How to Support Your Child's Therapy Experience
Share information with the therapist before the session. A good way to do this in front of the child is to talk about your feelings about the situation and describe the specific type and frequency of the behavior: “I’m concerned about Sara’s lying, we found out she was being untruthful three times this week,” or “I’ve been angry at Justin for stealing from me.” rather than “Sara’s been lying all week.” or “Justin is proving himself to be a thief. ”
Telling your child to “be sure to tell your therapist” about an issue puts pressure on the child and may seem like punishment. If there is something you want the therapist to know, don’t hesitate to tell the therapist yourself. Information that needs to be shared out of earshot of the child can be shared via a phone call, an email or possibly a written note. Be cautious about talking privately to the therapist about the child after the session, as it may make the child feel the therapist is sharing what happened in the session.
Children are allowed more freedom in therapy than they are at home. This is okay. There is no such thing as “bad” behavior in therapy. Children quickly learn that there are different rules in different places. The therapist does not expect the child to pick up toys or follow social convention in the same way that a parent does.
Remember: sometimes the child’s behavior gets worse before it gets better. This is normal in therapy and actually can be a sign of progress. If you are concerned, talk with your child's therapist before you decide to stop coming to therapy.
Therapy is successful mainly because the child learns to trust the therapist to not reveal all that is said and done in therapy. However, the child knows that the therapist will meet with the caregiver to discuss progress and general issues. A level of confidentiality is necessary to give the child freedom of self-expression, essential for therapy to be effective.
A therapist’s goal is not to find out what happened to your child. It is to facilitate the child’s healing, resolution of trauma, and help them learn to express their feelings. It may look like play and they may be comfortable and having fun, but it really is work.
Children work very hard in therapy. Please try to avoid asking your child questions about the session unless they volunteer information. Things NOT to say…”Did you have fun?” “Did you like it?” Things you CAN say… “I bet you are tired. You have been working hard for an hour.” “I love you, let’s go (eat, pick up your sister, whatever is next on the list)!”