The topic of therapy can be a mysterious one for many families. Some common questions families may wonder are “will my child just be “playing” for the entire session?” and “what exactly can my child get out of this?” In an effort to clear up some lingering confusion regarding the topic, here is a list of a few things that therapy is, and a few things it is not.
What therapy is not:
- a play date
- an isolated event that does not require continued work at home and involving other family members
What therapy is:
- toys and play used as a medium to communicate with younger children
- playing board games that “create the moment” that a therapist needs to work on. For example, with a child who struggles to react appropriately when losing, a therapist may attempt to trigger their inappropriate reaction by winning the game. While it is happening, they can correct the behavior and model appropriate coping skills for the child to utilize while in the moment. With children, this type of approach is more effective than simply discussing this topic.
- an ongoing process that very often requires follow through at home
Our First Session
During our first therapy session, there is a lot of information to discuss and the therapist is constantly assessing and prioritizing treatment goals, as well as developing a plan. A significant part of that intake session focuses on creating a safe and trusting relationship between client and therapist.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “The relationship that develops between the therapist and the patient is very important. The child or adolescent must feel comfortable, safe, and understood. This type of trusting environment makes it much easier for the child to express his/her thoughts and feelings and to use the therapy in a helpful way” (AACAP 2015).
Developing realistic expectations from the start of the therapy process will lead to more effective treatment and an overall improved outcome. Establishing rapport between client and therapist is very important and in those first few sessions, the therapist will be working hard at that very goal.
For those who are not exactly sure what might happen in therapy, I hope this gives you a better sense and debunks any fears or insecurities about it being a very expensive time to play a game or a time of judgment, for you as the parent.
We are all in this together!