What Parents Should Know to Support Their Child or Adolescent in Therapy: Part 2
How can you keep up the communication?
Every therapist is different, and the best way to establish an open line of communication is to collaborate with the therapist on effective ways to contact them. Sometimes you can touch base with the therapist for a few minutes at the beginning or end of the session, or it might work better to send an email or voicemail for the therapist to respond to. Doing this regularly can help you feel informed, but can also leave plenty of space for your child to get the support or guidance they need as well.
It is important to remember that your input is valuable, but the focus should remain on your child and what benefits them most. Parents sometimes need their own resource for support, and in these cases it is best to arrange for your own therapist rather than solely relying on your child’s therapist for personal support.
Obviously you can share frustrations, concerns, or questions with your child’s therapist, but these topics should be directly relevant to your child and their treatment path in some way. If you need more time with your child’s therapist beyond what you can get with brief check-ins, feel free to inquire if a separate session time can be arranged for you to have the extra time you need. In many cases, your child will have individual time with their therapist, but you and your child might also have meetings together with the therapist every few sessions. These could occur on any kind of schedule you and your child’s therapist determine, such as once a month or quarterly. These sessions are designed to help your and your child improve your relationship, communication, and even structure in the home (discussing rules, boundaries, etc.).
Consistency is critical!
Another important piece to your child’s or adolescent’s treatment is understanding that meeting with the therapist is not to be used as a reward or punishment. Therapy is meant to be a consistent opportunity to work on the aspects of your child’s life that aren’t going well. Using it as a “bartering chip” might alienate your child from their therapist since the child could associate “getting in trouble” (something bad) with having to go see a therapist. Moreover, using it as a reward might set your child up to have limited access to the help they need, since they would only get to see their therapist if they succeed in some way.
Consistently attending sessions gives your child’s therapist the opportunity to build a solid relationship, actively work towards behavioral changes and goals, and also observe your child in various moods over time.
When a child or adolescent presents differently in sessions over time, the therapist has a better opportunity to help your child develop ways to identify their needs and to manage the feelings they experience.
Is There Any Progress?
Changes might not be linear, simple, or even fast in all cases. It may initially seem like the child is only playing during the appointment, or that the adolescent is only “venting” to the therapist, without a lot of changes that you can see. In addition, your child might not report much difference or improvements to you when you ask about how therapy is going. It may even seem as if some progress has been made and then a large step backward takes place shortly after. All of these are important observations and excellent questions to ask about with your child’s therapist. It is likely the therapist can give you some insight into what is happening in therapy and why the process looks the way it does.
Above all, try to approach the therapy process as being on a team. Each team member has their role, unique offerings, and opportunity to make important changes. Working together as a team is far more effective than trying to work as opponents.
Communication is crucial and I invite you to establish this with your child’s therapist so the experience offers you can your child the results you desire. Therapy can be tremendously beneficial when engaged openly, inquisitively, and with an emphasis on support. With that in mind, the aforementioned tips can help make the experience much more productive and satisfying both for you as well as your child.
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