What’s the role of a therapist with your teen?

What exactly is the role of your teen’s therapist?

  1. We aren’t the parent. We didn’t give birth to your teen or raise them. We focus every session on them, but we’re not around or accessible 24/7, and we’re not here to enforce your family’s rules. We work hard to build rapport with your teen, but we can never take your place or serve in your role. We’re glad to work alongside you as you face these difficult years.
  2. We aren’t the “mole.” Our job isn’t to discover information about your teen and secretly share it with you. That doesn’t build trust with your teen, and it won’t contribute to solving issues and building long-term relationships within your family. We’ll only share information when it comes to issues of safety or where it may be important for resolving a critical conflict. Teens know you want to know how they are doing and if they are making progress. If you have questions, feel free to ask us, or them. We’re happy to give you an update on overall progress toward goals.
  3. We aren’t a puppet. Sometimes, parents will text or call, asking us to raise certain questions or push certain issues with their teen in our next session. We get it. But we need to walk cautiously, because it can easily appear like you’ve set us up – and that can destroy any rapport we have with your teen. We’re happy to take your concerns to your teen, but in the long run, we’d rather assist you in learning communication/conflict resolution with them directly. That works so much better for long term success.
  4. We aren’t a consequence. Seeing a therapist is a positive step that helps your teen grow into a healthy adult. But if you make us the punishment by saying “if you don’t do this, you need to go back to your therapist” or “if you don’t behave the way we want, we’re sending you back to the therapist” makes us a punishment that your teen will resent. Please don’t use us as a threat or consequence. We’re here to help, and part of that means empowering teens to make good decisions.
  5. We also aren’t miracle workers. If you think therapy is a “magic pill” that produces immediate results and complete satisfaction, it is setting everyone up for failure. Therapy is hard work for everyone involved, and it takes time. Plus, a teenager’s brain is not fully developed, so they may not respond to situations or advice the way you or we might. A set number of sessions won’t trigger meaningful change, but developing a relationship over time will. And while we are a facilitator for those changes, most of your teen’s development will happen based upon what occurs between sessions. Please don’t expect us to be a miracle cure. We welcome you in the change process, but with all people, change takes time.

Not sure about the roles and responsibilities of your teen’s therapist and how they intersect (or may not) with your own? Why not schedule a session with the therapist to develop a better understanding? We won’t reveal what your teen says (and we won’t tell the teen what you say), but we’ll help you understand how we work and what you can do to make our time with your teen more effective. Let’s all set goals so that it is a win for everyone.