1. Does my child/teen really need to see a psychologist?
This is a tough question to answer - and it's not always easy to know. But the following points might help you make your decision.
Do you need to be experiencing a very traumatic situation to see a psychologist?
No. There is objective rules for what is a "tough" situation and what isn't. We do see children and teens who are going through situations which might be considered by some as only mildly difficult (e.g. feeling anxious about seeing friends, not feeling comfortable at school, not handing in assignments etc) as well as children and teens who are in situations considered to be extremely difficult (e.g. death of a person close to them, teens struggling with severe drug addiction, significant depression and so on).
Less important than what the situation might look like on the surface to others is this: how distressed is the child/teen OR how distressed is the parent?
If either a child/teen or a parent is very upset about what is going on - it is worth getting support.
Do you need to have mental health issues to see a psychologist?
In many situations, seeing a psychologist is beneficial whether or not someone has a “mental health problem”.
Sometimes I compare counselling to tennis coaching. If you are not doing so well at tennis, then coaching helps. However, even the best tennis players get coaching. In the same way, counselling can be beneficial regardless of what a person’s mental and emotional health skills are like.
When SHOULDN'T you make ongoing appointments to see a psychologist?
If a child or teenager is really quite happy with life, and not showing many signs of distress – doesn’t have any important goals they think they need help achieving, and has seen a psychologist on a couple of occasions already, then it is usually not beneficial to bring the teenager/child to ongoing counselling sessions. A one off session can help determine whether this is the case.
I'm concerned but my child/teen isn't!
This is very common. If a parent is concerned and struggling with the child/teen, then instead we will often suggest the parent come in for sessions on their own – in order to help the parent know how to cope with and respond to the child/teen and feel more confident and peaceful about the situation at home.
We see parents on their own frequently for either one off or ongoing sessions.
One last important note:
Finally, if you child/teen is showing signs of very high distress – for example daily crying, self harm, thoughts of suicide, dangerous or risky behaviour – or if you are very worried about them and can't work out why - then we would suggest you seek help immediately.
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