This is a short bullet point list of tips and strategies for parents about to talk to their child about starting therapy. After this short introductory list of points are more detailed explanations for you.
I. How To Talk About Therapy With Your Child
- Briefly explain why therapy can be a valuable tool for children facing emotional or behavioral issues.
- Acknowledge that convincing your child to attend therapy can be a challenge and offer tips to help.
II. Understand their reasons
- Emphasize that children may have different reasons for not wanting to go to therapy, such as fear, shame, stigma, distrust, or lack of motivation.
- Empathize with your child’s feelings and listen to their concerns without judging or criticizing them.
- Giving choice and time to your child to make their own decisions about therapy.
III. Explain the benefits
- Highlight the positive outcomes of therapy, such as feeling happier, more confident, and more in control of emotions.
- Mention how therapy can improve relationships with family and friends, and academic and social performance.
- Focus on the benefits that are most relevant to your child’s specific situation.
IV. Incorporate games or technology into therapy
- Explain how games or technology can be used to make therapy more appealing to children.
- Find a therapist who incorporates games or technology into their approach to therapy.
- Mention how incorporating games or technology can help children feel more comfortable during therapy sessions.
V. Make therapy client-centered
- Explain what therapy entails and how it can be a safe and confidential space for children to express themselves.
- Emphasize that therapy is a place where they can talk about their feelings and concerns without judgment.
- Highlight that therapy can be “client-centered,” meaning the client is in the driver’s seat of therapy, while the therapist acts mainly as a guide or a source of support for the client.
- Suggest that parents offer their child some control over the therapy process by letting them set some goals and expectations for therapy.
VI. Be patient and supportive
- Acknowledge that children may not change their mind or behavior overnight and that it may take time and effort for them to accept and engage in therapy.
- Reiterate the importance of therapy as a tool to help children cope with emotional or behavioral issues.
- Continue to offer support to your child, even if they are initially resistant to therapy.
How To Talk To Your Child About Going To Therapy
As a parent, you want the best for your child. You want them to grow up happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. However, if you notice that your child is struggling with emotional or behavioral issues, it can be difficult to know how to help. One option that many parents turn to is therapy. Therapy can be a valuable tool in helping children cope with a range of issues, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, family changes, and many other life challenges.
With the benefits of therapy being apparent for you, convincing your child to attend therapy can be a challenge. If your child refuses to go to therapy, this can be a frustrating and worrisome situation for any parent. Here are some tips on what to do when your child refuses therapy.
Understand Their Reasons.
Your child may have different reasons for not wanting to go to therapy, such as fear, shame, stigma, distrust, or lack of motivation. Try to empathize with their feelings and listen to their concerns without judging or criticizing them. Validate their emotions and acknowledge their perspective. For example, you can say “I understand that you feel scared of talking to a stranger about your problems” or “I know that you think therapy is not for you”.
It’s important to remember that children generally don’t have control of what they’re asked to do, so giving them choice and time to make their own decisions can be helpful. Children are directed to do things everyday at school, home, and may need times when they can make choices and agree to do things at their own pace. Making this discussion about therapy a process instead of a one-and-done directive can be helpful.
Explain The Benefits.
Focus on the positive outcomes of therapy, such as feeling happier, more confident, and more in control of their emotions. You can also mention that therapy can help improve relationships with family and friends, and improve academic and social performance. Try to focus on the benefits that are most relevant to your child’s specific situation.
For example, you can let them bring their gaming device, tablet, and play their favorite video game. In my sessions with adults, sometimes the adults prefer to play music, share funny events, or play a game to ease their own anxiety and improve their ability to open up in session.
Incorporate Games Or Technology Into Therapy
Incorporating games or technology into therapy sessions can be a great way to make therapy more appealing to children. Many therapists use games or technology as part of their approach to therapy, and some may even use video games specifically. This can be a great way to engage children and help them feel more comfortable during therapy sessions.
Explain What Therapy Is
Your child may not understand what therapy is or how it can help them. I often tell kids that therapy is a time for them to talk about what they want to. 50 minutes where they don’t have parents, teachers, and coaches telling them what to do, without the stress and pressures in school, life, etc. Even though I work collaboratively with parents, the goals and direction of therapy gets to be decided by the child. I’ll make it clear that I’m a kid-helper, I help them with what’s important to them.
Also, if you’re not sure what therapy entails, I offer free 15 minute consultations to explain what therapy can be. This type of call can have the child and parents, as it’s beneficial for both of them. We can have a quick chat about what I do, what their life is like, and what games/interests we may connect over. I then introduce the idea of gaming together in therapy to further show that they have control, and choice.
Therapy is more than just the problem they’re coming in with, therapy is also about building up their strengths and improving the fullness of their life, outside of just their problems.
Therapy Focuses on Your Child’s Goals.
Therapy can be “client-centered”, meaning the client is in the driver’s seat of therapy, while the therapist acts mainly as a guide or a source of support for the client. So the client/your child can feel in control, more confident, and less anxious when beginning therapy. This autonomy and control is also a form of respect for your child, as they rarely get to have voice and direction in their world.
Your child may feel more willing to go to therapy if they have some choice and control over it. Hence why I’ve incorporated video games, VR, and other activities into therapy to make it more engaging for kids. Remind them that they get to set some goals and expectations for the therapy, such as what they want to work on or achieve.
Most importantly, therapy is a safe and confidential space where they can express themselves, which allows them to be more vulnerable and get the most out of therapy. Explain to your child that therapy is a safe and confidential space where they can talk about their feelings and concerns without judgment. Emphasize that the therapist is there to help and support them, and that they will work together to find solutions to their problems.
Be Patient With Your Child If They Are Still Hesitant To Start Therapy.
Your child may not change their mind or behavior overnight. It may take some time and effort for them to accept and engage in therapy. In my work with adults, they even share how starting therapy has been on their mind for years and the support or encouragement from a partner helps them start therapy. For adults, this might look like a wife providing therapist referrals or a friend suggesting a therapist that could help. Regardless, show them that you care about them and that you are there for them no matter what.
Convincing a child to attend therapy can be a challenging process, but it’s important to remember that therapy can be a valuable tool in helping children cope with a range of emotional and behavioral issues. By starting with a conversation, addressing your child’s concerns, normalizing therapy, involving them in the process, highlighting the benefits, being persistent but gentle, and incorporating games or technology into therapy, you can help your child feel more comfortable with the idea of therapy and ultimately benefit from it.
If you are curious how therapy looks, you can email or schedule a free 15 minute consultation for a simple introduction into the process.