How to Ask for What You Need in Therapy

November 30, 2020

The best way to ensure your teen gets all they need from therapy is to ensure they feel comfortable asking their therapist for what they need while they are with them. This could be a matter of asking questions about how their treatment may progress or talking about the best ways for them to work with their therapy team to achieve their goals in a manner that suits their unique learning style. Seeking therapy is an excellent way to work through new or preexisting mental health concerns. However, if the type of therapy does not meet your teen’s specific therapy goals, or they are not comfortable with their therapy provider, therapy is not likely to be as successful as it could be. To ensure your teen can make the best of their therapy sessions at a teen residential treatment center like Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center, we have provided a few questions they might want to ask or a few suggestions about discussions they can have with their therapy provider to help them feel the most comfortable.

How Do I Know We Can Work Well Together?

It is not uncommon for teens to have a difficult time opening up to those they know, so it should not be surprising if your teen is concerned about talking to a stranger. Let them know that it is OK to be open and direct and ask the therapist if they think they can work well together. It is also OK to ask their therapist if they feel they can help. There are indeed situations where your teen and a particular therapist may not gel, and therefore treatment may not be as successful as it should be. In these situations, your teen is less likely to be forthcoming and honest about their fears, concerns, and their overall mental health. To ensure your teen gets the most out of their time at Hillcrest, they must be able to develop a healthy, comfortable working relationship with their therapist and the therapy team.

What Does Treatment at Hillcrest Look Like?

While many provide similar types of treatment and mental health care, mental health treatment facilities operate in their own unique ways. Some facilities specialize in specific mental illnesses, and others treat a wide range of conditions. For example, Hillcrest specializes in teen mental health, whereas another treatment facility may not be equipped to consider the teen and adolescent age groups’ specific needs. When your teen arrives at Hillcrest for treatment, our admissions team will work with your teen and your family to develop a unique and individual treatment plan that best suits their needs. During this initial process, a therapist will help create a treatment plan that centers around why your teen is seeking treatment and how they could meet their goals. This is an essential step because it provides direction for your teen’s treatment, but it also ensures that your teen and the treatment team here at Hillcrest are on the same page regarding what your family is hoping to achieve from therapy. Once a goal has been achieved, your teen can move on to the next one and continue working towards recovery. Also, these goals can change throughout the treatment process, depending on your teen’s unique needs.

Can Your Teen’s Therapist Help with Goal Setting?

Depending on your team’s current mental health, it may be difficult for them to set treatment goals or view things with the idea of long-term recovery in mind. If your teen, with the help of your family, has decided it is time to seek treatment for their mental health, it is likely they just want to feel better and aren’t necessarily concerned about what things may look like a few months down the road. It is OK if they don’t have any specific goals or they’re having difficulty figuring out what their goals are. Their therapist can work with them to set treatment goals, both short and long term, that they can work on overtime. It can be helpful to see treatment progress when small goals are accomplished one at a time.

How Do You Think I Am Doing?

Everyone searches for encouragements or confirmations of their success at some point. This is especially true when in recovery. It is not uncommon for teens (and adults) to want to know how they are progressing through their treatment and the process of achieving their goals. At Hillcrest, your teen will meet with their therapy provider several times each week, and together they will work towards achieving your teen’s goals. It is OK for your teen to ask how their progress is going or if something should change to ensure more forward progress. If your teen feels uncomfortable or stalled in their treatment, they are not as likely to get everything they want (or need) out of the process, so it is beneficial to be curious and forthcoming about how they feel things are going and to voice any changes they would like to see.

What Else Can I Do Outside of Our Session Together?

It is impossible to cover everything during a thirty- or sixty-minute therapy session. Even if your teen meets with their provider a few times a week, it is still unlikely enough time to address all of their questions or concerns. Asking for homework or “assignments” to work on during the week can both help increase your teen’s understanding of their mental (and physical health) but may also potentially increase their rate of recovery. Even if just by reading a book, journaling, or practicing self-care, working on their mental health can help keep your teen’s head in the right place for reflection and recovery. Taking time outside of direct therapy sessions, whether group or individual, can also allow your teen to practice the coping strategies they are learning during therapy. Once their treatment ends and they return home, they will inevitably face triggers at home or social settings that would be difficult to manage. One of the goals of therapy is to ensure your teen returns home with a solid foundation of coping skills they can use during such situations. It is challenging to learn and practice these skills during the limited window of therapy sessions. This is where self-care practices such as meditation, yoga, and journaling outside of therapy sessions can be so beneficial. These are a handful of the coping skills your teen may call upon to help them navigate future stressful situations.

Can I Trust You?

One of the most significant challenges anyone faces when beginning therapy is how to go about fostering trust with someone you don’t know. Many people, adults and teens included have difficulty divulging their emotions and their feelings to those in their family or those they love. The concept of exposing raw emotion or symptoms pertaining to a mental health condition to a stranger is foreign to almost anyone. Also, there is always a concern about whether or not what you say will remain private. For teens, this can be incredibly difficult as they struggle to make sense of the emotions that they are experiencing and how those emotions pertain to what may be a newly discovered mental health diagnosis. It is not uncommon for teens to be fearful that the things they say or the feelings they disclose will somehow “get out,” and others within their family or their circle of friends will learn about what they are going through. Many teens struggling with a mental health condition are often fiercely private about their emotions and their symptoms, so they must be able to foster trust with their therapist for mental health treatment to be successful. Therefore, to get the most out of their treatment with their provider at Hillcrest, it is OK for your teen to ask what their therapist will do with the information they learned during therapy sessions.

Who Else Will Be Involved in My Treatment?

As previously mentioned, comfort in treatment is one of the keys to getting the most out of individual therapy sessions. If your teen is uncomfortable with other people who may be present during the therapy session, they are unlikely to maintain open and honest communication. If they prefer individual counseling or prefer that certain family members are not present for therapy sessions, it is helpful if they tell their therapist. Although group therapy and family therapy are essential to the treatment and recovery process as they help foster communication and healthy social habits, these are things that can be reintroduced slowly as treatment progresses. If your teen is uncomfortable from the very beginning, the recovery process may progress much slower.

Deciding to seek therapy can be a challenging decision for your teen and your family. It is only natural to want to ensure they get the most out of the therapy process. In many situations, the most effective way to make this possible is to ask questions and vocalize their needs to their therapy team. Mental health treatment is as unique as the individual seeking help. At Hillcrest, we approach mental health treatment by drawing on a wide variety of traditional, evidence-based mental health treatments used in conjunction with alternative therapies such as art and music therapy to help create a well-rounded, unique therapy plan to meet your teen’s treatment needs. From the very beginning, they will be involved in their treatment planning to help ensure they are comfortable while increasing their chances of success during their time here at Hillcrest. If your teen is struggling with a new or recurring mental health condition and, as a family, you are wondering how the services at Hillcrest may be able to help, please reach out to our admissions team today. Let our caring and compassionate staff at our Agoura Hills based residential treatment center help your teen and family start working towards a healthy recovery.