Therapy for children. For my children. For many people, the thought of taking a child to a therapist stirs up lots of feelings, thoughts, questions and judgments:
If my child needs therapy, I must be a terrible parent.
Therapy? Really? Is my child that bad?
Shouldn't we just set more strict punishments at home? That way the behaviors will stop.
Why can't my child talk to me instead of some stranger?
What is this therapist going to tell my kid? Will it be consistent with our beliefs?
Where did we go wrong?
If only I had/had not ...
Will my child need therapy for the rest of his/her life?
What will therapy with my child look like?
Will I know what is going on during the time my child is with a therapist?
Will the therapist accuse me of bad parenting?
While I can't allay every fear and answer every question in this post, I do want to give a picture of how a child benefits from a relationship with a therapist, and what that relationship can look like.
Understanding why kids do what they do
From a young age, we train our children to act in ways that are appropriate - to "make good choices." For many children, the guidelines set up in the home are enough to help them understand the world and people around them, and interact in ways that are good, kind, acceptable. Does that mean most children make the "right" choice every time - ABSOLUTELY NOT! In fact, there are developmental phases where the child (very normally and naturally) feels an instinct to test boundaries, to test their own independence, to rebel against the authority set up in the family. So, some amount of not-the-wise-choice behavior is normal.
However, sometimes children act in ways that interfere with their daily tasks and routines because there are bigger issues at play. When "normal" parenting does not seem to impact the behaviors, it may be because the reasons for the behavior go deeper than just making wise or unwise choices.
So, how do I know when my child may need to see a therapist?
Here are some indicators that play therapy could be helpful for your child:
Sometimes, play therapy can help a child through difficult transitions or life experiences:
REMEMBER: Sometimes we minimize experiences that may be significant to children. The loss of a pet can be devastating to some children to the point that they have difficulty getting through the day. Seeing violence on television may impact a child to the point that they become nervous and scared in their regular, daily routines, and have frequent, recurrent nightmares. Just because it doesn't seem significant to you doesn't mean it wasn't significant to them.
What does therapy with my child look like?
When you initially contact me, I will find out a little about your situation over the phone or via email, and we will schedule an appointment where I sit down with just the parents. We will discuss your concerns with your child, what you have tried in the past, what works, what doesn't, and many other things that help to give me a picture of the family overall and the child. We will also set up goals for therapy.
The next session, I will spend a few minutes checking in with parents, and spend the majority of time with the child in the therapeutic playroom. We will briefly talk about who I am and what I do. If the child is older, I will involve them in discussions of goals for therapy. After that, I allow the child to explore the playroom, and from there we work toward the therapeutic goals through play - on the child's level. I do not expect them to sit on a couch and "talk".
Sometimes, therapy will involve "homework" for the parents as well - maybe reading a book that helps parents understand how to work toward therapeutic goals at home, or setting up things in the family that are helpful for the child.
Each session, we will check in at the beginning of the session. My desire is to be a resource for your family, so I am always available by email. As the parent, you are entitled to everything that happens in the session with your child - however, in order to be effective, I ask parents to allow me confidentiality with the child, trusting that I will let you know of any dangerous issues or concerns. In order for our relationship to be effective, the child has to feel safe with me, and be able to trust that I am not telling the parents everything that happens in the session.
What's the first step?
You can always email me. I will be glad to answer your questions, or set up a session where we can talk about your family and your concerns, or show you around the office and the playroom. From there, you can decide if this approach is right for your family, or I can help you find the resources you need.
Even if you're not sure, give me a call or send me an email. I want to be part of your family's brave journey toward brighter days.