Getting Started With Child Therapy
Knowing what to expect can make new experiences easier. In that spirit, here's a snapshot of the steps in the therapy process.
Set up an Introductory Phone Call
Contact me to set up a free 15 minute introductory phone call. I'll be glad to speak with you about any questions you have, even if you are not 100% sure about therapy for your child. If we decide not to meet in person, I may be able to help you by suggesting other resources or providers.
Review the Welcome Packet
If we set up a time to meet in person, I will email you my Welcome Packet to orient you to my practice. Before the first appointment, set aside some time to review it.
Print and complete the information form and consent form. To protect your child's privacy, do not email me the completed forms. If your child is having issues at school, it is also helpful if you bring in a copy of his or her most recent report card.
Come In For Your Initial Parent Appointment
Bring the completed forms with you. When you arrive, buzz yourself in and take a seat in the second floor waiting area. I will come out to greet you.
The first appointment is with a child’s parent or parents only (without the child). It is usually longer (75 minutes) than usual therapy sessions (45 minutes). It gives us a chance to have a candid, private conversation about your child. It's a time for you to get the process started by providing some background information about your child and family.
We will speak about your child, your concerns and questions. If your child has been in therapy before, please let me know what worked or did not work that time. I will orient you to my practice, provide some initial feedback and give you a preview of possible next steps. At the end of the meeting, we will talk about whether it seems to make sense to take the next step of bringing your child in.
A key function of this meeting will be for you to get a sense of whether I am someone you can envision working with and being of help to your child. If you don't think we are a fit, it's okay. What is most important is that you find someone who works well with your child. If we decide to not work together, I may still be able to be of help by referring you to a colleague or a resource.
It is common to feel both eager to get going and a little apprehensive about your child starting therapy. Usually after a meeting or two, people start to feel more comfortable as the setting and process become more familiar.
Introduce Your Child
A parent or parents are present for at least the beginning of my first meeting with a younger child. You and I will speak with your child about the counseling and why he or she is there. Kids need and deserve to have a sense of why they are coming in. Let me know if you want ideas on how to frame therapy.
For adolescents, it's up to you and your child whether you come in with them for their first appointment, whether they come on their own, or whether they'd like you to be there just to introduce me.
You will have spoken with your child about the counseling and the appointment beforehand. Do not surprise your child by bringing him or her in without advance notice.
Like adults, children often need a few meetings to adjust to and feel comfortable in counseling. Not surprisingly, a good connection with their counselor helps children feel secure and is important in setting the stage for change. Once children have a sense that their counselor knows, respects and values them, they are often more motivated in therapy.
We Complete the Initial Assessment
I usually meet with a child or teen 2 or 3 times to gather initial impressions. This is a time for me to begin to get to know him or her, build a preliminary understanding of what might be going on, and gather information to inform the plan for the therapy. I may ask to view your child's school records and/or test results at this stage if you have not brought them in already.
After the initial assessment is complete, we will meet again. We will talk about whether it seems to make sense to continue. If the decision is yes, we will discuss the plan for the therapy. This includes initial impressions, the goals, an estimate how long the therapy will last, and what the parent consultation component will look like for you. For older children and teens, this process is adapted to meet their developmental needs.
Your Child's Therapy Begins
Early on, my focus will be on getting to know you and your child. I will try to see your child through your eyes while also developing my own impressions. The thoughts you share are an important part of the therapy.
Counseling sessions are usually 45 minutes long, once a week. The frequency and length of the sessions may vary depending upon the needs of the child or teen. Sometimes a child who is quite young, anxious or shy may need shorter sessions, at least initially. I might meet with a young person more than once a week if the concern is pressing.
Therapy is a form of learning. Behavior change and implementation of new patterns takes their own time. Consider learning a musical instrument, getting in physical shape or fine-tuning other skills. Though the length of the treatment is flexible, regular attendance is necessary. Results can be compromised if your child does not attend consistently.
Typically parent meetings are scheduled outside of the child's therapy sessions to talk about the child's therapeutic goals and progress and how they can be supported at home and at school. This is particularly true for younger children. If your child is in middle school or older, we will discuss how to adapt this in respect of his or her age/developmental stage.