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How to prepare your child to work with a therapist

02 May, 2021

Just like any firsts, working with a therapist for the first time can be intimidating for a child. They may not understand why they are there, or what they’re meant to be doing. And they may find speaking with a stranger a little scary at first.

As a parents, you want to help and support your child to get the most out of their counselling sessions. But you may wonder how to do that. Should you speak to your child beforehand? What should you say? And what if your child doesn’t want to go?

These are all perfectly common worries, both for your child and for yourself. But they are easily solved, and navigating this process can also be a great example of how to problem solve and cope under pressure. Here are our tips on how to prepare your child to work with a therapist.

How to Prepare Your Child to Work With a Therapist

Speak to your child, when the time is right.

You should absolutely speak to your child about their upcoming visit, but remember that timing is key. Don’t bring it up at the end of a long or stressful day – or immediately after the child has demonstrated negative behaviours or you’ve had an argument. When emotions are high, reactions will be high as well. And visiting a therapist shouldn’t be viewed as a punishment.

The best time to talk is when everyone is relaxed, calm and comfortable (including yourself) and willing to be open to conversations.

Be honest… and positive.

It’s important that you are honest with your child about where you are going and what you are doing there. In the first instance, telling them they’re going one place, and then showing up at the clinic is a sure fire way to make your child suspicious and fearful. Secondly, however, lying to your child, even for good underlying reasons, has been shown to lead to greater psychosocial adjustments problems for the child later on in life.

Along with your honesty, you should also treat a visit to a therapist as a positive experience from the get go. So rather than talking about ‘figuring out what’s wrong’, talk about ‘finding ways to feel better’.

The more straightforward and positive you can be, the more of an easy, supportive experience it will be for your child.

Explain what will happen.

It’s a great idea to explain clearly to your child what is going to happen. If you don’t already know, ring your therapist and ask them exactly what to expect, and then pass that on to the child. Let them know who will be in the room. Ensure them that they will only have to answer questions (no shots or examinations!). And make sure they know that if they don’t feel like talking they don’t have to.

No right or wrong answers

Your child needs to know that there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to speaking with a therapist. They simply have to answer honestly about how they feel or what they think, but that anything they want to say is OK.

Most importantly, make sure your child understands that this isn’t a test to pass or fail – and that they won’t get in trouble no matter what they say.

It’s a team effort

When it comes to therapy for our children, it’s a team effort. While psychologists are experts on emotions, coping strategies, behaviour and problem solving, your child is the expert on their own feelings, and you are the expert on your family and home life. Collaboration will make this a truly supportive experience for your child and help them to come out feeling better able to take on the world.

Author: Di O’Malley – Founder and Managing Director of Young Minds Health and Development Network, and Counselling Psychologist.

Please call us on (07) 3857 0074 to book an appointment with one of our clinicians; or send us an appointment request via this website and we’ll contact you as soon as possible to book a suitable time for you.