How do I get a therapist as a minor?
December 6, 2007 10:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 17 year-old trying to find a therapist for help in my life. If anyone has any information that would be helpful, please give me some advice. I've been recommended by many friends and teachers to get help, but as a minor, I have no idea about how to go through this process. Please help.

I've been suffering with depression for many years now. I started cutting myself when I was twelve years old; many of these were major that required stitches. I have since stopped, but recently, I suffered a relapse and gave myself two very severe chemical burns. The difficulty with my situation is that my problem lies with my parents. They aren't very physically abusive, but the caused a great deal of emotional trauma in my life. They like to emotionally abuse me and then turn it around on me. It's come to the point where I'm so used to this treatment that I have to consult my friends and teachers on whether something they did was hurtful or not. I have an older sister (26) and brother (21). They have been a great support in my life because they went through the same thing. The problem is that they're all in college, and I no longer have any support at home, as they did. My sister had the same problems as me (i.e. cutting herself and attempting suicide). I don't want to go through the same thing as she did. Up until now, I've been a pretty model student (senior year entirely consists of Advanced Placement classes; 2250/2400 on my SATs). However, things have gotten much worse with my parents, and I can feel myself starting to slip. Even though I've received many recommendations for therapy and anti-depressants, I've never actually wanted them because I knew that I could pull through myself. Now, I'm not so sure. I still have almost a year until I'm off to college, but I need some way to hold on until then. Since my parents are the biggest stressor in my life, they don't support me getting therapy. I live in the Nassau County, NY area. If anybody has some tips on how to go through this process, I'd really appreciate it. My health insurance provider is Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO, but it is a family account. Is there any way that I can get help as a minor?
posted by RKaushik to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
[IB's wife, formerly abused child]

I don't know about the law in New York state, but emancipation proceedings might be a good idea. In many states, though, you need parental permission for emancipation.

If this is the result of abuse, please be aware: your therapist will be a mandated reporter. This means that they will report any suspected abuse directly to the authorities. They don't have a choice in the matter, they are legally required to do so or can lose their license. Unfortunately, the authorities suck. I called them on my physically and emotionally abusive parents four times. Nothing happened except mandated therapy FOR ME. Great, huh?

I feel for you. I really, truly do. If one of your older siblings was willing to take the heat from your parents for it, you might try seeing if they'd try to get custody of you.

It will not be long, now. You will be in college, soon. It will come to an end, I promise promise promise you. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and if you ever, ever, ever need anything to help you get the hell away, get set up on your own, etc., and it is within my power to grant it, please let me know through mefi mail. It will be done.
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:07 PM on December 6, 2007

Oh honey.

Is there any way your school could put you in touch with a therapist? Help you make appointments with one?
posted by divabat at 12:14 AM on December 7, 2007

Can you get into Manhattan? If so, you can try The Door. They provide all sorts of services and help for those under 21. They have some alternative therapy type stuff, but also the traditional kind. Similar agencies exist. Don't write off gay youth agencies either, even if you're not gay. Lots of them will provide therapy to straight kids as well.

You're one major step over your own hurdles by being self-aware enough to know you need help and to want to seek it. That's going to be very helpful for you in the long run.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:15 AM on December 7, 2007

Callen-Lorde is the other one I forgot to mention.

Basically, these youth agencies will help you confidentially and your parents don't have to know.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:24 AM on December 7, 2007

Your high school should have therapists either on staff or contract that can be made available to you. As a minor though, I'm just about certain that any sort of formal medical treatment will require consultation with your parents, either from your school or private practice. The alternative therapy at The Door seems like a good idea, but I can't give any specific center on Manhattan a recommendation.
posted by onalark at 6:25 AM on December 7, 2007

When I was in high school, my school district had a rotating psychologist who came to our campus once a week to meet with students. One made appointments with her through the guidance counselor. You might try the guidance office to see if something similar is available, as noted above.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:02 AM on December 7, 2007

I'm so sorry - I've been through this, and you need to get yourself some help. As you know, the longer you do it the worse it gets.

At this point, it doesn't matter whether your parents want you to get therapy or not, you need to seek it out. I'd say go to your school social worker and tell them what's going on. They will help you get help. If you're feeling unsafe, go to an ER.

I don't know how good this is, but I just found this: Self-Injury Help. There's an 800 number there.

