Stock Photo from Unsplash

I’ve decided that I want to see a therapist. I think my parents will be supportive, but I’m not sure how to tell them—I don’t want them to worry! How do I tell my parents I want to go to therapy?

First, it’s great that you’ve decided to see a therapist! Seeking help is often not an easy decision, but it makes an enormous difference in many people’s lives. Licensed therapists have been trained to help their patients deal with a wide variety of problems and provide them with the tools they need to be the healthiest version of themselves. It’s normal to feel nervous about talking to your parents about this. Seeing a therapist can feel like a very personal decision. Keep in mind, however, that your intuition is probably right—after all, your parents want what is best for you.

The best way to approach your parents depends on them and your relationship. Ask them to sit down at a time when they’re not busy or stressed out—maybe on a weekend afternoon, or in the evening.  Explain that you really think therapy would be helpful, and that you understand that they might have mixed feelings about it. Reassure them (if it’s true) that you’re not a danger to yourself. Your parents may want to know more about why you want professional help, or even want to solve your problems for you. Remember that it is not your responsibility to justify your decision to your parents. Consider saying something along the lines of:

  • “I’ve got some things I’d like help figuring out. You guys already help me a lot, so I want to reach out to a counselor this time.”
  • “I’m not quite sure what’s going on myself. That’s why I want to talk to an objective professional outside of the family.”
  • “I really want to work on these problems independently. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.”

If your parents do end up responding negatively, stay calm. Asking about therapy is a mature decision, and in many ways it signals that you’re growing up and growing more independent, which can be a scary thought for parents. Ask them why they feel uncomfortable, and try to understand. Is therapy less acceptable in the culture they were raised in? Do they think that therapy is only for people who have a mental illness? If they respond negatively more than once, try involving another adult, like a school counselor, doctor, teacher or religious leader who you trust.

Some people feel nervous asking for therapy because they think it has to cost a lot. While seeing some mental health professionals can be expensive, health insurance will often cover it, and there are other accessible options out there as well. It might take a little searching, but your health is definitely worth it. Check out this You Asked It from a few weeks ago for suggestions on finding an affordable therapist, and on what your first counseling session might be like. If you live in the NYC area and are 10-22 years old, you can also get completely free and confidential mental health services at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center.

And remember: there’s nothing shameful about therapy, so don’t let anyone make you feel like there is.