During a routine medical appointment, it’s not uncommon for patients to share with you some of their concerns or issues regarding their work or personal life. One such common problem that can arise among many households is troubled teens. The reason for this is because the parent-child relationship is especially tough to handle during these key years.
Considering the number of potentially harmful experiences that teenagers might be involved with — such as the risk of peer pressure, risky behaviors, and substance abuse — it’s fairly easy to see why it can be rather stressful for some of your patients to deal with their teen’s problems.
Having said that, advising your patients about this matter is not an easy task, especially if it’s not your area of expertise. To put it simply, you have to think of certain ways on how you can help your patients support their teen’s overall well-being. In order to help facilitate this, here are five important tips for having this conversation with a patient.
Encourage Them to Be a Good Listener
Oftentimes, teenagers might find it uncomfortable to share some of their problems from school or their social life. If your patient tends to have a difficult time communicating with their teenager, a great piece of advice would be to encourage them to be more attentive and supportive to their teen and gently remind them that their teen may be initially resistant to open up.
By opening the lines of communication, they can be better alert to any of the signs of substance abuse or any other harmful behaviors. Although building better communication with teenagers is easier said than done, it’s always a great idea to leave some advice to your patients on how they can further understand and improve their teen’s health, especially at home.
Offer to Write a Referral to a Therapist
If their problem with their troubled teen has already escalated into a bigger issue, another way you can help is to offer a referral to a therapist. In addition to that, you should first encourage them to open up the idea of therapy to their teen. By giving a troubled teen a safe and confidential outlet, your patient can help provide their child with a means to better deal with their issues.
As an alternative, you can also suggest a mental health treatment program in your local area. However, make sure to let them know that your recommendations are only optional, as it’s ultimately their decision whether or not to try out therapy. While therapy can certainly benefit a teen, forcing them to do so can make them more resistant to it.
Let Them Know About the Benefits of Seeking Out Treatment
Seeking help from a professional or therapist is not always an easy decision to make for your patients, and some patients may be reluctant to introduce their child to getting therapy. That’s why it is also important for you to briefly break down the benefits of therapy or treatment to them.
Regardless of the current situation that they’re facing with their troubled teen, it would be extremely helpful for you to educate them about therapy and its known benefits. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you have to be considerate or empathetic with your words, as they might become defensive or angry when you’re discussing their problem with them.
Remind Them that Therapy or Treatment is Confidential
Aside from explaining the benefits of seeking out treatment for their troubled teen, you might also want to clarify to them that they should not be concerned about the risks of sharing any sensitive information with trained healthcare professionals. Not only are these providers bound by ethics to maintain the privacy of their patients, but the law also enforces it.
Some patients might not be aware of these considerations right away, so you should always remember to tell them that healthcare providers are bound by HIPAA to never disclose any of their sensitive health information without their consent or knowledge. Answering their concerns regarding the confidentiality of therapy or treatment will give them a great deal of reassurance.
If one of your patients tends to worry about investing some of their time in scheduling appointments and visiting different healthcare providers, it would be a great idea for you to introduce them to telemedicine. Not only will it save some of their time, but it will also allow them to easily convince their teen to participate in the process — especially if they’re too hesitant to visit in person.
Since the benefits of telemedicine might not be obvious for some patients, it would also be helpful for you to answer some of their questions regarding its effectiveness and confidentiality. Fortunately, many treatment centers (such as what you can find at SBtreatment.com, for instance) offer this option to those who seek out remote care, and research has shown that telemedicine is just as efficacious as in-person treatment.
If your patient seems like he or she is asking for any guidance on how they should handle their troubled teen, make sure to keep in mind this effective and professional advice. This is very important to remember, especially since building an empathic connection with your patients through their personal challenges is always a great way for you to remind them that you truly care as a fellow individual and as their doctor. In turn, you can help your patients while they also help their struggling teen.