Please come back and let us know what's happenening.
posted by la petite marie at 7:05 AM on December 7, 2007

I feel for you. I also got therapy when I was 17, though that was with the help of my parents. I've never used this, but you could try calling Girls and Boys Town. From their website, it sounds like they just offer free counseling over the phone, but they might be able to tell you of free or very low-cost mental health services (and I'm talking about regular therapy, not checking into the funny farm) in your area. It's a place to start, at least...
posted by chowflap at 7:51 AM on December 7, 2007

I can't be much of a help to you in terms of people to look up in your area but just want to commend you on your strength. Your self-awareness will do you wonders as you get on the path to getting better. Just keep doing the next right thing. I've been in your shoes (left home at 16, depression, drugs, etc.,). Feel free to email me any time for moral support.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:05 AM on December 7, 2007

Nassau county has a Psychological Association and it includes an online therapy referral service. Maybe even better, the page includes the name and number of the Association's director, and assures that all calls made to her will be confidential. You might try giving her a call and talking about your situation. I'm not clear what the age of consent for a minor getting into psychotherapy in New York state is, but perhaps this is one of the issues that the county association director could help answer.

Do you feel comfortable letting your brother and sister know what's going on and seeing if they can help you in some way? Are there any counseling resources in your school?

Do you have a primary care doctor that you like? You could certainly schedule an appointment to see him or her, and they could provide help with you accessing a therapist - depending on your insurance, they may need to be the gatekeeper for you accessing services anyway.

Finally, you could call the insurance company and ask them if you can get therapy through them. Just explain your situation in general terms - that you're in your last years of high school and that you're feeling stressed and depressed and you'd like to talk it over with someone and that your parents don't believe in therapy but you think you'd like to give it a try.

I understand that it's not easy to be in your situation, but, hard as it may be to believe, things will get better. I applaud you for having the strength and courage to know you need help and to ask for it.
posted by jasper411 at 9:02 AM on December 7, 2007

Another New York City reference: St. Vincent's hospital provides therapy on a sliding pay scale, meaning that you could pretty easily afford it without involving your parents.

I also second the suggestion that you try to talk to someone at your school. Are you planning to go to college next year? I know that it's a little way off, but your university health center should be able to provide you with exactly what you need.

Good luck -- you're doing the right thing.
posted by designmartini at 10:36 AM on December 7, 2007

Even though I've received many recommendations for therapy and anti-depressants, I've never actually wanted them because I knew that I could pull through myself.

Just because you *can* pull yourself through by yourself doesn't mean that you have to. There's no shame in getting help. I *could* walk ten miles to work every day, but driving's a lot faster and easier.
posted by callmejay at 10:39 AM on December 7, 2007

From my own experience at your age:
Don't give up on therapy if the first person you see isn't good. Some therapists are great (kind, smart, funny, down to earth, insightful) and some are not very good. If you get someone who you think is not good at first, give it a few meetings but if they're really not helpful, try to find someone else. Therapy can really, really help, and it's worth trying a few different therapists out if you need to.

Therapy and drugs aren't an "easy way out". Sometimes they are necessary just to give us the space to breathe, to gather strength, etc. Don't talk yourself out of getting real help.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:28 AM on December 7, 2007

I just re-read your question and noticed that you consult with teachers about your parents' treatment of you. What if you talked to one of those teachers about how you would like to get help but don't feel like your parents would consent. See what a trusted teacher says to you.

You said you don't want to go down the same path your sister did, and that's wise - I'm glad that you've recognized that there's a problem and that you want to face it. Please give the suggestions about medication and therapy that are given above some thought. You may need to keep trying, but it's worth it. You're worth it.
posted by la petite marie at 5:43 PM on December 7, 2007

Teachers are also mandated reporters.

If you don't want your parents finding out about this (and I can understand that), teachers will not be the people to go to. But you may find that life gets pretty unbearable if you don't tell one of these people who is a mandated reporter -- I just want you to be aware of the consequences of your actions so that you can make them in an educated fashion, including getting the hell out if you think your parents will escalate their abuse if reported.

I remember my mother making fun of me and hurting me for getting her reported. That sucked. But it drew a line in the sand. And it would have sucked worse if I hadn't done it.
posted by InnocentBystander at 8:33 PM on December 7, 2007

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