What to Expect When your Child Needs Therapy

When children and teens need therapy, it’s not unusual for caregivers to feel like they have failed. But rather than being a sign of failure, seeking help for your child is a brave act. Sometimes children and adolescents need counseling, just like adults. They may be suffering from a mental illness, which affects a staggering 1 in 6 youths in the U.S. every year. Or they may need guidance with working through emotional issues related to family, school, trauma or other situations. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them or you. It just means they need the assistance of someone who specializes in helping people overcome their life challenges. No matter the reason why you are seeking therapy for your child, taking that first step can be scary. Here is a list of frequently asked questions to help you prepare for what comes next. What Should I Tell My Child About Going to Therapy? Be open and honest about why they are going to therapy and how you think it will help. At the same time, be sensitive to the worries or fears your child may have. Many children and adolescents think that therapy means there is something dramatically wrong with them. You can help ease this concern by explaining your child that they will learn new skills and tools for coping with their challenges, and that these skills and tools can help them for the rest of their life. Will I Meet with My Child’s Therapist First? The first session will be between you and the therapist to freely discuss your concerns and why you think your child needs therapy. If you think your child may be suffering from mental illness, be ready to talk about the signs or symptoms you or others have observed and when they started to occur. Come prepared with questions for the counselor as well. Common questions include:

  • How frequently will my child need to come to therapy?

  • What techniques will be used to help my child?

  • What are the goals that you will work toward with my child?

  • How will we measure progress?

  • How can I support my child throughout the process?

Will the Therapist Keep Me Updated About My Child’s Progress? In most cases, you will not take part in the sessions with your child. This is to provide your child with space to open up about things he or she may not be comfortable sharing in front of you. However, most counselors will schedule one-on-one parent sessions to share information and provide guidance on how you can help your child at home. What if My Child Doesn’t Like the Therapist? Talk to your child and try to understand why he or she does not like the therapist. Keep in mind it may take several sessions for the relationship to “click.” However, you should always trust your instincts. It may be that it’s simply not a good fit. If that’s the case, it’s OK to move on and find another therapist. What Can I do to Support My Child? Commit to making sure your child attends all appointments. We know this can be challenging for working parents and for parents of school-aged children. However, improvement will only be made if your child attends all sessions. In addition, talk to your child’s therapist about specific actions you can take to support your child at home. And finally, be patient. Progress takes time, and you will not see a breakthrough overnight. There may even be setbacks. But over time, you will see a change for the better.

When It’s Time to Get Help At Compass Point, we have an experienced team of child and adolescent therapists who are ready to work with you and your child. Because we know how important it is to find the right therapist for your child, we will do our best to match you with the best fit from the start. When you schedule an appointment using our online scheduler, you’ll answer questions about your child’s needs, your preferred location and your schedule. Within minutes, our system will generate a list of available providers who have the skills, capabilities and expertise to help you and your child. It’s that easy.