Finding a good therapist is extremely hard.
Finding a good teen therapist can be even more challenging. If your teenage son is struggling in his life and truly needs some additional support then you will face the tough job of finding the right person to help him.
I have been privileged to work with teenagers and families for the last fourteen years. It has been an amazing experience full of growth and learning both for myself and for my clients.
Today I want to share with you the 4 things you need to consider when you are looking for a good teen therapist.
1. Find a specialist
Here is a little known secret. Most therapists really don’t like teenagers. I totally understand this, but you want to find a therapist who both likes working with teens and has a good amount of experience doing so.
There are many generalist therapists out there who will list off all the folks they work with. They will say that they serve individuals, couples, families, kids and teenagers alike. They may be a good therapist, but I wouldn’t choose them for my child. Why? Because it is very difficult to be excellent at serving all those types of people and specific issues.
I am very clear that I only work with teenage boys, young adults and families. I have a ton of experience working with the issues that these guys are facing and I feel extremely confident in my ability to help them. Look for a specialist and someone who actually enjoys being with teenagers.
Note: Make sure you also find someone who is a licensed mental health professional with either a Master’s or Doctoral level education.
2. Find someone whom you trust
You are entrusting your son’s emotional well being to a therapist who is limited in what they can even share with you due to confidentiality. You need to be able to trust this therapist.
Beyond your basic intuition, you want to look for signs of credibility and trustworthiness.
- Do they have a website?
- Do they return your phone calls and/or emails promptly?
- Do they listen to you and answer your questions?
- Do you think the therapist will both support and encourage you and also be honest in giving you feedback about your parenting style?
All of these questions matter. It can certainly help if you get a referral from a source you trust, whether that is your doctor, your girlfriend or a family member. Whatever it takes, make sure that you find someone you truly feel you can trust.
3. Find someone you think your son will like
No one knows your son better than you do. You will likely know from the therapist’s website or a short phone conversation if your son will like them. Trust your instinct on this one.
You may or may not have leverage to get your son into counseling, but if he really doesn’t like the therapist it definitely won’t work. Most teenage boys are irritated, angry or ashamed about the idea of going to see a therapist. If your son makes a connection with his therapist that will make all the difference in the world.
Research has proven that the biggest predictor for success in therapy is the quality of the relationship with the therapist. This is why I work really hard to connect with my clients and make it easy for them to engage in therapy and benefit from the process. It is crucial that the therapist is someone that your son can connect with, feel comfortable and be willing to talk to.
You don’t necessarily have to like your son’s therapist, but pay close attention to what he says and his opinion of the therapist you choose.
4. Find someone who will work collaboratively with you
This is really important to consider. It still surprises me at times, but I hear about therapists who work with teenagers and then refuse to have any dialogue with the parents or include them in the process. I understand respecting the teen’s confidentiality, but how can therapy be successful if there is no communication or collaboration.
At the very least, you need to know the following.
- Is your son making progress?
- What issues is he working on?
- What are the goals for the therapy?
You may also need a therapist who will be willing to do certain things, such as attend an educational planning meeting, write a letter to his school or probation officer or consult with his primary care doctor or psychiatrist. This is often a really important part of the process.
In addition to this you should have an idea about whether or not the therapist will be willing to do family therapy if that is needed. I often find that I can help a family make the most progress with a combination of individual and family sessions.
Finding a collaborative therapist who will work closely with you while maintaining your son’s trust is invaluable.
I am confident that you will have a better experience if you can find a therapist who specializes in working with teens, someone you trust and your son likes who will also work in a collaborative way.
You can contact me HERE if you have any questions about how therapy can help your son and your family.
If you are not in my area and you need a good teen therapist, you can use the excellent directory provided by Psychology Today to find someone in your zip code.