Once she started working as a therapist at a community mental health venture center, Rachel Kazez’s family, friends, and even friends of friends started approaching her to help them find a therapist. She later started All Along, a consulting service to help match patients with a therapist.
Her business also serves minors seeking mental health care, including teen girls. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesreports one in five American teenagers have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Additionally, half of all mental health problems begin by the age of 14.
“Teenagers are so complicated because teens in a lot of ways are expected to think and behave like adults [and] have that level of responsibility to take care of themselves,” Kazez explained in a phone interview with Teen Vogue. “At the same time, they’re also treated like children in that their actions are very much directed by other people. The teenage years are also when most mental health problems start.”
Additionally, the political climate has seemingly made things more difficult for some. CNBC reports the online therapy service Talkspace has grown 70 to 80% faster than projected since last fall’s presidential election.
To better understand the adolescent mental health care system, Kazez guides us through the steps of finding the right therapist for you, even when your parents don’t support your decision to pursue therapy.
Assess your situation.
When someone reaches out to All Along, Kazez firsts asks a series of questions to assess their unique situation: “Why are you calling? What type of help are you looking for? What is your situation at home?”
“If [you’re] still going home to an environment that is critical and unstable and unsafe, then it might not even be the right time to do therapy,” she added. “It might not be safe to be bringing down those walls in therapy at the moment.”
Likewise, Kazez inquires about the work you can do on their own to improve their mental health, such as exercising regularly, checking out an anxiety workbook from the library, and keeping a journal to monitor your emotions. While these habits do not replace medical help, they help you manage your symptoms, especially if it’s not the right time for you to seek therapy.
Understand what you can afford.
Next, Kazez asks about the patient’s insurance — whether it’s private insurance, Medicaid, or none at all.
If you don’t have health insurance, community health clinics, local university hospitals, and private practices sometimes offer sliding-scale, subsidized, income-based rates for mental healthcare. You will ultimately have to assess how much financially you can afford to cover therapy expenses out of pocket, especially if you’re dependent on your family’s resources and don’t have an income of your own.
However, affordability isn’t about insurance or financial resources, either. You will need reliable transportation to get to and from your sessions.
“There is such a diversity of families and incomes and going to therapy — you can get insurance that covers it — but still requires being transported to the sessions,” Kazez mentioned. “If your family is busy and time and money are scarce resources, it’s going to be difficult.”
Know local laws about minors seeking therapy.
Laws regarding minors seeking mental health treatment vary from state to state, so be sure to check the legalities (and their exceptions) that apply to where you live.
In Illinois, Kazez explained minors over the age of 12 can consent to five sessions of therapy before parental consent is required.
Per the Illinois Mental Health and Disabilities Code: “Any minor 12 years of age or older may request and receive counseling services or psychotherapy on an outpatient basis without the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian. Outpatient counseling or psychotherapy provided to a minor under the age of 17 shall be limited to not more than 5 sessions, a session lasting not more than 45 minutes, until the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian is obtained. The minor’s parents shall not be informed without the consent of the minor unless the facility director believes such disclosure is necessary.”
Additionally, acknowledge you are entitled to health care as a human being. If your parents aren’t supportive to the point where it prevents you from seeking help, find a trusted adult — whether it’s a teacher, doctor, friend, relative — to advocate on your behalf.
“It’s medically necessary to have access to mental health services when needed,” Kazez mentioned. “If someone needs it and they’re not getting it, that can be a Department of Children and Family Services call.”
Begin your search.
When looking for a therapist, identify what you would like to see in a therapist. Would you prefer your therapist to share similar identities as you? Would you prefer group therapy to one-on-one, individualized sessions? Would you prefer a therapist to be specialized in certain techniques, such as behavioral intervention or psychoanalysis?
Kazez mention some other important questions: “Have you been to therapy before and if so, what did you like the person did? What did you not like? What did you get from it? When someone listens to and supports you, are there things you do and don’t prefer? Have there been things that have been working for you so far to help with your mental health issues?”
To help match patients with the right therapist, Kazez condenses a long list of therapists in their area and reads through their backgrounds according to the patient’s needs, which narrows the options down to a handful the patient can choose from.
Have a conversation with your parents, if it’s safe for you.
Kazez said it can be extremely difficult for a teen to admit to their parents they want to seek therapy, especially if the parents already have preconceived idea of what therapy actually is.
“In some cultures, people don’t approach mental health issues from the medical standpoint,” Kazez said. “If parents came from another country or grew up in another culture, their kids are growing up in American culture where mental health is medicalized.”
Cultural norms also contribute as an obstacle to mental healthcare access. In families from certain cultures, mental health may not be viewed as a legitimate problem. However, that doesn’t mean your mental health issues aren’t valid. Understand this is an issue of cultural difference.
“Remember that sometimes the things parents say is because they care a lot and don’t know how to show it and they’re really worried,” Kazez stressed. “This may be difficult for them too.”
Related: Mental Health Resources for Teens
This article originally appeared on Teen Vogue. You can view the original post here.