Preparing Children for Therapy
Preparing children for therapy is essential to ensure they feel comfortable and ready to engage in the process. Here are some steps to help prepare your child for therapy at Helping Children Clinic:
- Age-Appropriate Explanation: Depending on the child's age, provide a simple and age-appropriate explanation of what child therapy is (such as play, reading and discussing books, drawing, painting) and why they are going to see a therapist. Use language they can understand and avoid overwhelming details. Dr. Johnson sends articles about child therapy for parents to review.
- Normalize Feelings: Let the child know that it is normal to have feelings and that therapy is a safe space to talk about or play out and process their emotions and experiences without judgment.
- Read and Discuss the Intro to Dr. J Book: This book introduces Dr. Johnson, the rooms, and some of the routines at the clinic. Each child is unique, so parents decide how many times to read the introductory social narrative that Dr. Johnson sends to you. Familiarizing your child with Dr. Johnson and the clinic can help build trust and reduce anxiety. You can also look at the helpingchildren.ca website and discuss the photos of the play rooms and the toys.
- Encourage Questions: Be open to answering any questions the child may have about child therapy. Address their concerns and contact Helping Children for additional information.
- Discuss Goals: Talk to the child about the goals of going to therapy and what parents hope Dr. Johnson can help with. Let them know that Dr. Johnson is there to support them and help them feel better.
- Share Positive Experiences: If you know another child or an adult who has had a positive experience with therapy, share that with your child to help normalize the process and reduce any stigma.
- Ensuring a Safe and Secure Environment: Please explain to your child that parents or the trusted adult that brings them to therapy must stay in the waiting room during the session. Let them know that having a trusted adult a few feet away ensures their safety. In the beginning stages of therapy, children decide where the parent sits (sometimes parents join the child in the playroom) and if the playroom door is open or closed (waiting room must be empty if open). The child decides when the playroom feels comfortable and they are ready for their therapeutic privacy. We always figure out how to make sure your child feels safe and secure in the clinic.
- Manage Expectations: Let the child know that therapy is a process, and it may take time to feel better. Encourage patience and remind them that Dr. Johnson is there to support them throughout their journey.
- Follow Up: After the first session, check in with your child to see how they are feeling about the experience. Reinforce your child's right to keep their therapy sessions private if they wish to do so. Avoid pressuring them to share details about their sessions if they prefer not to discuss it. Address any concerns they may have and offer ongoing support and encouragement.