Your child and you can feel pretty vulnerable when you talk to a therapist. Think about it – you are telling them your deepest thoughts and you are not sure what they are thinking! You might not know what a therapist is supposed to do or act like if you’ve never seen one before. So how do you know if things are going well in therapy?
Here are some suggestions we have:
Ask your child:
Do they think therapy will help them?
What do they expect out of their therapist?
Are I willing to participate in therapy together or alone for myself if needed?
What do I expect out of my child for therapy?
What do I expect out of the therapist?
Discuss your answers to the above questions with your child’s therapist and your child so you can have a clear idea if what you think will happen is what will happen.
As you get to know your child’s therapist, ask yourself these questions:
Does my child feel accepted?
Is the therapist caring?
Does the therapist explain things clearly?
If the therapist and my child disagree, can they have a productive conversation about it?
Does the therapist recognize if there is a problem and addresses it instead of avoiding it?
After you’ve gotten to know your child’s therapist, ask yourself:
Does the therapist have a good relationship with my child?
Does the therapist and my child get along?
Does the therapist and my child agree on the goals of what I am going to get from treatment?
Does the therapist get along with me?
Does the therapist agree with me on the goals of my child’s treatment?
These questions have been shown in research to influence how well therapy can work for kids and adolescents which is why we think it is important to think about them.
If the answers are no to any of these questions, talk to the therapist on how you might address them. If it doesn’t feel comfortable to talk to the therapist, then talk to whoever referred your child to them – like your child’s primary care provider about whether they can help talk to the therapist and investigate whether they are a good fit for them.
Did you try out using any of these questions? Is there something new you learned? Are there other questions you suggest for talking to your child’s therapist?
It comes down to symptoms—these are complaints your child may have or you may notice—that tend to go together in someone who is depressed. Sometimes your child might not tell you they feel this way so it can be tough for you to see the symptoms. On the other hand, they might say they feel fine because they don’t want you to worry, but you definitely notice something is not right. Symptoms include:
Feeling down most of the day. Maybe your child notices they are just feeling sad, empty, or down in the dumps. They might not even notice—but you might see they are tearful or irritable much of the time.
Not interested in things they used to like. Things they used to think were fun aren’t fun anymore. They don’t really do them and even if they don’t notice or say they don’t care, you notice the difference.
Changes in appetite or weight. They’re hungry all the time, or they don’t feel like anything tastes good anymore.
Problems with sleep. They are tired and sleepy all day even when they get enough rest, or the opposite—they can’t fall asleep no matter how hard they try.
Tiredness or not having energy.
They feel like everything is their fault. They feel like they’re no good at anything.
They have a tough time concentrating or making decisions.
They may have thoughts of suicide.
MOST important is that because of these symptoms, they are having trouble living the life they want to live.
It might mean they are not achieving their goals, getting to school every day, getting to work, doing the fun activities they used to do, or being the kind of friend they want to be.
A health professional can help you and your child figure out if your child should get treatment for depression or if something else could be causing the symptoms. For example, having a low blood count can cause sleepiness, fatigue, and a tough time concentrating. Sometimes it can take many visits for you, your child, and your health professional to figure out the best way to help.
The most important thing is if you notice these symptoms in your child, something is wrong, and although its easier to say to yourself, “Maybe they will just go away,” often they won’t. The good news is the sooner you do something about them, the better. The brain of the adolescent and young adult is amazing—it is kind of like clay—mold-able into many different things! Talking to a trusted health professional will be your next best step.
Person 1: I go to therapy every week, why do I need to do anything else about this?
Person 2: If you do your self-care work, therapy is going to go a lot smoother.
Person 1: Therapy IS my self-care!
Person 2: It’s part of your self-care.
Perhaps you’ve been on both sides of this conversation, maybe you’ve had it with yourself. It’s important to remember that therapy and medication are parts of the self-care and self-love process.
That can be really hard to cope with when it takes a lot to just get to therapy and open up there. It’s important to be mindful that adolescents may not want to discuss their therapy or self-care activities with you. But it is important to keep the door of communication open.
One way to do that is to create a habit of just checking in with your adolescent daily. Or just going on a walk together where no one has to say anything, but the door is open to it. Another way is to demonstrate that you do self-care for yourself, and name the activity “self-care time.” Doing so makes it easier for them to say “Other people also do things to take care of themselves outside of treatment, maybe I can too.”
What are some ways that you encourage your adolescent to engage in self-care outside of therapy or medication? What are ways that you take care of yourself?
An awesome article by Buzzfeed was published about what depression actually looks like. We think it’s important to understand that depression is a universal thing, meaning that it can affect ANYONE. Often, depression and anxiety are portrayed with sad, gloomy, black & white pictures- which is not always the case. In fact, people experiencing depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses often look exactly like somebody who is not experiencing mental illness! These dark and gloomy pictures used to portray depression are one of the major reasons people think the way they do about mental illness. It is crucial to share articles like this and inform people that these photos are not how mental illness actually looks. This is a perfect place to start in the battle to end the stigma around the topic.
Click the link above and let us know what you think! Do you think the pictures used to portray depression play a role in the stigma around it?
We found a great article about how to have more effective communication, not just with your parents, but with everyone!
Why this resource is helpful: It gives advice on good communication, not only between parents and teenagers, but between people in general. It stresses being a good listener. It also stresses paying attention to non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is difficult, and takes time to learn how to do.
Paying attention to your own stress and emotions while communicating is important.
Effective communication is a learned skill, and it takes time and effort to develop this skill
Listening is important; focus entirely on the speaker, without distractions, and avoid appearing judgmental.
Pay attention to nonverbal communication, such as clenched fists or someone not maintaining eye contact.
Manage your own stress when talking with other people. Too much stress might result in you saying something you regret.
It is also important to be aware of your emotions when arguing with someone. Understanding your own emotions will help you communicating your feelings with other people. It is also important to understand others’ emotions, so that you can better understand them.
We recently found this article called “12 Breathtaking Photos Show What It’s Really Like To Have General Anxiety Disorder” and we think it’s amazing that someone so beautifully created art around how an anxiety disorder feels. From the article: “Trying to explain a mental illness to someone who’s never experienced it is like trying to explain color to a blind person,” said photographer Katie Crawford. Crawford has battled an anxiety disorder since age 11, so she picked up her camera and developed a breathtaking series of self-portraits, titled “My Anxious Heart.”
Tell us what you think? Did any of the images resonate with you? Did they help you understand anxiety disorders more? What do you think about the comments others posted underneath the article? Do you have any questions about their discussion? Tell us about it in the comments.
Although antidepressants are one of the ways to help adolescents with depression or anxiety feel better mentally and socially, there are also some other physical attributes to them that may tag along, too. Continue reading Side effects of Antidepressants