
Feature Image: BSG / Shutterstock