Motivation Matters: Tactics for Teenagers in Therapy

Motivation Matters: Tactics for Teenagers in Therapy

Parents understand the importance of nurturing their teenagers’ development, and can see the long-term benefits of therapy and support.  However, motivating teenagers in their therapy can often be challenging, sometimes just getting them there is the challenge! Understanding why our teens hit this wall is key to finding solutions and moving them along in their journey towards improvement.


Insights on Teenage Motivation:

As we all know, and remember, teenage years are full of physical, emotional, and social changes. Adolescents are navigating their identities, facing academic pressures, and experiencing hormonal differences. In this whirlwind of transitions, motivation can take a backseat. Here are some insights into why motivation is often elusive for teenagers:


  1. Identity Formation: Teenagers are in the process of discovering who they are and where they fit in the world. Going to speech and occupational therapy may not align with their priorities, self-perception or desired image, leading to resistance.


  1. Peer Influence: Peers play a significant role in teenagers’ lives. They may prioritise social acceptance and conformity over engaging in therapy. They don’t want to be seen as different or “uncool.”


  1. Instant Gratification: In today’s fast-paced world, teenagers are accustomed to instant gratification. Therapy, however, requires patience and perseverance, which may not always appeal to their desire for immediate results.


  1. Lack of Autonomy: Adolescents crave autonomy and independence. Being told what to do in therapy sessions may trigger defiance or disinterest, as they seek greater independence in their lives.


Tips for Motivating Teenagers in Speech and Occupational Therapy:

Involve Them in Goal Setting:

   – Collaborate with your teenager and their therapist to set meaningful and achievable goals. When teenagers have a say in their goals, they are more likely to feel invested in the process. Starting with something that is very important to your teen is a good way to get some wins on the board, even if you don’t think it’s a top priority. Be on their team to tackle challenges together. 


Highlight Relevance:

   – Help your teenager understand how therapy can directly impact their daily lives and future aspirations. Explain the benefits in real and simple terms – “If we worked on your morning routine then I wouldn’t be yelling at you in the mornings and we’d be more relaxed. Would that be good?” 


Offer Positive Reinforcement:

   – Celebrate small victories and progress, no matter how incremental. Positive reinforcement, such as praise, rewards, or privileges, can motivate teenagers to continue putting effort into their therapy.


Respect Their Autonomy:

   – Empower your teenager by respecting their autonomy and involving them in decision-making regarding their therapy schedule, activities, and approach. When they feel in control of their therapy journey, they are more likely to actively participate.


Motivating teens in therapy requires patience, empathy, and creativity. By understanding why they might lack motivation, we can meet them where they are and help them see the benefits of therapy. Parents can support their teenagers by listening with curiosity and including them throughout the process.

Ebony Hanns