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  • What to Expect (Maybe) When You’re Expecting Your Teen to See a Therapist

    Few people hated therapy more than I did when I was a teenager. I dug in and refused to go nearly every time. I sat, arms crossed, shaking my head: No. You can’t make me.

    But that wasn’t true. I didn’t want to get grounded. I didn’t want my dad to find out that I called my mom a bitch. 

    I threw myself into the backseat of my mother’s station wagon so I wouldn’t have to sit next to her while she drove to the therapist’s office. Sometimes I complained. What do you think is wrong with me? You’re the one who’s crazy.

    Therapy felt like an accusation: You’re not right, and you need to get right.

    Maybe your teenager responds similarly when you bring up the idea of therapy. You’re worried because they don’t seem like themselves and you don’t know what to do. You’ve tried talking to them, but they clam up or explode. You don’t recognize them anymore, and it scares you.

    Maybe you’re a teenager responding to therapy the same way I did: Hell, no.

    The truth is that some of the therapists I saw as a teenager sucked. One male therapist even sat in my lap because I refused to talk. Apparently, he thought I would open up after a grown man unknown to me placed his full weight on me. However, what actually happened is that the chair fell over backwards and the counselor and I ended up on the floor. He scrambled to hide his embarrassment while I tried to kill him with my mind.

    Looking back, I wish someone had explained to me how therapy can help teenagers. Benefits of therapy for teens include:

    • Processing feelings and experiences in a judgment-free zone
    • Trusting an adult who is not a relative
    • Development of coping skills to address things like anxiety and depression
    • Increased resilience
    • Creating and meeting meaningful goals
    • Learning to communicate more effectively

    Teens tend to thrive most often when they feel as if they can talk with their counselor and be accepted for who and how they are in any given mood or moment. Rapport may not happen immediately between a counselor and a teen attending therapy against their will. I believe I would have been more open to therapy as a teen if I had had a female counselor. My parents always sent me to men. They never gave me a choice, and I didn’t think to ask.

    Would your teen feel more comfortable with a particular gender or possibly a counselor who identifies as nonbinary or transgender? Consider who your teen is. Where there is room to offer them choices, do so. Talk with your teen about their preferences. And if you are a teenager reading this, look at this list and see if there are items you might add.

    Counselor Identity/Orientation/Practice Considerations


    Gender identity 


    Sexual orientation 

    Neurotypical or neurodiverse

    In-person or telehealth 

    Spiritual or religious considerations 

    Racial and/or ethnic identity 

    Other cultural factors

    Clearly, I transformed my hatred of therapy. That clueless therapist who sat on me is now part of a funny story. And that’s part of what I do as a therapist—find meaning (and humor) in our stories. Are you considering therapy for your teenager? Are you looking for a therapist who does online counseling for teenagers in Oregon? Feel free to contact me today to schedule an appointment.