So, you’re a teenager and feel like you need some help sorting through your thoughts and feelings. Maybe something is going on at home or school that’s been stressing you out, or maybe you don’t feel like yourself lately.
It’s no secret that the teenage years can be challenging. From navigating social pressures to coping with academic stress, many things can cause teens to feel overwhelmed, let alone recently going through a pandemic on top of all the other “regular” teen struggles.
You’ve heard that therapy for teens can be helpful, so you’re considering trying it. But there’s one thing holding you back- do therapists tell your parents what you say in therapy?
Let’s talk about it.
Looking for a therapist near me and live in Seattle, Bellevue or anywhere in Washington State? We’ve got you covered!
What is Therapy?
Therapy involves meeting with a mental health professional to discuss your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can help manage stress, improve communication skills, resolve conflict, and more.
There are many different types of therapy all with one goal: helping you navigate and overcome difficulties while creating positive changes in your life for stronger resiliency going forward.
A therapist is not there to tell you what to do or how to make decisions. They are there to help provide you with guidance and reflection on what is going on inside you without judgment. They hold space for you to process your feelings and reflect back and shed light on helping guide you to more self-awareness.
What is Confidentiality?
Confidentiality is when something is private or secret.
In the context of therapy, it means that what you say to your therapist stays between the two of you. Your therapist won’t repeat anything you’ve said without your written consent.
The only exception to this rule is what is called “mandatory reporting” if you tell your therapist that you’re going to hurt yourself or someone else, if there’s suspicion of abuse, or if a court orders them to testify. Besides that, everything you say in therapy is confidential over the age of 13 in Washington State. This means you must consent to anyone knowing your records or what goes on in therapy once you are 13 years old. This is true even if your parents are paying for therapy or using their insurance (which is typically 99.9999999% of all teens!)
Why is Confidentiality Important?
Confidentiality is important because it helps create a safe space for you to talk about whatever is on your mind without worries of anyone finding out. It’s important because it allows a sense of emotional safety and security to truly process what you are feeling without judgment or fear of retaliation.
Knowing that your therapist won’t tell anyone what you say makes it easier to be open and honest about how you’re feeling. Maybe you are wanting to vent about your parents, or a close friend and can’t do that outside of therapy for concern about repercussions or unsure of how to approach the topic of your feelings; therapy can be a safe space to vent and talk through your feelings.
Age of Consent in Washington
In Washington, the age of consent for mental health services is 13. This means that anyone 13 or older can give their consent for therapy services. This is regardless of who is paying (i.e mom and dad’s insurance or credit card).
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If a teenager is experiencing a mental health crisis, their therapist may need to involve their parents or other adults in order to ensure their safety. In this case only the things related to the crisis would be disclosed, everything else would remain confidential.
Consent in therapy means that the therapist cannot talk about what you say in therapy short of immediate harm to self or others. For the therapist to talk with your parents about your therapy as example you would need to sign a consent form for them to do so.
What Can a Therapist Disclose?
While therapists are bound by confidentiality with all of their clients, there are some situations in which they may need to break confidentiality.
As we discussed, if a client is threatening harm to themselves or others, the therapist may need to involve law enforcement or the client’s family to keep everyone safe.
You’re not alone if you’re considering therapy but are worried about what your parents might find out.
It’s a common concern among teens, but the good news is that therapists are confined by confidentiality laws that protect what you say in therapy. In short, your therapist won’t tell your parents what you say unless you consent to them doing so, in writing!
A Quick Recap:
If you’re considering teenager therapy, it’s important to understand the basics of how therapy works.
In Washington, the age of consent for mental health services is 13. This means that anyone 13 or older can give their consent for therapy. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If a teenager is experiencing a mental health crisis, their therapist may need to involve their parents or other adults in order to ensure their safety. In these areas, it is only relevant information shared, everything else is kept confidential.
When it comes to confidentiality, therapists are bound by law to keep everything that their clients say private. The only way information can be shared other than harm to self or others is if you consent to information being shared by signing a consent form.
Therapy can be a helpful tool for teenagers who are struggling with stressors in their life. If you live in Washington and feel like you may benefit from therapy, reach out to a qualified teenager therapist.
- Minor’s Healthcare Rights in Washington State
- Can My Therapist Tell Other People About Our Sessions?
- When Do Minors In Therapy Have a Right to Confidentiality?
Lindsey Ferris, MS, LMFTA, Washington State