Dayna Sharp, LCSW
To Therapy or Not To Therapy? Parent's Worries Debunked
Sometimes, after their child's 3rd or 4th appointment, parents will "confess" that they thought about starting their child in therapy "a while ago", but were really struggling with the decision. They tell me that they worried that taking their child to a therapist meant that something was wrong with their kid, that going to therapy meant that they were somehow not good enough as parents, and/or that starting their child in therapy would lead to a long road into the mental health world, with a diagnosis, years of therapy and prescriptions.
Here's the Real Story:
Seeing a therapist does NOT mean there's something "wrong" with your child.
Young kids are just starting to learn about their feelings. Sometimes they can feel super intense and confusing--their emotions can cause them to act in ways they don't understand that can end up causing them and their family distress.
This doesn't mean something is "wrong" with kids. Emotional development is a "normal" and necessary part of childhood development! Our culture is very insistent upon the idea of a "standard" and deviations from a standard. But the truth is, we are all born different. Some of us are easy going, others have more difficulty adjusting. Some feel things intensely, others not so much. Even when kids are diagnosed with neurological differences, it's important to remember that they often have wonderful strengths that can become difficult to see in environments developed for the "standard" child.
Therapy isn't about "fixing" kids; instead, its about nurturing your children's strengths, helping kids get to know and feel more comfortable with their emotions, and teaching them how to problem solve and cope through moments of distress.
Seeing a therapist does NOT mean there's something "wrong" with you as parents.
I know it's cliche, but it's really very true: Raising kids is hard. It takes a village to raise a child. In our society, most of us no longer have such a village. In the busyness of modern day life, even the most loving, responsive parents need support. Plus, kids are sometimes just...well...weird! For example, kids might suddenly refuse to take a bath. Or maybe develop a sudden unwillingness to go to school for fear that they will throw up. Or kids might stubbornly and persistently insist on wearing shorts in February.
A therapist who is experienced in working with kids can actually understand how kids think and can help make sense of the strange behaviors parents might see. As a parent, you love your child, and you know who they are. But a therapist can help you make sense of the seemingly un-sensible, and help your child and your family to feel more connected and less stressed. A good therapist will work with you to re-store your own confidence as a parent as well as overall sense of balance in your family.
Therapy--especially for kids--should be fun, engaging, and solution-focused.
The thing about therapy that makes it wonderful--and sometimes confusing--is that it might look different for different people; at its best, therapy is customized for each individual person. So while your idea of therapy may consist of a couch and note-taking, your child will likely be on the floor playing with their therapist, because it is through play that kids learn! Plus, play helps make therapy a safe space to turn their scary thoughts and feelings into manageable ones.
Therapy for kids can also be more short-term. Often just having a safe space and person to help them can help them feel better almost immediately. It may take a couple of months to build a trusting relationship with their therapist, to learn the skills they need to feel more comfortable with their thoughts and feelings and to effectively cope through them, but that might be all they need. And it's always great to have someone you know that can be there when you need them, through life's ups and downs.
If you find yourself wondering if your child "needs" a therapist, ask yourself instead if they might benefit from working with a therapist. Could they use support in getting to know and feel comfortable with their feelings? Could they benefit from learning problem solving and coping skills? Would your family feel less stressed knowing that someone trustworthy and knowledgeable about child development is there when you need them?
Call Creating Space Counseling and Wellness today for a free 15 minute phone consultation for your child...I can help you to figure out what therapy might look like for your child, and whether I might be a good therapist for you!
Call now! 856-281-1664