17 questions to ask teens in therapy

By Katherine Ellison on Feb 29, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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Introduction

It is common knowledge that communication is one of the most integral aspects of a therapeutic relationship. What is less spoken about is how therapists and clients can establish a relationship that enables meaningful, honest, and vulnerable conversation. This is, perhaps, especially the case for teenage therapy patients, who experience significant changes in their emotional, physical, and psychological well-being. Most of the communication that arises out of a therapeutic relationship is the result of the therapist’s skill and experience. Therapists need to be diligent in how they respond to their clients, prioritizing empathy and patience and of course, useful questioning. Coinciding with implementing a range of helpful therapeutic activities for teens and kids, knowing what kinds of questions you should ask your adolescent patients will be hugely beneficial. Let’s take a closer look at the specifics of teenage therapy, and 17 of the best questions you can ask your clients.

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How to identify if your teen is silently suffering?

Many teenagers hide psychological distress from their parents and caregivers. They may fear consequences, feel shame, or worry that their experiences will not be validated. As a parent, it can be especially difficult to differentiate between when a teenager is simply going through changes and when they need to seek therapeutic help. If you notice your teen seems withdrawn and quiet, or their behavior has significantly changed, this may be a sign they need help. You should continue to engage with them by asking questions about their life, engaging with their interests, and encouraging an open and honest relationship. Emotional checkups may seem like events that only occur in a therapy-like environment, but these kinds of conversations are just as important at home. Instead of simply asking your teen how their day was, probe a little deeper. Ask them about their friends, their weekends, their upcoming plans, and what they want to do after school. Respond to their answers with empathy and curiosity, and show them ways they can implement healthy coping mechanisms into their everyday life.

Having a teen that is silently suffering is a fear that many parents experience, but it is both more common and more manageable than some may realize. If you are struggling to get your teen to open up, you should encourage them to think about therapy. Engaging in therapeutic treatment can provide teenagers with fantastic coping skills, and access to useful resources like worksheets, as well as allow them to improve their physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Issues addressed in teen counseling

The specific issues that are addressed in teen counseling will vary depending on the emotional and behavioral needs of the client. They can include mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders. On the other hand, therapy can also address low self-esteem, anger management, loneliness, peer pressure, bullying, and trauma. Therapy is largely limitless in what it can help, and it can be a fantastic tool to help teenagers feel more comfortable in their own skin. 

Depending on the nature of what the teenage client is being treated for, therapists will devise a relevant treatment method. Working collaboratively, they’ll come up with desired outcomes and implement interventions that guide the client toward their goals. The effectiveness of a treatment plan is largely reliant on this process and the establishment of a transparent relationship between the client and therapist. Therapists should demonstrate that they will prioritize client needs by being transparent about intervention methods, treatment plans, and patient confidentiality.

17 questions to ask teens in therapy

So what kinds of questions should you ask your teenage clients in order to establish a healthy and open relationship? While there are a vast number of different options, here are our top 17 questions, formulated to help assist you to foster good communication and transparency.

  1. Do you feel like your friends and family are supporting you at the moment?
  2. What is one thing you love about yourself?
  3. Do you think you have too much to handle right now? 
  4. How do you manage your stress?
  5. Does it ever feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to?
  6. How can I be there for you and support you better?
  7. How do you feel about the world?
  8. How does social media impact your life?
  9. Do you feel safe?
  10. Do you feel lonely or isolated?
  11. What’s your favorite way to relax?
  12. Are you sleeping, eating, and exercising well?
  13. Is there anything you are currently dreading? Tell me more about it.
  14. Is there anything you are excited about? Tell me more about it.
  15. What is one achievement you are really proud of?
  16. What are three things you are thankful for? Why are you thankful for them?
  17. What do you need right now that you don’t currently have?

With these questions, you will be able to engage your clients in meaningful conversation. It’s important to remember the differences between your clients and their varying needs. Once you have established a good relationship, you will be able to introduce other intervention methods and strategies into your treatment, including emotional regulation activities and various worksheets.

Therapy worksheets for adolescents

Engaging teenage clients in their own care and encouraging them to work toward their desired outcomes can be greatly facilitated by the use of worksheets. These resources can be tailored toward specific therapy treatments and intervention styles, depending on the needs of your clients and what they are hoping to achieve. For example, you may choose to implement a coping skills worksheet, or an anger management worksheet. If you are looking for a template that can be more generally applied, check out our therapy worksheet for teens below:

Therapy Worksheet for Teens

Final thoughts

Beginning therapy can be a very daunting experience for teenagers. There is still a lot of shame that surrounds reaching out for help, and it is extremely important that therapists do everything they can to ensure their clients feel comfortable and safe. By asking clients any of the 17 questions we listed above, you will be able to begin developing a positive and meaningful relationship with your client, so they can open up to you and be entirely honest about their life experiences. After you have established this relationship, you can begin to diversify your intervention strategies by introducing worksheets that target specific areas like self-esteem, guiding your client through each session to achieve their desired outcomes.

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