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5 Questions to Ask a Prospective Teen Depression Therapist


Most therapists will offer you the opportunity to talk with them via phone before committing to the first session.  I highly recommend you take them up on this offer.  Therapy is about the connection you and your teen have with the therapist, and yes, you can tell over the phone if this is someone you like/want to work with. 

It’s important to connect emotionally with a therapist and for them to have the expertise to treat your teen’s issue. 

If your teen is withdrawn, has a change in appetite, is experiencing suicidal thoughts, or is struggling with other symptoms of depression, it may be time to seek out a therapist who can support them as they explore what’s going on underneath the symptoms and can teach them the skills they need to handle big emotions and hard things. 

Here are several questions you may want to ask during that initial phone call to determine, is this the right teen therapist to treat my teen’s depression?  

1) What experience do you have treating teen depression?  

There are a variety of ways a therapist may have experience serving teens with depression.  This may come through their current work in private practice, it may come through work in a hospital setting, or for a non-profit or governmental organization serving teens. 

You’ll want to hear from the therapist that they have experience completing safety plans, responding to crisis, and engaging in the long-term work of addressing depressive thoughts and behaviors. 

Depression is scary, because paired with impulsivity, it could lead to a suicide attempt, which is something all parents fear when their teen is struggling with depression. 

A therapist who treats teen depression has be good at both the short-game (crisis response) and the long-game (skill-building).  Not every therapist works this way or has experience in both, so it’s good to ask.  

2) How can you tell if a teen is suicidal?

Due to the risks involved when a teen is depressed, it’s important to find out if the therapist knows how to read teen cues of suicidal thoughts, words, or gestures. 

Yes, many times, teens are not afraid to talk with a therapist about what’s going on inside of their minds.  It’s often a relief for teens to talk about their thoughts with a therapist, because the therapist is able to be open and accepting of the thoughts, in a way that many parents can’t, simply because the idea of your teen being suicidal is too scary to consider.  That being said…  

Not all teens are open about their thoughts or if a teen is considering a suicide attempt, they may not want to share their thoughts, so it’s important to hear that the therapist is able to pick up on other cues. 

Some of these include hopelessness, not seeing a future for one’s self, passive suicidal thoughts (“my family would be better off without me”), change in behavior (going from outgoing to quiet or vice versa), or alternatively, after feeling suicidal starting to have more energy.  Suicide attempts often occur when a teen is coming out of their depression, because as their symptoms of depression lessen (fatigue, lack of interest, isolation), they have the energy to act on their thoughts. 

You’ll want to hear that the therapist is aware of these cues, so that if your teen shows any of these during a session, the therapist will respond effectively.  

3) How will you respond if my teen is suicidal during a session?

If you and your teen are new to therapy, it can be helpful to hear about the limits to confidentiality (a fancy word for privacy).  You, as the parent, will want to feel confident in the therapist’s ability to pick up on any suicidal thoughts, gestures, or cues, so they can respond quickly and seriously. 

It can be helpful to ask what the process is when a therapist becomes aware of suicidal thoughts/gestures/cues in a session, so you can feel more secure in the therapist’s ability to respond and in how they will include you, the parent, in any issues of safety. 

As you’ll learn in the initial session with a therapist, safety concerns are taken very seriously, and are in fact the reason why a therapist may need to break confidentiality (or share what’s been said in a session).  I make sure my teen clients and their parents are aware of those limits, because they do come up. 

In regards to depression, this mostly happens when a teen is having suicidal thoughts and has a plan for a suicide attempt.  In this instance, I let teens know, I’m not able to keep what you say private.  I must talk to your parent and potentially call a crisis line for help and an assessment to determine in you’re safe to go home. 

4) What is your style of treating depression?

There are many different ways to treat teen depression.  You’ll want to hear if the therapist uses an evidence-based model, meaning, they use a style supported by research as one that works for depression. 

One example is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which explores the link between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  A therapist who uses CBT will help your teen learn how to change their suicidal thoughts into more neutral or helpful thoughts, which in turn will lead to them feeling less sad. 

Many teens who struggle with depression lack the skills to cope with the big emotions going on inside them. 

A therapist who helps teens build the skills they need to learn how to relax, be present in the moment, and reframe negative thoughts will be skilled in walking with your teen through this part of their journey.  

5) What outcomes do your clients typically see?

Isn’t the goal of teen therapy to help your teen feel better and move forward with their life?  If so, you’ll want to hear how other teens who work with this therapist feel after being in therapy. 

While a therapist cannot “fix” a teen, a therapist who has high quality experience in working with teens who struggle with depression will be able to confidently say the types of outcomes their clients experience. 

Some of these outcomes may be an increase in positive emotions, such as connectedness and joy, no longer experiencing suicidal thoughts, feeling as if their life has purpose, smiling more, feeling confident they can respond if symptoms of depression arise again in the future. 

You’ll also want to be thinking about what kind of outcomes you’d like for your teen, so that you can communicate those to the therapist when you have your initial session.  

In Conclusion…

Most therapists will say they treat depression, but by taking a few minutes during your initial phone call with a prospective therapist, you can ask some of these specific questions, which will give you an idea of whether or not this is the right therapist for your teen. 

After all, you want your teen to feel better and part of feeling better through the therapy process is finding a right fit therapist who you’re confident can help your teen. 

If they answer the above questions to your satisfaction, schedule a time for your teen to talk with them too, then book the first session, if you both decide it’s a great fit.  

If you’re researching teen therapists for depression, and you’d like to connect for a FREE 15-minute consultation, give me a call at 737-808-4888 or fill out the secure contact form, and I’ll schedule a time to talk with you. 

You’re right to take the time you need to find a great teen therapist who is skilled at responding effectively to teen depression. 

By finding the right fit, you’ll be that much closer to helping your teen move through this difficult experience in their life and find joy and confidence from within.    


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