So: your parent or caregiver says you need treatment for a certain emotional, behavioral, or substance abuse problem. Perhaps they’re trying to convince you to attend a teen mental health treatment center (like a residential treatment center, a partial hospitalization program, or an intensive outpatient program) that specializes in depression, anxiety, trauma, ODD, DMDD, ADHD, prodromal psychosis, addiction, substance use, or any other mental health issue. The problem is, you don’t want to go to therapy. Or a teen mental health center treatment center. Perhaps you don’t think therapy will even help.
Common Reasons Why Teens Don’t Want to Go to Therapy or Treatment
It’s important to figure out why you’re reluctant to go to therapy.
Below are some common reasons why many teens, like yourself, resist therapy or professional mental health/substance abuse treatment, along with our responses to those reasons.
You don’t think you need mental health (or substance abuse) treatment.
Perhaps you don’t think you’re actually struggling. Maybe you think everything is fine, and that this is how you are, anyway. However, consider whether you’re being honest with yourself, especially during times that are tough. In general, is there any area in your life which you feel can be improved? When things get uncomfortable, do you suppress negative feelings so you don’t have to deal with them? Many teens feel sad sometimes, or anxious, or worried, or angry. And that’s normal. But if you feel these negative feelings much of the time, it’s not healthy.
Realize that your life can improve, and you could actually feel a lot better, when you talk about these feelings with someone or seek treatment at a teen mental health or substance abuse treatment center. Also, think about some of your goals. Do you want to graduate from high school? Attend a certain college? Succeed in a certain field? Meet the right person one day, get married, and start a family? Therapy can help you become the best version of yourself that you can be, so that you can meet all the goals you set for yourself.
You already tried therapy/ teen treatment and didn’t like it.
Maybe you tried therapy in the past, and you didn’t like it. Or maybe you just don’t think anything can help you get better. First, if you’ve tried therapy or treatment in the past, realize that every therapist and every teen treatment center is different. Therapists have different approaches, and mental health treatment centers do too. Perhaps Cognitive Behavioral Therapy didn’t work for you, but Dialectical Behavioral Therapy will. Maybe a certain therapist was too past-focused, and kept asking you about previous trauma, and you would do better with a more solution-focused, goal-oriented approach. Many teens find it helpful to interview therapists before they commit to one.
Or perhaps you saw a therapist in the past, but did not attend a fully immersive teen mental health or dual diagnosis treatment center. Intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization programs (IOP/PHP), or 24/7 residential treatment centers (RTC), are more intensive options than once-a-week therapy. If your parents think you need treatment, ask if you can visit the IOP/PHP along with them to see if you get good vibes from the place. Also, no two teen treatment centers are the same. There’s a big difference between residential treatment centers and boarding schools, or military schools and wilderness/bootcamp programs.
You don’t think therapy works, anyway.
Perhaps you think treatment never works, or only works in rare cases. Or maybe you think it won’t work for you – that your case is hopeless. Note: a primary symptom of clinical depression is feeling like everything is hopeless and that nothing will change how you feel.
Here’s the thing: According to thousands of scientific studies, certain types of mental health and substance abuse treatments actually do work. Decades of research says so. These types of therapeutic modalities are called “evidence-based.” Meaning, science shows that they really do work, and people are not getting better due to just the placebo effect. Evidence-based treatments include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Motivational Interviewing, Relapse Prevention, Seeking Safety, and more.
Just DBT itself has hundreds of research studies, with randomized-controlled trials, that show its effectiveness in treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviors, and more.
You think therapy is for crazy people.
You think treatment is for crazy people, or weak people. Unfortunately, this myth is a result of the historical stigma around mental health, which is still pervasive in society today. This stigma continues to be perpetuated by people who use mental health conditions as insults (“They’re psychotic.” “He’s mentally ill.” “He’s retarded.”). However, keep in mind that millions of teens around the world live with mental health conditions, and that they are not crazy for having a mental health disorder. In fact, about 1 in 5 teens in the U.S. lives with a mental health issue, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. That means that if you have 30 classmates, statistics say six of them have are likely to have a mental health condition.
Just to prove that therapy is not for crazy people, just do a quick google search on the many successful individuals and celebrities who have received mental health treatment. Many high-profile, successful celebrities are passionate about the benefits of therapy, including Brad Pitt, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez (who is an enthusiastic advocate of DBT teen treatment centers). Therapy, and teen mental health treatment centers in particular, are not just for teens for intense psychological issues. They’re for any person who wants to improve their mental health and their quality of life.
In short, therapy is for anybody who needs it.
Many nonprofits and organizations seek to reduce and eliminate the stigma against mental health disorders in youth and teens. Check out NAMI, the Trevor Project, Ok2Talk, and the Crisis Text Line to learn more about others who may be struggling with your specific situation. After realizing how many people are in the same boat as you, you may walk away with a different perspective on mental health treatment.
You think therapy is a waste of time or a waste of money.
It’s true; therapy is often expensive. And many teens balk at the fact that their parents pay so much money to someone just to talk to them. Additionally, what may give some teens the impression that therapists don’t really care is the implementation of professional boundaries such as time limits. “If therapists really cared about me, they wouldn’t be so nitpicky about the time,” is what many teens think.
However, a mental health professional is not unlike a doctor. Just like a physician gets paid for helping someone get physically better, a mental health professional gets paid for helping people recover from their mental health, behavioral, or addiction issues. Realize that there are lots of other industries, besides the mental health field, that are financially lucrative. Your therapist, or teen treatment center staff, probably wouldn’t go into this profession if they didn’t genuinely care about helping patients like you.