How to Tell Your Parents You Need a Therapist

Choose a quiet time free of distractions to talk to your parents about therapy.
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If you are struggling with a personal issue, you might not know how to bring up the topic of seeing a therapist with your parents. Perhaps you are worried they will react badly or ask a lot of questions. Whether you want to share how you are feeling or not, talking to your parents is the first step toward getting the help that you need.

1 Choose a Quiet Time

Choose a quiet time when you will be free from distractions, advises licensed social worker Megan Sigmon-Olsen, in the article, "How to Tell your Parents you want to see a Counselor" at the Counseling for Teens – St. Paul, Minnesota blog. If possible, let your parents know that there is something you want to discuss, and set aside a specific time to talk. Avoid days when everyone is normally under stress or emotionally drained such as in the middle of a hectic week. You are more likely to have a fruitful discussion if everyone is as clear-headed as possible.

2 Open the Discussion

Talking to your parents about seeing a therapist doesn't have to be scary. Say something simple such as "I need to talk" or "I need your help" when first bringing up the topic, as advised in the TeensHealth article, "Talking to Parents About Depression." When asked what is wrong, say something like, "I am sorting through some issues and feel like I need to talk to someone objective outside the family like a therapist." If you feel comfortable sharing the issues you are experiencing, let your parents know how you have been feeling. If talking in person feels too embarrassing at first, consider writing a note to your parents explaining your concerns.

3 Manage Reactions

When you first talk to your parents, it is natural for them to have a lot of questions. They might also react negatively if they don't believe in the value of therapy. If your parents are pressuring you for details about personal issues, it is okay to say "It is hard to share because I am not even really sure what is going on myself. That is why I need help from a therapist," advises licensed clinical social worker Julie Hanks, in the Psych Central video "How Do I Tell My Parents I Want Therapy?" If your parents want to solve the problem themselves or tell you that therapy isn't necessary, simply say "I have tried to solve this on my own already -- I need help from someone with a different perspective from outside the family."

4 Enlist Another Adult

If your parents are not receptive to the idea of therapy, consider approaching another adult you trust such as a school counselor, religious leader or doctor, suggests Sigmon-Olsen. Explain the situation in as much detail as you are comfortable, and ask whether that person would be able to speak to your parents on your behalf. These individuals may also be able to help locate a potential therapist and arrange a meeting for your parents to learn what therapy would involve.

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.