What to Expect When Your Teen is in Therapy

mom and teen daughter, daughter looks troubled

It’s very common for parents to feel lost when it comes to dealing with the challenges of parenting a teen. If these challenges become too much for your teenager, and you feel you need additional support to help them, therapy may be a wise option. 

Parents usually  have questions about what to expect when their teenager is in therapy because it is different from having a younger child in therapy.  Let’s talk about that today so you will be prepared and know what questions to ask when you are looking for a therapist for your teen.


Therapy for your teenager will typically be more effective if they feel they can share information freely without input or the opinions of the adults in their life.  If your teen feels comfortable, they might give their therapist consent to share specific details from their session with you. If not, the therapist will share some general observations from time to time to keep you apprised of how things are going in treatment.

Most important to the efficacy of treatment is your teenager’s ability to trust their therapist.  That means your teenager’s therapist will focus on being transparent and not hold secrets.  That can look like the therapist sharing about times when you have communicated with the therapist. 

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share information with your teen’s therapist.  Sharing information is often  helpful because you can trust that the therapist will address what you have shared in a therapeutic way.  When you are looking for a therapist for your teen, it’s a good idea to find out how they present information from parents in their sessions.  You may also want to find out how the therapist involves parents in sessions  and how often they check in with parents.

How Safety Issues Affect Confidentiality

When a safety issue arises the therapist will share information with you in the interest of maintaining your teenager’s safety.  The therapist will talk with your teen the importance of getting their parent(s) involved when there is a safety issue to preserve trust and model boundaries.  The therapist will explain why it is necessary to get parents involved and will support your teen in making a decision about how to best talk to you about the issue.

Prior to beginning therapy, it is helpful to have a conversation about your views on what constitutes a safety issue and understand where those lines are for the therapistl.  This way both you and the therapist will be on the same page and prepared to work together if any safety issues surface during therapy.

Parent Involvement

Many parents struggle with taking a step back and allowing their teen the space they need to put in the work involved with therapy.  This can be hard because you become accustomed to being very involved when they are younger.  

Your teenager may experience difficulties or setbacks, but learning to navigate these challenges on their own is an important stage in their development.  Selecting a therapist that both you and your teen trust should make the process a little easier because you can be confident that the therapist is available to be a wise sounding board for your teen, and you are not the only adult supporting them.

Focusing on your indirect involvement can be just as helpful, if not more helpful, than your direct involvement.  This means you are assessing areas in your own life that may need to be adjusted and/or improved because they may be contributing to some of the concerns you have about your teen.  

There may be things that your teen is doing that you disapprove of, yet you may be, unknowingly, doing similar things.  If this is the case you could be indirectly insinuating that what they are doing is okay.  This awareness can make a difference because it will not only help you make positive changes, but it can also bring about positive changes in your teen and your family as a whole. 

It’s a good idea to have your own therapeutic support in place to ensure that your investment in therapy is beneficial and effective for both you and your teenager.

Change and Goals in Treatment

It’s not uncommon for your goals and your teen’s goals to differ when it comes to what should be addressed in therapy.  If your goals are not aligned, that’s okay.  

When your teen is starting therapy, having them get on board and engage is important, so it’s a good idea to prioritize their goals.  Your teenager will be responsible for the work done in therapy and they will work harder on a goal that is important to them.   The self-motivation created by focusing on their own goals first can be key when it comes to making progress in therapy.  In a word, it can get the ball rolling.

Your teen will experience changes while in therapy and most likely, changes will trigger new feelings.  Even if a positive change occurs, you or your teen may feel uncomfortable when dealing with the change.  As a parent you can prepare yourself for this to ensure that you are supportive during this time.

Hopefully new patterns and routines will also begin to emerge and this can be unfamiliar and challenging as well. This should be expected and is not a cause for concern.  It can be helpful to anticipate what changes may trigger these feelings.  The changes and feelings that your teen, and your family, will experience during therapy are indicators that you are all moving towards a healthy place.  

What other questions do you have about what to expect when your child is in therapy? Contact usWe would love to support you and your family.

Is your teen resistant to the idea of therapy? We covered that here and what to do about it here, in case that is helpful!

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