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Young Teen Reluctant to See Therapist

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I have a 13-year-old going through some rough times right now. I would like her to see a family therapist as you talked about in some of the answers to parent questions. How does a 13-year-old who doesn't want to see a therapist go about finding someone she would feel comfortable with?

A: This is always a delicate situation. Certainly, your suggestion of therapy should not be framed in your belief that your daughter is abnormal, sick, bad, or any other highly judgmental terms. You are seeking help for her because you know she is much more unhappy (confused, worried, frightened, etc.) than she wants to be and you, her parent, cannot stand by and let her be overwhelmed with these feelings.

Call several therapists upon the personal recommendations of friends whose kids have used them successfully and/or ask your daughter to give you the names of any therapists she knows other kids have seen and liked. Talk to your health care providers, if you trust their judgment, about their recommendations. Tell her she can interview three therapists and choose which one she wants to see. The deal is she can choose and you will stay out of her relationship with the therapist, unless she wants you to become involved.

She may dig her heels in, see all three, and declare them all fools. You will then tell her to choose which one was the least offensive fool and take her to him. If she threatens not to say anything while in the sessions, say that's OK, it's between you and the therapist, and take her to therapy. Also investigate the possibility of her joining a therapy group, with kids her age, led by a therapist. This sometimes is a choice kids are more comfortable with. If she or you haven't seen the movie Good Will Hunting, see if she'll go watch it with you. Talk about it and what she thought of the relationship between the therapist and the young man who was his client. I'd also suggest reading The Romance of Risk, Why Teenagers Do the Things They Do, by Lynn Ponton and Parenting Your Teenager in the 90s, by David Elkind.

Keep me posted if you have the time.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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