Hello, I am Rafael. Thanks for asking your question - I'm here to support you. (Information posted here is not private or confidential but public).
I am very sorry to know about your daughter's situation.
What you describe in your message shows a person who could be very shy, introverted and as you said, with limited social and coping skills. I believe she could be very smart, sensitive and caring, since has been able to cope with these problems and perform at different areas regardless such limitations. The good news is that independently of what could be the core problem here, she has the assertiveness and strength to expose herself to situations that re challenging and demanding for many peeple, specially for introverts ad who experience high levels of anxiety.
Introverts, shy people do experience anxiety in stronger intensity than extroverts, or people who have both tendencies balanced, allowing them to socialize and share without major problems. Our "temperament" is the genetic- physiological - concrete root of our emotional self, what makes some people introverts, others extroverts and many in between. We do not choose what type of temperament we have, since ti is not something we create, but it comes wired in our nervous system. On the other hand, our character is the other core aspect of our personality, but it is the one we literally develop, shape by every experience we get from the moment we come to this world to our last day in it. It is what develops from every emotion, feelings, words, physical experiences, beliefs, values and everything that happens in our lives at every level.
Social and coping skills develop and are learned from infancy, and depend on how well temperament helps such process, the quality of the experiences and situations the individual is exposed to, every stimuli really, real and subjective experiences; those the person faces and those that she witnesses or observes in real life, by TV, books or through other media.
Introverts or people who are shy do have a hard time developing or improving social and coping skills, and every experience reinforce their fears and inhibitions, beliefs and expectations about themselves, their abilities and limitations. Thus how well parenting, positive modeling, raising experience, family relationships and support system they have, would make the difference but could not dramatically change the tendencies or predispositions they have. This is where more specialized support would be necessary, for parents to support children and for young people to know how to develop these skills and better cope with challenges they face in their social interactions.
My suggestion is for you to dialogue with her about getting counseling or even better, support through psychotherapy, for her to work on her sense of self-worthiness, self-esteem, self-confidence, social, coping and communication skills and for you to know how to support her even better. She is still very young, then this si the best time for her to work on these improvements ,and this is why psychotherapy should be considered as an ideal source of support. Does it make sense?
I have considered psychotherapy for her, but how do I approach her in a way that won't make her feel bad about herself? I have tried a few times to ask her how she feels about her situation, but it seems to depress her that I'm worried about her. It makes me want to back off and let her be, but then my instincts can't let it go and I continue to worry about her.
Your daughter is already 14 years old, but it seems that you have a hard time even talking to her about her feelings, concerns or problems. A child needs and deserves both parents' consistent understanding, caring and support; and they cannot be provided without permanent good communication and sharing, showing empathy, compassion and hope. Letting her be depressed is never a good option, since it tales away the very role both parents should play towards their children, specially when they are still young.If a child feels bad about herself because of a parent attempts to show caring, understanding and support, then such core issue must be addressed and both should work on making concrete changes. One fo the things every parent must do in similar situations is to educate her-himself about mental health and sound parenting, including eradicating prejudices and biases around counseling and psychotherapy, which could only undermine a person's chances to get necessary support. Adjusting or limiting yourselves to prejudices-biases around receiving mental health support would only reinforce and enable distorted views and behaviors, and that's the last thing a parent should promote in a child's mind and heart.
I truly hope you and your spouse could work together on supporting your daughter, and improving your communication and intimacy, in ways you could share much more and better, supporting her, specially about core problems and challenges, from depression and socialization issues, to facing developmental challenges. A female marriage and family therapist could be a good professional to support her with individual psychotherapy and you with parenting and family therapy or collateral sessions to work on these areas..
I only meant by that, that I didn't want to point out her flaws to her and make her feel bad about herself. Not that suggesting she needed therapy would make her feel bad about herself.
You have made me think about our level of communication, and that it could be improved and maybe we should talk about our feelings on a deeper level.
For now I will send her to a therapist for her communication skills. Thank you for your advice.