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6 steps to prepare children for therapy

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

I love it when parents ask me 'how do I get my child on board for therapy?' It is so important for us to support children with emotional needs in ways that are respectful to them. Here are 6 tips on preparing your child to engage in therapy.


1. Demystifying therapy

Your child may have a lot of questions prior to starting therapy. After all, there are a lot of misconceptions about therapy. It is important to make time to find out their current understanding of therapy and to explore what they are unsure about. Use simple language, remain genuine and encourage your child to be curious.

You may say things like:

  • 'I wish I had a space to play music and rant about my parents (in a joking manner!) when I was young';

  • 'If it was up to me, everybody would have a chance to have therapy so we can all get to know ourselves better'.


2. Allow your child to be involved

There are many types of therapies available for children. To name a few, children can respond well to

talking therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), dyadic developmental psychotherapy (DDP), eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), children's accelerated trauma treatment (CATT) and creative therapies etc. One size really doesn't fit all. If your child, especially if they are approaching teen-age, has the capacity, it might be beneficial for you and your child to think about which type of therapy and which therapist your child prefers together.


3. Get to know the therapist before the first session

For some children, getting to know a new person can be a huge hurdle. If that sounds like your child, you may want to acknowledge their ambivalence and reassure them with phrases such as:

  • 'I've spoken with Crystal, I think she is_______(be honest), but you might want to find out for yourself.'

  • 'Would you like me to tell Crystal a few of your favourite songs?'

Some children find it useful seeing a photo of their therapist before the first session. A family I worked made it a game. The parents and the child wrote down all their questions and assumptions about me based on my photo. After the first session, the child went home to 'denunk' their parents' assumptions.