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Sage Advice

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by Liz Schoeben

If our child is struggling emotionally, feeling overwhelmed, experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, and these symptoms persist, it might be time to think about psychotherapy or talk therapy.

Many insurance providers have an approved list of in network providers. This can be a good place to start. Look for someone who is licensed and experienced in working with kids and teens. Psychotherapy can be done by a licensed clinical social worker, licensed marriage and family therapist or a licensed psychologist. For talk therapy you do not need to see a psychiatrist, who is a medical doctor, unless you want an evaluation for medications. Competent talk therapists will refer you out if they  believe a psychiatrist’s evaluation is needed.

Therapists use many different approaches. A common approach is CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

Legally, if your child is under the age of 12, he or she cannot enter therapy without written consent from the parent or guardian. If your child is over 12, he or she may engage in therapy without parental consent under the following conditions:  1.The minor, in the opinion of the attending professional person, is mature enough to participate intelligently and 2. The minor would present a danger of serious physical or mental harm to self or to others without the mental health treatment, or 3. Thechild is the suspected victim of incest or child abuse. 

However, best practices call for the therapist to include the parents in some capacity for any minor client.

Therapists usually have guidelines they will share with about confidentiality. For elementary school age kids, therapy almost always includes the parents. Your child may be seen for 30 to 40 minutes alone, then the therapist may meet with the parent either alone or with the child.

For middle to high school age kids, many therapists will focus on the teen. Parents  will be updated as needed. Teenagers need space to talk freely without the fear of parents knowing everything. The therapist should provide clear boundaries on what will and will not be shared. A common best practice is to let both the teen and parent know that if there are safety concerns or risky behaviors they may be shared with parents to keep the teen safe. Examples may include heavy substance abuse, self harming behaviors and severe eating issues.

Suicidal thoughts, intentions or past or current attempts should always be taken seriously and evaluated and shared with the parents.

Sometimes family therapy is used in conjunction with individual therapy. In family therapy the family is considered the patient. It’s important to decide what may be best for your child — individual or family therapy. All secondary schools in PVPUSD have Sage therapist is available to consult.

 For more information visit TeenHealthLaw.org. 

Liz Schoeben MFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 25 years of experience counseling adolescents in academic settings in Los Angeles, Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the executive director of SAGE, a Project of Impact Philanthropy Group. For more information visit SageSoCal.org.


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