Teenage years are full of shocks and mood swings, and it is likely that much of this is a natural process, caused by the troubled learning curve of adolescence. Half way between childhood and adulthood, a teenager can feel like there is no where in the world where they can fit in.

A teenager's initiation into adulthood is often full of mishap, and it can be difficult to distinguish between a phase that will pass, and a serious concern that needs to be addressed. It can be even more difficult to address this concern, and the thought of suggesting therapy to your teenager can seem nothing short of a nightmare.

“You Don't Understand Me!”

Before you even suggest therapy to your teenager, it is important to try to develop an understanding of what is going through their mind, and what is going on in their life. Any attempt to address this directly could be met by a response such as, “you don't understand me, and you never will!”

Don't let this put you off. Deep down your teenager will appreciate your efforts, and if you are persistent, and genuine in your concerns, then you are more likely to be able to develop a positive relationship with them, and begin to see what they are really feeling.

Listen To Them

This requires a certain approach. Your teenager might have a particular aversion to authority, and even to advice. Adolescence is very much a process of individuality, which explains much of this seemingly irrational teenage behavior.

They may typically rebel against any efforts which make them feel inadequate, or belittled. Instead of always engaging with a reward and punishment style of parenting, which may have worked when they were children but which has little hope of penetrating their barriers now, you should simply listen. Offer your ear and listen to them. Do not even offer advice; they will ask for it if they want it.

When they feel like they have someone who they can talk to, without judgement, then you may start to see improvements in their behaviors and attitudes. One of the essential roles of a therapist is to provide this emotional support, and to simply listen impartially. If this can be achieved at home then there may not be any need to suggest therapy.

Not all teenagers will feel comfortable speaking openly to their parents, and sometimes they might prefer to speak with someone who is not involved in their life. This is where a therapist might be able to offer help.

You will have more chance of developing a decent relationship with your teenager if they can respect you as a role model. They may want to speak to you, and they may respect your advice and opinions more, if they do not see signs of obvious hypocrisy.

For example, if you approach them asking them why they have been drinking recently, but they see you drinking every night, then they are unlikely to respect your attempts to help them. Changes on your part can help bring about changed on their part.

Does My Teenager Require Therapy?

Not all negative behaviors and mood swings require therapy; they are a part of life for most adults, so understandably they are a part of the life of most teenagers too. You should try to distinguish between typical adolescence stroppiness and a mental infliction which requires help. It can be useful to monitor your teenager over time (by engaging with them, not by routing through their room!).

Sometimes it can be clear that your teenager requires professional help. Look out for signs of depression, eating disorders, failing at school and severe decline in attainment, illegal activities and crime, self-harm, inappropriate anger, and major changes in character and activities.

How To Approach Your Teenager To Suggest Therapy

If you do decide that therapy is the correct course of action, and that your teenager would benefit from it, then you will be faced with the task of suggesting it to them. Do not despair! In many cases it is much easier than you might think, as long as you approach it with the right mentality, and with your intentions firmly set on what is best for them.

Therapy should never be framed as a punishment:

You should avoid ever giving your teenager this impression. They will almost certainly rebel against the idea, and if you drag them kicking and screaming then it is very unlikely that the therapy will be effective.

Therapists rely on providing a safe and comfortable environment, and they also rely on the free will of the client, who can only really be helped if they want to be helped. If you force them to go then this trust has already been abused. If you use threats like, “Go to school or we will send you to therapy,” then they will have the impression that the therapist is yet another authority figure, sent to tell them who is boss.

Instead you should express your concern:

Tell your teenager what it is that is bothering them, and give them an opportunity to communicate what they feel, and why they behave like they do. Make it clear that you want to help them, and that you will do anything you can to do so, including giving them the option of therapy. They should feel like you are on their side, and you should genuinely be on their side.

You should also explain to your teenager the benefits of therapy:

How might it help them to improve. They are not children anymore, and so you should speak to them like adults, expressing concern, and providing solutions. You should make it clear that the therapist is on their side, and that they are only there to listen and to guide them through.

Tell them that seeing a therapist is not a sign of weakness, and that you don't think there is anything “wrong” with them. You are concerned only with their happiness, and you want to see them live a healthy life free of worry and torment.

Use positive language:

The language you use will be of huge importance when you do talk to your teenager about the possibilities of language. You should avoid the use of definitive language such as, “when you are at therapy” opting for more optional terms such as, “if you do decide to go then...” You should entirely avoid the use of negative language like “you need to sort out your problems,” and instead talk in terms of positive change such as, “you would benefit from having someone to speak to about this.”

What If They Still Don't Want Therapy?

As mentioned, it is extremely counter productive to drag your teenager to a therapist kicking and screaming, so what do you do if they resist your concern, and your efforts to convince them that it is worthwhile?

There are a few methods that can help you to bypass their reluctancy:

Have Someone Else Suggest The Therapy:

The first is to have someone else suggest therapy to them. If your concerns are legitimate, then it is likely that other people have noticed the need for them to be addressed. Your teenager may rebel against everything that you say, but what about their best friend, or their role model uncle?

There may be someone who's advice they always listen to, that would be able to better approach the situation. Talk to that person first, and if they share your concerns ask them to suggest therapy to your teenager.

Suggest Family Therapy:

Individual therapy might be intimidating for your teenager and they might feel singled out by the idea. Family therapy is one option which works to help the function of the family as a whole. This will feel far less scary for your teenager, and they will feel like the whole issue is being addressed, rather than their problems.

In some situations family therapy can be a genuinely more holistic options, capable of bringing more harmony to your home.

Suggest Three Sessions, No Obligation To Continue:

A final tip is to suggest that your teenager has three sessions with a therapist. They don't have to commit to anything, they just have to see whether they think they are benefiting from it. Three sessions is usually enough for a person to settle into the therapy, so you may find that they want to stay when their sessions are up.

Matthew Warburton,

Author's Bio: 

Matthew Warburton is a freelance writer who has published many works as a ghostwriter. He was playing the online news game for a while, but couldn’t do it anymore, on the basis that Google news trends are boring. Now, he enjoys writing for www.selfhelpmanual.com, and producing blogs and E-books for other people.

With a degree in psychology, and a keen interest in the workings of the human mind, and consciousness, Matthew writes largely on self improvement topics.

His site contains lessons that he learnt while traveling in the wilderness, and while living with various types of healers, therapists, mystics, and experts in meditation.