How to Break the News When Your Child Needs Psychotherapy

little girl on swing

So, you’ve realized your child is in need of outside help and you’ve decided to incorporate the help of a therapist.  Before we talk about how to break the news, let’s make sure that you have chosen the right therapist for the situation. The therapist should have an expertise in working with children as well as the issue your child is experiencing. The therapist should be licensed in the state where they are practicing and their license should be in good standing. To get this information, ask the therapist for the type of license he or she holds, go to that web site and enter the therapist’s name. Let’s face it, only a select few of us graduate at the top of our class but we all get the same license to practice!  Lastly, although it is ultimately up to your child, make sure you are comfortable with the therapist you choose.

Assuming your child has never seen a therapist, how you share the news will set the tone and is essential to the overall positive experience. So, let’s begin:

  • WAIT FOR THE RIGHT MOMENT: As with any important conversation, timing is everything.  Don’t share the news after an argument or a meltdown.  Make sure your child is calm and there are no distractions.
  • TALK ABOUT THE PROBLEM: If you have noticed distress in your child, than your child has noticed it too.  Let her know what you have been seeing and remind her that her feelings are valid and she is not bad for having them.
  • EXPLAIN THERAPY: Chances are your child won’t really know or understand what therapy is. Let him know that the therapist is a friendly and wise person that can help with the current problem or situation. Normalize the experience and let him know that many people go to therapy and it doesn’t mean that he is sick or crazy. If you have ever been to a therapist yourself, it may be a good idea to share that information. Explain what the session will be like and let him know that he can choose whether or not to include you in the session.
  • ANSWER QUESTIONS: Acknowledge her concerns and take her questions seriously.  Your demeanor will help put her at ease.
  • THE THERAPIST IS AN ALLY: Stress that the therapist is on his side and will never yell at or punish him.  Let him know that the therapist’s job is to help him feel better.
  • VETO POWER: If after 4 or 5 sessions, your child does not feel comfortable with or does not like the therapist, find out why. If the concerns cannot be alleviated, find a new therapist.  Yup, really.  A positive client/therapist relationship is essential to successful therapy.

Be open to listening and sharing with your child what happens in session but if he would rather keep the details to himself, honor that.  If your child is in any kind of danger or if there is something that you really need to know, relax and know that the therapist is obligated to share it with you.


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