5 Reasons Your Teen Won’t Go to Therapy (and how to get them there)
Updated: May 2
As popular as therapy has become, it’s common and understandable when your teen has resistance to going. By validating their feelings and providing some simple reassurances, you can get them through the door (or on the Zoom call).
Here are the 5 reasons I see teens resist therapy.
You send them right after a major issue. A divorce, suspension at school, or find out concerning information.
They don’t get to choose the therapist and they’ve already written them off as unappealing.
They think you need therapy, not them.
They’re worried it means there’s something wrong with who they are.
They’re highly anxious about meeting new people or talking to adults.
Antidotes to try:
If it’s right after a major life event, normalize that therapy can be short term. Use an analogy like “If you broke your arm, I would take you to the doctor right away.” You can let them know that you want a second opinion and that after hearing from the therapist, you can revisit whether or not it’s needed at this time.
Give them as much choice as possible in selecting a therapist. Let them know you’d like them to try 3 times before quitting. Help them understand what a first session might look like or see if they have a friend who goes to therapy who can give them tips.
If they think you need therapy, go to therapy! Lead by example. It’s okay to share what you get out of therapy but avoid going into much detail. Make sure you emphasize that each person’s experience is different.
Therapy can be a great sounding board for teens, but they may not recognize that initially. Rather than focus on it being a place to solve problems or gain tools, use an example like “Therapy is like having a cool aunt or uncle who you can get perspective from, but they won’t react as strongly as I might. I want you to have an adult who knows what’s going on, even if it’s simple stuff like your workout goals or a fight with a friend.”
Offer to sit with them for the first session if you feel that would make them more comfortable. Let the therapist know this in advance. You can also ask for a meet & greet with a therapist that’s a shorter time without the pressure to talk about anything serious.
When all else fails, it’s perfectly fine to offer a reward for going. Go for a non-monetary reward. Eventually they won’t need it, as the reward will become the relationship itself!