Information for parents
What to expect when you bring your child to see us
What happens in the first one or two sessions?
Initially, your psychologist will spend time gathering information from both you and your child about the issues you would like to work on. We may ask you to describe what has been happening, ask you and/or your child to complete questionnaires, or ask permission to speak to your child’s teacher. Sometimes children communicate differently to adults – when asking your child for their perspective, we may play games, tell stories or draw pictures to help us better understand their point of view. And in the first few sessions we may also ask you to start keeping a record of what has been happening – by writing a log or a diary – so that we are able to understand more about the problem. Basically, the more deeply we can understand the problem, the better we are able to work with you on an effective solution.
Who should attend the first session?
This can be a tricky question to answer as all families are different. Where possible, we love to see both parents, along with the child who is having issues. It may be appropriate for additional caregivers (such as grandparents) to come along too, depending on the issues. Typically in the first session (if time allows) we spend some time with the family all together, some time with the parents alone (without the child) and some time with the child alone (without the parents). But this is pretty flexible – for example if your child is scared and worried and would prefer you to be present during the session, that’s not a problem.
Before our first session, what should I tell my child about the appointment?
Before you bring your child to their first session, it is important to spend some time with them, talking about what is going to happen and also telling them the reasons why you’ll be going to see the psychologist. If you suspect that your child wouldn’t be happy to see a psychologist it may be tempting not to tell them about the appointment until you have arrived for your session. However, we find that this approach can sometimes backfire, especially if children feel they have been tricked or feel embarrassed. It means they are less likely to cooperate and less likely to build a trusting relationship with us. We feel that honesty is the best policy – therapy is more likely to be effective if kids know why they are coming and have some ideas about what to expect. You may like to invite your child to read this information, to prepare for the session.
How many sessions do we need, and how often?
Once we have all the information we need about the problem, we’ll discuss with you a treatment plan for helping your child. We’ll talk with you about what will be involved and roughly how many sessions it will take. Typically in our practice we provide short-term treatments of 6-10 sessions, but each case is different – some need fewer sessions, others need more. We generally recommend that your child has weekly or fortnightly sessions at first – this helps us to keep up momentum between sessions. As things improve, we may recommend spacing out sessions prior to treatment completion.
How to get the most out of treatment:
Sometimes treatment will involve working primarily with your child individually. If that is the case, it is still really important for parents to be involved – we will bring you in at the end of your child’s session, explain to you what we have been doing and discuss the ‘homework’ with you, so you can support your child during the week.
Sometimes treatment will involve working primarily with you, even though it is your child who has been brought to treatment. This is because you are the expert in your child, you are the person who knows your child best and has the most influence on him/her. In some cases, it works better if we train you to be your child’s therapist – we can teach you techniques and skills to help your child (without your child even realizing it). We can also work with you on parenting tips and tricks that will help you shape and improve your child’s behaviour.
Helping your child with their issues is a collaborative effort. Our aim is to work together with parents – we bring the psychological knowledge, and you bring your experience and your knowledge about your child. Together we discuss options and work on solutions. The real work of therapy happens when you and your child leave our office and try out new things at home. To get the most out of the experience, it is important to give it a go, and let us know what is working (and what isn’t working).