I want to see a therapist — how do I tell my parents?

The stigma around mental illness can make approaching the subject of therapy and mental health with your parents feel intimidating or uncomfortable. If you find it challenging to tell your parents that you are dealing with mental health issues, here are some tips to make the conversation a bit easier:

1. Prepare for the conversation. Set aside time for the discussion – ask for a family dinner or take a drive to minimize distractions. Car rides can be a great place to have challenging conversations.

2. Say what you need to say and know that it’s okay to only share what you feel comfortable sharing. Expect lots of questions and prepare answers you’re comfortable sharing, but always remember that if you don’t want to share specific details, you don’t have to. Explain to your family members that, while you may want their support, you also may want the opportunity to solve your problems independently.

3. If you anticipate that your parents might have a hard time understanding and processing what you plan on telling them, lean on another trusted adult in your life. A school counselor, professor, doctor, aunt or uncle might be able to help you engage in the conversation or pass along the message.

4. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to your family members in person, write them a letter, email or text. Writing out your thoughts can alleviate the pressure of having to provide real-time, immediate answers in a difficult conversation.

5. Remember, if you are comfortable being open, be open. If you want to include your parents, include them. Taking the brave first step of starting the conversation can open up the lines of communication with parents and loved ones.

Many parents will understand your need to seek support and are willing to help you do so. If your parents are not supportive, there are other options to get the resources you need, such as school counselors, hotlines, support groups and many more. Just know that you are not alone.

This blog was written by Adena Worona, LMSW. Adena leads MSYFAO’s efforts to build innovative partnerships with leading mental health providers.