Mental healthcare continues to be stigmatized in the United States. One 2021 survey found that 47% of Americans think seeking therapy is a sign of weakness. Only a quarter of Americans have ever visited a therapist or counselor in their lifetime. Many people hide when they are seeking counseling, whether they are talking to someone for personal, professional, or familial reasons.
Unfortunately, the beliefs that parents hold about therapy can impact the access kids have to professional counseling. A child or teen might not get the therapy they need because their parents won’t take them to see someone. As this child gets older, they can adopt their parents’ toxic beliefs about counseling, which will prevent them from getting help.
It’s time to bust the myth that working with a counselor is a sign of weakness. Admitting that you need help requires strength. Therapy takes work and a lot of effort for anyone who wants to improve their mental-emotional state. Here are a few teen counseling misconceptions and the truth behind them.
Myth #1: Counseling is Only for Serious Problems
Some people only turn to counselors when their family is in a state of crisis. However, you don’t have to wait until you are at a breaking point to seek professional help. In fact, more teens than ever who seem high-functioning could benefit from therapy.
Consider the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on students. According to a March 2022 report by the CDC, 37% percent of students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic while 44% reported feeling sad and hopeless. Kids felt isolated from their friends during remote learning and took on the financial stress their parents felt. Many students still feel anxiety from this period in their lives, even if they are seemingly back to a normal learning experience.
You do not need a diagnosis from a doctor to see a counselor. You also don’t need a major life crisis or traumatic event to need therapy. The daily stressors of life are enough to get professional help. The team at VeryWellMind created a list of reasons why a teenager might need to see a counselor. They range from loneliness to stress management and school issues.
Myth #2: Kids Will Grow Out of Any Mental Health Issues
It’s true that kids go through phases as they grow up. However, there’s a big difference between a teen who is obsessed with Harry Styles and one who is trying to fight through a cloud of depression. Many teens have undiagnosed mental health problems that they are living with on their own. Without the right tools to cope with them, some teens turn to unhealthy sources to get through the pain.
Tamar Mendelson, director of the Center for Adolescent Health at Johns Hopkins University, says 60% of young people with depression in the United States do not receive any mental health treatment at all. Depression can follow teens through adolescence and into adulthood, where their experiences can get even worse.
By seeking counseling at a young age, for almost any cause, teens can build an arsenal of tools to maintain good mental health.
Myth #3: Your Child Will Be Cured After Therapy
Mental health and physical health are two completely different fields. If a child touches poison ivy, a doctor can provide an ointment to reduce the itching and help it heal. Mental health care isn’t that easy to navigate. The goal of many counselors is to better understand the teens they work with. They also work with teens to develop healthy habits and strategies to support their mental health.
The CDC estimates that more than 50% of the American population (including 20% of children) will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetimes. For many of these people, mental illness is something they live with throughout their entire lives. Therapy can help people live with this illness, but it will not cure it.
If your child meets with a counselor because of their anxiety, don’t expect them to walk out with a cure within a few sessions. Instead, they will have a better understanding of their condition and some tools they can use when it flares up.
Myth #4: Parents Aren’t Involved in the Teen Counseling Process
Teen counseling isn’t necessarily a closed-door activity. There are times when a counselor might invite you to join them in the sessions or times when they might want to talk with you directly. In fact, some counselors embrace family therapy and invite multiple parents and siblings to talk through their experiences.
Try to enter the counseling process with an open mind. The therapist isn’t kicking you out if they just want to talk to your child. You also aren’t “getting called to the principal’s office” if they want to talk to you.
Myth #5: The Counselor Will Think I’m a Bad Parent
The role of a counselor is not to find someone to blame for the mental health of a kid or teen. This professional wants to learn why a child feels a certain way and how they can take steps to cope with the world around them. Your counselor is more likely to bring you in as part of a teenager’s support system rather than highlight your negative actions. When all three of you work as a team, you can take steps to have a happier, healthier family.
This doesn’t mean you won’t have uncomfortable conversations during this time. However, communication is a key part of improving mental health. Through these discussions, you might learn more about your child and see how they are taking steps to grow into strong adults. It’s a beautiful process to be a part of.
Myth #6: Therapy Will Last Forever
Another common myth is that once a child starts therapy, they will always need it. The reality is that people attend therapy at different points in their lives. Sometimes they need it and sometimes they go years without meeting with a counselor. Your child might benefit from a few months of regular therapy, followed by a couple of check-ins each year.
Truth: Teens Can Use Therapy Throughout Their Lives
There are countless myths about seeking therapy and teen counseling for mental health problems. However, one truth stands out above the rest: once your teen feels safe speaking with a counselor, they can reach out to these professionals throughout their lives. They can ask for help when they need trouble in school or seek couples therapy in their romantic relationships.
Some people go years without needing to speak with a counselor. They have the right tools to protect their mental health. However, a counseling support system is always available for those who need it – and there’s never shame in reaching out for help.
Learn More About Teen Counseling By Family Resources
It’s okay to feel nervous if you have never talked to a counselor before. You aren’t alone in people who need to see a therapist but aren’t sure how to do so. One step you can take is to reach out to Family Resources. We offer counseling services that are meant to help kids, teens, and families. Our counseling is free for most families and affordable for all. We have a dedicated staff of counselors who can help your teen work through a variety of problems.
Call one of our service locations today and ask about counseling. You can learn more about our process and decide if this option is right for you.