Disobedient teen girl refusing to attend counseling
Q: Our daughter is 14 and doesn’t listen to us. We think she is depressed. We want her to go to counseling, but she absolutely refuses. How do we get her to go?
A: All too often, counseling is perceived as a threat to teenagers. It may be perceived this way for several reasons — including the stigma still associated with it, the concern of being told one is crazy, or how it is presented by the parent.
A teen under duress may agree to attend, but it doesn’t mean the counseling will bode well for them. You can lead a horse to water, but it doesn’t mean they will drink.
Sometimes when a teen attends counseling under threat or duress, it merely serves to provide the impression to the parent that something is happening. However, this is a little like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It looks good that the teen is attending, but the ship may still be sinking.
Before sending your teen to counseling, consider first going yourself. In doing so, you can gain insight into the matters affecting your teen and gain guidance on how to manage any concerns.
I suggest not telling your teen that you are attending. This way, your efforts and changes in strategy will be attributed to you alone, thus empowering you further.
However, if you or the counsellor feels the teen should still be seen, you can be viewed as a role model for having attended first. This too is empowering — you lead by example and lessen the potential stigma and fear.
The exception to the above is if you believe your teen is a threat to herself or someone else. If your teen is self-harming, talking about suicide or engaging in suicidal behaviour, you may have to take her — voluntarily or involuntarily — to the nearest emergency room for a psychiatric assessment.
If you are having difficulty gauging the urgency of the situation, consult your physician. Make your child’s safety the priority. Have a parenting or relationship question? Send it in a brief email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, not all questions will receive a reply.