How Do I Get My Teen to Counseling?

By: Connie Mayer, LMFT Director of Outpatient Counseling

I often answer phone calls from parents who want to know how to get their teenager to come to counseling. I have been a therapist for 30 years and I have heard the same fears and hesitations. “My son told me he wont get in the car”,”I went to pick my daughter up after school and she didn’t show up”,”I’ve tried talking to my son and he says he doesn’t need it, give him time to change…”

Here are my tips about how to talk to your teen about therapy:

1. Getting them to the office: Initially,you may need to negotiate with your teen to get them to their first session, but let your teen know that all you want is for them to come to the one session and check it out. If your therapist is well trained to work with teens, it is likely that once you get your teen to the office the therapist will be able to take over convincing your teen that therapy is not a bad thing. It is important that the therapist create an environment of safety and comfort for your teen and after just one session your therapist will be able to gauge whether your teen is in a crisis and needs immediate help.

Creating a Trusting Relationship: Once your teen begins to build a relationship with the therapist, your teen and the therapist will decide what amount of time (sessions) are needed for  teen – this might be as many as 2 sessions.  The therapist is focused on truly engaging your teen and really exploring what the teen feels will benefit them from continuing therapy – not what the parents thinks should benefit the teen. A skilled teen therapist will keep the parents in the loop but encourage the teen to feel in charge of their treatment and progress.The therapist must  bridge a relationship with the teen that encourages autonomy, respect and privacy so the teen feels open to the process of growing within a counseling relationship.
3. Offer Your Support- Be clear with your teen that you will support them going to therapy, as many times as they feel they need it. This may be as simple as offering to drive them to the session, sitting in the waiting room, or participating in a few sessions. Reassure them that you will honor their decisions about what they feel they need from their therapy.
ACS offers an After-School Counseling Program in 5 days a week. The program offers affordable counseling and psychotherapy during the afternoon and evening hours for teens and their families in and around the greater Silicon Valley community. Counseling services are offered in English, Mandarin and Spanish.  For more information about the program or to book an appointment please call ACS at 650-424-0852 ext 104 or email Connie Mayer at

Connie Mayer has an impressive 25-year history of providing professional counseling services to youth and families in the Bay Area. She has been with ACS at Director of Outpatient Counseling since 2011 has successfully expanded the Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Program and After-School Counseling Program. Connie is also a practicing therapist in her off hours.