By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
As a parent who has made the decision to bring your child or teen to therapy, you most likely will have lots of questions about the process of therapy itself. This is so understandable as often, therapy takes place behind closed doors and parents may not realize that they are entitled to ask as many questions about what is happening as they would like!
At Thrive, we all practice slightly differently so I will try to outline the different possibilities of what to expect but I would like to emphasize that all of our therapists will answer your questions about the process of therapy. All questions are okay with us as we want parents to feel informed, involved, and comfortable!
Usually, at the very first appointment, I personally prefer to meet with parents alone so that we can talk very freely about what is going on with the child or teen and family system. At this appointment, we will talk about family history, your child/teen’s developmental history, current concerns, past treatments, and generally I am trying to get a feel for what is going on in the situation so that I can also make recommendations and give you some guidance as to what therapy will look like for your family/teen/child. At this appointment, I will usually describe what I think the best path forward will be, similar to what some may call a more formal treatment plan. I will also encourage parent questions as I want to make sure from the beginning that we are all on the same page.
Next, I will plan on meeting with the child or teen alone for the next appointment so that we can start getting to know each other and building our relationship. In that appointment, we are mostly just getting acquainted. With younger kids, this will likely involve playing games or with toys in our play therapy space while I ask them questions and get a feel for their personality and what strategies might work best to help them. With older kids, this will likely involve more of talking and asking questions, as it would for an adult. Generally, I am assessing the child or teen’s openness to work on the challenges they are experiencing so that I can do what is called “meeting them where they are at.” This is therapy speak for not pushing a client too fast or too far when they are not ready. We try to assess where a client is in the process of making changes and meet them there. As time goes on, we then will push and challenge a bit more as we feel we have a strong relationship with that client.
Throughout the process of therapy, we will use lots of different strategies in session. I usually like to meet with parents periodically, at times separately from the child/teen, so that we can talk about how things are progressing and share more about how parents can support their child/teen as well as make sure that parents continue to feel involved and informed as to the process of therapy. I hear from parents at times that in the past, the therapists that they have taken their kids to did not share anything with them during treatment. That is not something I typically support (except in very particular situations, which I always talk to parents about as soon as possible) because parents can give us a lot of helpful feedback and are an important part of the process.
So, at Thrive, we involve parents in treatment as the rule, rather than the exception to the rule! In fact, some of our clinicians will involve parents to check in before or after session or involve them in joint sessions with their child or teen. A few of our clinicians will involve parents and children together in the initial appointment and use more of a free flowing method to treatment where sometimes the child or teen is in session, sometimes the parent, and sometimes both. This flexibility works so well for some of our families that I am honored to have clinicians who work in this way!
As you can tell, the most important thing is for parents to ask questions and make sure that they are on the same page with their therapist. Therapy works well when the whole family and therapist are on the same page as to what the goals are and how we are accomplishing them. When trying to find a therapist for your child/teen/family, please make sure to ask questions to understand that therapist’s process and make sure you feel that it is a good fit!
At Thrive, we are fortunate to have a variety of therapists who I am confidence will be able to meet most families’ needs! If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy with one of us, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
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