The idea of seeing a therapist can be intimidating for a child. Often times, a child’s impression of seeing a therapist has been formed through what he or she has watched on television—people who seek therapy lay on a couch and tell their inner most thoughts and feelings to a Freud look alike who is sitting behind a desk taking notes. Many adults have this impression of therapy as well!
Not surprisingly, a lot of parents ask me how to explain to their child that they would like him or her to see a therapist. Following are some tips that I like to share with parents:
When is the best time to introduce the idea of therapy? Try to choose a time when the mood of both you and your child is calm. As I am sure you can imagine, announcing that your child is going to see a therapist when you are in the middle of a heated debate can make your child feel like therapy is a form of punishment.
What is therapy? Explain to your child that a therapist is someone who specializes in feelings and can help him or her to learn some new tools to deal with feelings when they become overwhelming. Just like people go to see a doctor when they are sick, people often see a therapist when they need some help sorting out their feelings. It is also helpful for children to know that adults often go to therapy as well. By letting your child know that adults need help too sometimes it will help them to understand that it is normal and okay to seek help.
Who would you like your child to see and why? Let your child know why you think a particular therapist is a good fit for him or her and describe what the therapist told you about how she likes to structure her sessions. It is also helpful to give your child a sense of control by explaining that he or she can decide whether or not they think the therapist is a good fit. Finally, explain that the therapist is on the child’s side rather than just another adult that is forcing him or her into compliance and that what they tell the therapist is confidential.
Why Therapy? Before your child’s first appointment with a therapist, let your child know what is concerning you about his or her behavior and that you want to help. Just like adults, children do not like to feel like they have been misled or tricked into doing something they are not prepared for. If children feel misled, they are less likely to trust that going to therapy is the right thing for them.
Finally, let your child know that going to therapy can also be a fun and interesting way to explore feelings. Many therapists work hard to understand what each child is interested in so that they can tailor sessions to each unique child. Also, therapists often incorporate therapeutic games in sessions so that children are learning without realizing it!
Focus: Children and Individuals with anxiety, depression, ADHD/ADD, low self-esteem, divorce, attachment disorders, and social skills difficulties. Adults struggling with stress, loneliness, financial pressure, and parenting in Today’s Society.