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How Do I Ask My Parents for Counseling?

From a teen in the U.S. First, a little background: I don’t live with my parents and have been tossed around between relatives for the vast majority of my existence, some of whom were mild-to-moderately abusive; I visit my parents each year and we’re still quite close.

So… I have been depressed for pretty much my entire life and have been in counseling before a few years ago and I found it extremely helpful. Unfortunately, the stigma of mental health is very present within my family, particulatly with the relatives I’m currently staying with (maternal aunt and grandmother), who are also quite controlling. As I was receiving counseling a while back, they treated me as though I were some sort of broken freak. In addition, when I asked for counseling again about a year ago, my parents and they chose a psychologist that they liked for me, with whom I felt that I could not connect at all. When I told them that I did not want to go back, they got mad at me and have not spoken a word about counseling/therapy since.

However, call me crazy, but all I can think about these days is wanting to get counseling again – from someone with whom I feel like I can actually connect. I have even done some extensive research and found a therapist that I believe is the perfect fit for me.
I’m scared, though, to ask my parents in fear of their response. Money isn’t a problem but I’m almost certain that they would react with excessive worry and confusion and that my aunt and grandmother would react with mockery. How should I bring this up to my parents?
Thank you.

I don’t think the reactions of your parents and relatives to counseling is your primary problem. I’m going to venture the guess that their opinion matters to you too much. In your case, it makes sense to me that it would be so. Your relationships with people you care about have been disrupted many times. It’s understandable that you are overly concerned about alienating anyone.

But — It is normal and appropriate at this stage of life for you to be forming and acting on your own opinions — with one caveat. Part of being an adult is knowing how to hold onto what you know is right for you without attacking or diminishing people who care about you but who have different opinions.

As you probably know, the best predictor of effectiveness of therapy is a positive relationship with the therapist. You do need to find a therapist who feels like a right “fit” for you. Then calmly and clearly make your request and present what you know about the therapist you have chosen. There is no need to defend yourself. There is not need to try to convince your relatives that you are making a reasonable request. Simply state that it is something you need and that you would would appreciate their love and support.

You are 18 – soon to launch into adulthood. Hopefully you are preparing to either get a job or go for further schooling as you work toward becoming independent. Because of your history, a unique challenge for you and your relatives is to celebrate that independence and not see it as a threat to the relationships.

I wish you well.
Dr. Maire



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