Q: “My 14-year-old daughter is obsessed with disease and getting sick. I’d like to take her to see a therapist, but don’t know how to bring this up without her denying the problem.”
M.E., Los Angeles, California
The first thing I would suggest is doing some research. This means learning as much as you can about a therapist before you take your daughter to him or her. First, see the therapist alone. This way, you can talk about your concerns, ask them about the type of therapy they practice, and determine if this is the type of therapist your daughter could open up to. The key is to find the right person for your daughter.
When you have found the right therapist, decide with him or her how things will work. Will you and your daughter meet with the therapist first for an introduction and then have your daughter return alone, or does the therapist prefer to meet with her alone first?
Getting your daughter to agree to attend the initial session might be easier if you don’t spin this as entirely her problem. Instead, you might tell her that you think it would be beneficial for both of you to talk to someone else about life. The therapist might also have suggestions for persuading her to come. The point is to help your daughter see that therapy is not a bad thing, but rather a helpful tool in life.
Finally, never ask your daughter about her sessions. What she has talked about is private. If she chooses to share something, that is her prerogative, but never ask. Let her know that her time with that therapist is hers alone and that she is not required to share things with you.
Remember, opening up, solving problems, getting to the source of issues, finding ways to cope, etc., all takes time. Your daughter’s issues were not created overnig ht, nor will they disappear in a few therapy sessions. You must enter the process accepting that.
Finally, keep reminding yourself there is no stigma to getting therapy. In fact, it can be a wonderful way to conquer fears, resolve problems, and fix habits that are hurting you. Talking to someone who is there specifically to listen to and help you is a wonderful thing. And, in your daughter’s case, therapy can help her to look at and change her thoughts so that her fears do not become phobias.
D.B.E., Cincinnati, Ohio
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