It takes a village…
In mental health therapy with children it is critical that parents are involved throughout the therapeutic process, from the evaluation to the last session. When it comes to therapy, the therapist is the expert in the process of therapy and you, as the parent, are the expert of your child. Your input and involvement is invaluable!
No matter your child’s age, parent involvement in therapy is important. What your involvement looks like will depend on your child’s needs and their age. Typically, the younger the child, the more the therapist will bring you into the sessions. Your child’s therapist may also provide family therapy or parenting skills to add to your family’s toolkit to improve communication and relationships with the family.
Without you, skills that your child is learning may never be practiced outside the therapist’s office. Parents help immensely by noticing when their kids are using their skills and praising them for it. Research shows that kids benefit the most from mental health therapy when their parents are involved. When parents and the family are involved, your child feels more supported, that the work is not just on them, and that there is a team of people that have their back.
Here are some tips to work collaboratively with your child’s therapist:
- Before you have scheduled your intake appointment, take time to organize your thoughtsabout your concerns involving your child. Be prepared to provide a lot of details regarding your concerns. Some helpful things to think about may be:
- When did the concerning behavior begin?
- How often does your child show the concerning behavior?
- How severe is the behavior?
- What successes have you had? What has not gone well?
- What strengths does your child have? What are some resources they already use?
- From the beginning, be transparent and open with your child’s therapist. It is a therapist’s role to be supportive and understanding. Having a lot of information helps the therapist set specific and helpful goals for your child to work towards.
- Don’t be afraid to disagree. If your child’s therapist suggests something that doesn’t seem workable for your family or says something that rubs you the wrong way, let them know. Your child’s therapist wants you to feel heard, safe, and that the interventions are helping. Remember you are the expert in your child and family.
- Ask questions and restate goals each week. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what skills are being targeted each and how you can support your child in practicing them in between sessions. It can be helpful to restate the tasks your child and you might be practicing in between sessions at the end of each meeting to make sure you and the therapist are on the same page.
- In between sessions, jot down notes about questions you have for the therapist, and if you have noticed a change in how often or severe your child’s symptoms are. This will help you all track your child’s progress in therapy, determine what is working, and if something needs to change.
- Once the therapeutic relationship is established, feel free to request an appointment to meet without your child being present. This may give you a chance to speak more openly, work on parenting techniques, and feel more comfortable with your child’s therapist.
To put it simply and to use an familiar saying, team work makes the dream work. When you work collaboratively with your child’s therapist, you will see more progress and feel more empowered in ways to support your child. You will drive therapy home.
The Importance of Parent Involvement
Kelly Jean Tucker, MA, LPCA
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