Parents Seeking Therapy for Children and Teens: What to Expect?
Here at Mills Psychology, we have a number of highly trained and experienced clinicians who can assess and treat your child for a variety of common childhood difficulties. Accessing quality psychological treatment for a child can be a daunting experience, and we understand that. Here is some basic information and tips about the process that may help you along the way:
It is best practice standards to first meet with parents alone prior to seeing the child in question. This is done for many reasons. Parents of course are consenting to services on behalf of a minor, and thus it is important that they have time at the outset to be educated about the process, to educate us about their child, and to ask any questions they may have. This may take some time, and thus it is usually best that the child is not asked to wait for an extended period of time during the first visit, while parents are consulted.
Additionally, the clinician will want to gather a significant amount of information from parents on the problem, and the child and family in general. This also takes time, and it is best to set aside an initial full session, so that the process is not rushed.
While we understand that you may urgently want your child seen, we have found that this is the best and most successful way to get started. We will certainly then see your child with no delay.
Parents must keep in mind that while we all want to help with the child in question, parents are often an integral part of the treatment process, and so sessions that involve the parents alone are not a delay or a waste of time or resources, but instead may help improve things substantially. Often later in the process, parents will also play an important role in the treatment, as interventions will be carried out by parents, and indeed parents may want or need parenting advice, coaching, and support as well.
A therapist will also be able to help parents on how to discuss therapy with their child or teen ahead of time, in order to make the sessions as comfortable and successful as possible.
It is best to avoid focusing on the problems of your child, which may feel like blame, and instead normalize the experience and why talking to a professional about their feelings will help.
Younger patients may have some fears about seeing a therapist, which could impact on their motivation to participate. Parents can reassure children that the therapist helps children like them, and that they will get to control some aspects of the process themselves. Often therapy involves fun aspects like play, games, and creative activities in order to help a child open up and explore their feelings, worries, and behavior.
While Mills Psychology attempts to make our offices and services accessible to children and families, you should note that bringing the child in question, or other children, to an appointment for parents, such as a first session, may mean that children have to wait for an extended period of time, and may not be fully supervised while in our offices.
Therapy for Older Children & Teens
Seeking treatment for older children and teens can also pose some unique challenges. For teens, it is also recommended that parents attend the initial appointment alone, as teens may become upset with parents initially reporting problems to the therapist, while they wait alone in the waiting area, which induces shame. For parents of teens, it is important to note that privacy becomes a crucial issue, as teens typically want to feel as though they can speak freely if they are asked to confide in a therapist. Thus, it is important that parents give a teen some freedom, and don't intrude upon their relationship with the therapist by asking to know the content of their communications. Instead, while parents may have some access to information about a minor's care, it is best that they take the guidance of the therapist about how much of a role to play in their teens' treatment. The therapist will set ground rules about what is communicated to parents and when, while creating a therapeutic space for including family members in the treatment when warranted. This is all discussed in the initial session with parents. For parents who simply want their teenager to be seen without their involvement, the teen's communications will be treated as confidential, although family involvement may become part of future interventions.