It's best to be honest when consulting with a teen about whether you will or won’t perform a cosmetic procedure, according to Gia Washington, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Texas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.
“I’d advise any physician to give the family and teen an honest answer and describe their reservations about proceeding with the aesthetic intervention,” Washington says. “Most adolescents and families would be receptive to a physician saying something like, ‘I’m not advising this procedure now because of the risks, your age, expected changes in your body, etc. Consider revisiting this in a few years in your 20s. If it’s still really important to you then, we can meet again.’’
When patients have what doctors think might be a mental illness, a firm “no,” an explanation about why and a referral to a mental health professional can be what’s most appropriate. However, if a physician thinks a cosmetic procedure might be appropriate for a teen but isn’t sure, a “let’s think about this a little longer” approach could be the answer. Vivian Diller, Ph.D., a New York City-based psychologist who works with adolescents and does research on the psychology of beauty and aging, suggests saying the patient should come back in a month, maybe two.
“Giving an adolescent time to think about it, will give the doctor a clear idea how important it is to this patient. It will give them an idea about whether this patient has done research. It will give the doctor a greater clarity whether this is just a passing fantasy,” Diller says. “The doctor needs to say, ‘I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to do something that will make you unhappy. That’s why I’m sending you home. I know that if I send you home and you come back in a month or two, there’s a greater likelihood that you will be satisfied with the results.’”