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Having A Child In Therapy

Taking the first step, although it may be small, can lead to much greater results occurring in the future. When a baby takes their first step, they are wobbly, unsure, and even conscious they may fall again but that first step still led them to start their journey of learning how to walk. In therapy, we need to take that first step and be aware that changes do not happen overnight, although it feels difficult. Smaller steps may take longer but bigger steps can be a lot more challenging. 

What Happens After The First Appointment?

After the initial free appointment, which is a light assessment session where your child will meet with one of us at Teenage Mental Health, you will be given copies of our polices, agreement based on the prescribed therapy. We will also hand you a parental handbook full of commonly asked questions by parents answered by us. You will be requested to digest this for at least 24 hours prior to accepting the offer and information provided to ensure what is offered is what you want and are happy to proceed with. You then confirm, and return the agreement signed at the first therapeutic session for your child. 

How Long Will It Take? What Will You Tell Me?

When your child starts therapy, it can take a few or occasionally a few more sessions for them to become comfortable with their therapist and build a trusting relationship. There is no one size fits all approach, for many parents or carers this is challenging to process or understand, and it is hard knowing your child is talking to someone else when you want to know and help them. Therapeutically there are reasons for privacy and confidentiality in therapy, and it needs to be the same for all, even with a child and young adult patient. We are here to help your child hold and understand their feelings or experiences in a non-judgemental and open-minded approach in a containing and caring environment. There’s greater benefit if your child feels as though if they have 100% confidence in privacy during therapy.

There is not only industry professional guidelines, we have to abide with legislation which also guides what we can and cannot tell you what your child says to us unless we believe they are at serious risk of significant harm. Furthermore, we also do not discuss or share information with anyone unless we have the child’s and parents’ written permission. 

It is greatly beneficial children and young adults feel supported at home during therapy, not just with the therapist. It is important as the parent or carer you are supported too in order to show or give this support to your child in a way that is conducive to therapy and in general for you. Teenage Mental Health recognise this and parents or carers have access to our free Parental Support Group and emailed engagement updates from the therapist (such as “therapy is going well/not so well at the moment”, we will not give detailed information or discussion topics) and therapists will remain contactable. Parents can even enter therapy or have occasional one to one appointment with Teenage Mental Health, we provide the same support for adults too! 

What Can I Do? I Really Wish I Knew More..

It is not unusual to feel anxious as a parent or carer about not knowing what is said in their child’s session, it is important that after a session your child has time to process what has been discussed and understand some emotions they may be feeling as the session may have been challenging. It is recommended to not question a child on what has been discussed, especially not straight away if they do not volunteer this information first or willingly in general. Showing care and support can look like “was it good or tougher session for you today?” and leave it there, take them for an ice cream or engage in activity they enjoy. If a child or young adult wishes to share more then they will more likely do this in their own time, and if they do not want to, then it’s okay to respect that too.  

Some parents or carers have commented on having a feeling of guilt when entering their child through therapy, due to feeling like they are to blame or for not being able to help them without additional support, wishing they could “fix whatever is the problem”.

Teenage Mental Health want to address by saying this is not the case. By bringing your child to therapy you are acting within their best interest, you are helping them within the action of engaging in therapy and respecting their privacy has a better impact than it can appear.

Why Weekly Appointments And Do You Leave Therapy?

It is more common someone will start and remain having a weekly appointment and then as your child feels as though they are able to manage their feelings or no longer appear to be a worry for them at all, therapy can look to finish. This isn’t just our way of doing things, it’s clinically recognised and guided by associations including the BACP as one of many examples. This frequency, and at appointment times of 50 to 60 minutes has proven to be productive for many years and benefits the fluidity and progress of therapy.

From then on, the therapist with the child and parent or carer will agree on a plan for how and when to close therapy when your child feels as though they are ready. At Teenage Mental Health we do this so your child can ease out of therapy instead of a sudden stop to ensure they are ready, and do not feel the door is closed. Ultimately therapy finishes when the patient says they wish to (ideally in agreement with the therapist), even if the therapist would suggest continuing. No matter how or when, our door is always open, even after therapy finishes to the patient and the parent/carer.

Therapy can sometimes take longer than anticipated, sometimes it can take less time, and just as often it ends up being as estimated when prescribed. The most important thing is that the therapy positively impacts your child and sometimes, that takes more time for some than others which is okay. What works for one child may differ for another which is why we strongly remain patient centred and lead by their pace and what works for them. For example, some children like play, some like art or both.

Older children like games and art like in theraplay too, others prefer to just talk or engage in other activities during therapy and we at Teenage Mental Health have highly skilled therapists able to gauge and accommodate what works best for each individual.

Another example might be a younger child who does not really feel ready or generally able to talk, the play (or lack of) is quiet with little said for some time into therapy maybe, but there’s a lot our therapeutic team can learn from these actions and behaviours too. These may be seen and smaller steps or slow and possibly that might feel frustrating, but these steps however small they might feel will be insight in creating steps in the right direction if they are not already.

Teenage Mental Health are working with your child and with you, we’re by your side. 

Written by Scarlett Rose, - 2021 Work Experience.