What tips do you have for parents to have crucial conversations with their teens about mental health? What are some signs to be concerned about that would require them to reach out to a professional?

We believe every parent needs to be “checking in” with their teenager about their mental health. Showing teenagers it’s okay to share emotions or talk about problems, and understanding sometimes there’s no “fixing” problems on their own is a critical message we wished more parents conveyed to their children. However, no matter how loving, caring or open we are as families, teenagers will often hide how they are feeling or believe no one can help them. Looking for warning signs such as withdrawal from family activities, isolating away from friends, spending excessive time on social media or in their rooms, declining grades or job performance, and wearing long-pants or long-sleeves in warm weather (to hide self-harming) are some of the key warning signs parents should watch for. If any of these are detected, parents should consider reaching out to a professional.

What would you say to someone who feels they have an issue they need to address but they don’t know where to start?

Oftentimes, patients will tell their psychologists that they are unhappy with their lives or their current situations but are unsure how to begin making improvements. Within therapy, we always try to emphasise to our clients the importance of being vulnerable and opening up to us and other providers. The more clients can express how they feel or what they want to change, the easier it is for us and other providers to help find a pathway towards improvement and happiness. Just asking for help and being able to be open and vulnerable is a brave, critical first step towards a better life.

How does treatment work? When someone meets you, what will you talk about?

Establishing a sense of trust, understanding and a clear direction for therapy is a critical part of a psychologist’s work with its clients. With that goal in mind, we usually spend at least the first session or two getting to know our client, their background and some of the issues which are most concerning to them. Usually, with a few sessions, the client and we will work together to plan on how we can best help them improve their lives. From there, we work to provide our clients with support, understanding and a sense that we are a part of a collaborative team working towards their better selves.