Do other parents have similar experiences?
Some of the more common things I hear parents say are: "My child goes from 0 to 60 when they get upset", "I feel like we have to walk on egg shells around my child", "I love my child- but sometimes I cannot stand them", "My child has been a victim of bullying and his/her self esteem has taken a toll", "I cannot take my child out in public- it is too embaressing", "My child has so many worries I don't know how to help", and the list goes on...and on...and on
What should I tell my child about their first visit?
Children take their cues from their parent. If you feel comfortable coming to the appointment, your child will feel that much more comfortable. You may want to say, "we are going to meet someone that you can talk with about all your feelings. She has toys, art, and books. Lets give it a try!" If your child needs a little more prompting you may suggest that they bring something special from home to the first session and say "why don't you bring your new sticker book? I bet she will like to see that!" The parent may stay in the office for the whole session or part of the session depending on your child's comfort level, age, and goals of therapy.
How long will my child need to see you?
Every situation is different. I typically suggest that children come in consistently at the beginning and then decrease sessions as needed. Some children and parents come in monthly for check- ins, other families meet consistently until they feel that things have improved. Still others come weekly or bi- weekly as needed.
What is play therapy?
In play therapy children bring up their own worries, fears, or past trauma into the play. Play is a natural way for children to express themselves, so it only makes sense that children use toys, drawings, and play to create their "world." The therapist acts as a witness to the child's experience while reflecting and validating the child's feelings. Here's how it may go...
Child: "The baby is hungry."
Therapist: "You are taking good care of the baby by feeding her."
Child: "The baby needs a bath."
Therapist: "Now you are going to clean the baby up. You are taking such good care."
Child: "Lets bring the baby to the park."
Therapist: "OK. Lets get in the car and go to the park."
Child: "Uh oh. the baby is crying."
Therapist: "It looks like the baby is worried. The baby is a little scared of getting in the car."
Child: "Yeah, she's scared."
In this example the child was processing a recent car accident she was in. Children will often repeat this play for several sessions before they feel more in control of the experience. The therapist slowly relates the play to the child's own life experiences.
Is now the "right" time for therapy?
Teachers, parents, family members, and other adults usually hit their breaking point with a child and then seek outside support. Although this is typically what gets people in the door, I often suggest that if parents are on the fence about seeking therapy they just call and meet for a consultation. I feel strongly about using preventitive approaches to support the social and emotional well being of children and families before they go into "crisis" mode.