Counseling and Therapy

Young women's version of this guide
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Young man on reception at psychologistThere are many changes and experiences that happen during your teen years, which can be challenging. If you’re having trouble dealing with certain situations or emotions, counseling can be a helpful way of sorting things out.

Why should I go to counseling?

  • Do you feel especially angry, annoyed, or out-of-control?
  • Do you feel very anxious, worried, or guilty?
  • Do you often feel really sad, frustrated, or lonely?
  • Have you experienced some major problems at home, at school, or in your neighborhood?
  • Have you noticed some changes in the way you sleep, eat, or think and feel about life?
  • Is it hard for you to talk about these feelings with your family or friends?
  • Are these feelings having a bad effect on your schoolwork, family life, or friendships?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it may be a good idea for you to talk with a therapist (also known as a counselor). It is often very helpful to have someone objective to listen to your concerns and help you figure out your options both in your day-to-day life and in the future.

Counseling can help you deal with feelings and problems in your everyday life. Counseling is confidential, meaning that the therapist will not tell anyone, even your parents, about what you talk about together, unless you are a danger to yourself or others, or are abused or neglected.

How do I find a therapist?

You can ask your health care provider for a referral to a therapist in your clinic or neighborhood. You can also ask your guidance counselor at school, or you may be able to talk to a counselor at school. Other people you can ask are a teacher, youth advisor, or religious leader. You can also check out mental health or social service agencies in your area.

What types of therapists are there?

  • Psychiatrist—are medical doctors (MD) who have graduated from medical school with extra training in psychiatry. A psychiatrist may provide therapy and also can prescribe medications that can help depression, anxiety and other problems.
  • Psychologist—have graduated from college and medical school and have the degree PhD, PsyD, or EdD. A psychologist provides counseling and may also be able to do special testing to understand certain problems such as learning disabilities.
  • Social workers—are therapists who have graduated from college and graduate school, where he/she studied advanced clinical counseling. A clinical social worker has the degree MSW and the certification LCSW or LICSW, and provides counseling and may also help a person connect with other services they may need in their community.
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC)—have graduated from college and graduate school and are licensed therapists with special advanced training in counseling. LMHC’s are often individual therapists or marriage and family counselors.
  • Pastoral Counselors – many clergy people of all religions have had advanced training in counseling and some have additional degress in counseling

What should I expect from counseling?

When you start talking with a therapist you should expect to meet with one person who will get to know you pretty well. Most therapists understand that it takes time to get used to someone before you’ll feel like talking about the more serious things on your mind. If, after a few visits, you don’t feel okay about talking with the counselor, you should tell the person who referred you to see if you can choose another therapist. You deserve to have a therapist who you feel totally safe and comfortable with.

What kinds of questions will the therapist/counselor ask me?

At the first visit, the therapist will ask you many questions about your life and how you’ve been feeling lately. They will probably ask you about your family, school, activities, and friendships. The therapist may want you to bring your parent(s) or guardian(s) with you on the first visit. Teenagers may want to bring their family members to some of their counseling sessions to help improve their family relationships.

How long will counseling last?

Counseling lasts different amounts of time for different people. Your therapist will try to fit into your schedule. While sometimes the length of counseling is affected by your health plan, you can usually continue meeting with your counselor for as long as you need help working out your problems.

What else can I do?

In addition to going to counseling, you might try talking with a parent, good friend, or another adult in your life. You might try getting involved in an activity such as a sport, drama, music, or other hobbies (such as writing or reading). Other things that may make you feel better are physical activity and meditation. The combination of doing activities you like and talking with a therapist will help you feel better and make your everyday life much easier.

If you’re concerned about counseling and therapy, here’s a tip on how to bring it up with your provider: “I have some things on my mind and would like to talk to someone about them.”