why parents need to partner with their child's therapist
Most parents don’t know what to expect when they bring their child to see a therapist. It’s important to realize that counseling accomplishes very little without your active involvement. You need to become a therapeutic partner with your mental health professional for therapy to be successful. Here’s what that means.
- Have a clear understanding of the goals. Kids see a therapist because someone finds the child’s behavior unacceptable. Therapy is more likely to be successful if there are specific and measurable goals that are endorsed and understood by you and your child.
- Meet regularly with your child’s therapist. I see your child for an hour, but you care for your youngster the remaining 167 hours in the week. I need your active involvement in following through with our treatment plan, and being consistent and focused on our goals. If you feel too overwhelmed to participate as my therapeutic partner, then it’s generally a waste of time to bring your child to see me.
- Understand and support the confidentiality of our sessions. This is tough for many parents. I’ll discuss this in detail with you and your child, and the rules vary whether I’m working with a five-year-old or a teenager. Kids won’t trust me if I simply repeat back to you what they say to me. There are limits to confidentiality, and I’ll be very clear with your child about this issue.A young teen told me about a classmate who was making a plan to kill herself. I immediately disclosed that information to others so that the classmate could get help. My client was extremely upset with me, but safety is our highest priority.
- Be careful what you say when you leave my office. Kids hate being interrogated by parents about what we just discussed. They don’t want to lie to you, but many times are unwilling to talk about some very personal issues. Try this instead. Say a few words about what you discussed with the therapist, and see if that stimulates any response from your child. If not, say nothing.My goal is for your child to feel closer to you, not to me. I’ll often give kids homework to discuss some issue with their parents. Therapy is successful when I’m no longer needed.
- Be respectful of our time. I begin sessions by meeting alone with a parent, needing an update on how things are going. I need a brief update, not a daily recounting of everything that has happened. Stay focused on our goals, and where you need guidance.
When you develop a positive therapeutic relationship with your counselor, it’s your child that really benefits.