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Helping Parents Find a Therapist

The reality is that 1 in 5 teens are struggling with mental health. This struggle is a real challenge and a cross for so many teens today. As those walking with teens in the faith, God works through Youth Ministers and Core members for teens to get the help they really need. Part of this accompaniment with teens is having honest conversations with parents so that teens can get professional help for their mental health. So how do we help parents understand the need for a therapist and find one that is a good fit?

Resistance

While the reality is that many teens struggle with mental health, it’s also a reality that there could be real resistance in talking with parents about mental health and getting help. When a teen is struggling, parents could think any of the following:

  • Did I do something wrong as a parent?
  • Maybe it’s just a stage.
  • They will get over it.
  • Struggling is a sign of weakness for them and our family.
  • They can just talk to family; we are available.
  • Therapy is a waste of time and money.
  • They have no reason to be anxious or depressed.

The stigma around mental health still very much exists and is something to consider when talking to parents about their teen’s mental health. We can encourage teens to speak directly with their parents about wanting help, but sometimes it might be necessary to talk to parents directly. It may be important to normalize with parents that more than 20% of teens struggle with anxiety and depression. On the flip side, many parents are eager and willing to find help for their teen’s mental health. Needing to find help for a teen is not a sign of a bad parent, but a true sign that the parent is loving and attentive to their teen and their needs.

Why therapy?

In finding help for a teen’s mental health, there can be many misconceptions around what is needed and where to begin. Therapy is first and foremost a place for a teen to build a relationship with themselves. This means it’s an opportunity to understand why they do what they do and why they think and feel how they do. Therapy is a place for teens to build self-awareness of what is going on with them. It’s a place to share and speak the truth of what they are experiencing with support. In therapy, teens can walk with a therapist as they understand their thoughts and feelings and build tools to make better decisions and navigate life as it comes.

Therapy isn’t a quick fix but a process and a real relationship with oneself, the therapist, and God who longs to heal. Therapy isn’t a place for those at rock bottom but a place to build tools preventively so that our teens can live life to the fullest as Christ calls us to. We can underestimate the true power of simply sharing our thoughts and feelings with someone who will listen and not judge. At the same time as seeking out a therapist, parents also have the option of finding their teen a psychiatrist to assess if any medication is necessary or a psychologist to evaluate further what is going on. Therapy and visiting a psychiatrist does not mean that their teen will be put on medication but can help everyone understand the bigger picture. Including therapists, psychiatrists, and even general medical doctors in the treatment of their teen, provides a holistic approach to the teen’s health in body, mind, and soul.

Good fit

In addition to helping lay a framework for what therapy is, it is essential for parents to remember that therapy also involves finding a good fit within the therapeutic relationship. Largely this involves parents simply talking with their teens. Does their teen feel more comfortable with a male or female therapist? Is their teen struggling with something specific that a particular therapist might specialize in (i.e., a specialist in anxiety/OCD)? Is the therapist experienced in working with teens? Finding a good fit also means asking the teen what they think will work best and maybe even checking out therapist’s online profiles to see who they think might be a good fit.

Catholic

Finding specifically a Catholic therapist is also a consideration in finding a good fit for teens. Non-Catholic and even non-Christian therapists are able to help teens understand what is going on with them and provide real tools to cope with and navigate many issues such as anxiety and depression. At the same time, finding a non-Catholic therapist can include obstacles to healthy, holy treatment when it comes to navigating matters of identity, sexuality, chastity, scrupulosity, and morality.

If it is hard for a parent to find a Catholic therapist, they don’t have to rule out someone who doesn’t advertise being faith-based, especially if their teen is struggling with general anxiety and depression. If a teen struggles with sexual identity and moral issues, then a Catholic therapist is probably the best fit to see the teen through the Catholic lens of the human person as God has intended. Good Catholic therapists are able to meet teens where they are at in aspects of faith, values, and morals. Encourage parents to ask lots of questions and not be afraid to talk with therapists. They can even ask for a free consultation and to be a part of the initial consultation process to get to know who will be working with their teen.

Where to look?

With all these things in mind, where can parents go? Below are a few websites for parents to begin their search for good mental health professionals. It never hurts for them to reach out and ask questions. As for those walking with teens, you can also reach out to local professionals to compile a list or worksheet of Catholic resources and any offered by your parish. Luckily, more and more therapists provide telehealth online, so help is at the teen’s fingertips. Your parish might already have a list, so it’s good to consult with your pastor and see what is available to point parents in the right direction.

  • catholictherapists.com
  • mycatholicdoctor.com
  • catholicpsychotherapy.org/directory
  • psychologytoday.com/us

Instruments

As those walking with teens, you are truly an instrument of the Holy Spirit for teens to find the healing they are called to. In helping parents find a professional for their teen’s mental health, we can meet parents where they are at with love and point them in the right direction. We can accompany teens and parents through listening, prayer, and providing resources as they navigate and pursue real help to improve their teen’s mental health.

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

About the Author

Adam Cross

I am a Marriage and Family therapist and Youth Minister in SoCal. I love the intersection of psychology and theology, and I provide therapy over video chat for people looking for a Catholic therapist in my state. I love reading Fulton Sheen, Henri Nouwen, C.S. Lewis, and love the band the Oh Hellos!

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