How to Talk to Your Child or Teen About Going to Therapy

How to Talk to Your Child or Teen About Going to Therapy

It’s very common for children or adolescents to see a therapist, and talking to your child before their first therapy session can help them understand what to expect. No matter the reason for therapy, parents often worry about how to talk to their child about therapy. With the help of David Irwin, LSCSW, LCSW, and Sara Barnes LSCSW, LCSW, we’ve put together some guidelines for talking to your child or teen about going to therapy.

  • Explain what a therapist is. This might be more necessary for younger children, but explaining to them who a therapist is and how they can help is a good first step. A simple explanation could be, “A therapist is someone who helps children with their worries, feelings and problems.”
  • Emphasize therapy as a ‘safe place’. It’s incredibly important to let your child know that their sessions are a safe place. Sara Barnes says, “What I always say to kids of all ages is that this is your safe place. It’s YOUR time. We can talk about anything you’re worried or upset about.”
  • Normalize it. One of the largest misconceptions about going to therapy among children and adolescents is that we only treat “crazy people”, but going to talk to a therapist is very common for people of all ages. It’s important for us as adults to normalize the experience, and not make our children feel like they are “weird” for going to therapy.
  • Relate it to a recent event. This can be used as another way to explain to your child why they are going to therapy. “We are going to talk to someone about what is making you sad…remember the other day when you were feeling sad and having a hard time?” When using this approach, you’ll want to tie it to a recent event, but without using words that will be overly upsetting.
  • Keep it simple. Parents or caregivers should just give the basics as described above. You can let the therapist explain more when they meet your child.

PARENT TIP:  Once your child begins attending therapy, do not ask your child what was talked about. Remember, that therapy is their safe space. Your child’s therapist will talk to you if they are concerned about your child’s well-being.

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