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What Do Clients Need To Know About Child Therapy? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

What Do Clients Need To Know About Child Therapy? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

Whether you’re a parent yourself, you know a child or you’re a child therapist then there are certain things you just need to know about child therapy. These facts can help child therapy be more successful, “easier” and it can improve the life of the child in the long term. I remember talking to a doctor once who worked with teenagers with eating disorders and she mentioned how the parents were the actual problem and main barrier to treatment. And if parents just knew a few more things then maybe the treatment would have been more successful sooner. Therefore, in this clinical psychology podcast episode, you’re going to learn about what do clients need to know about child therapy. There are a lot of great points in this episode so if you enjoy learning about psychotherapy, child mental health and parenting then this is a great episode for you.


Today’s psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by Working With Children And Young People: A Guide To Clinical Psychology, Mental Health And Psychotherapy. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.


What Do Clients Need To Know About Child Therapy?

One reason why I wanted to do today’s episode is because this is a very light episode compared to the trauma-related ones, but there are a lot of myths surrounding child therapy. A lot of parents are nervous, scared and resistant to their child needing therapy so they either don’t take them even though the child badly needs the support, or they create barriers to treatment.


Something that only harms and doesn’t help the child or young person.


In addition, even though this podcast episode might be framed towards parents and non-psychology people, there is still a lot of aspiring and qualified psychologists can learn from this episode. Since this can help us to understand what are some the things and barriers that we might need to address with parents in therapy.


Now, we need to bust some of these myths and start learning more about child therapy.


There Needs To Be Trust To Help Your Child

When it comes to child therapy, therapists can’t help a child unless the child and the parent trust the therapist. This connects to the idea of confidentiality because this is a key part of the therapeutic relationship and a lot of different states and countries have strict laws around confidentiality for children. Some states in the United States of America have laws where the young person has near absolute confidentiality so the parents cannot access any information about their child’s therapy sessions. Whereas other states have laws where the parent has all the permissions that the young person has. Whatever the situation in your state or country, a parent will be told when the therapist believes there is a serious risk to your child’s safety.

This always includes if your child is making plans for suicide.


I understand if parents are scared or nervous about the idea of confidentiality and the vast majority of parents want to know everything about their child so they can protect them. This is perfect in theory but in practice this just doesn’t work, because children don’t share things or too much without the protection of confidentiality.


Ultimately, without a level of confidentiality the therapy will not be successful for the child and the child will keep suffering.


Personally, when I went to try and get my autism diagnosis back in 2019 during my first year at university because my parents refused to get me diagnosed beforehand and I was struggling badly. I remember it being one of the first questions I asked the university team, will my parents be told about this. And if the answer was yes then I was going to refuse to have the initial meeting because it simply wasn’t worth the risk. It’s taken took them about 4 years to be open to supporting an autism diagnosis but I needed it a decade ago.


So it just goes to show how important confidentiality is when it comes to being open and wanting to tell a stranger (also known as the therapist) personal information.


Parents Might Need to Come To Their Child’s Therapy Session

Whilst this won’t be all the time, child therapy often involves therapy sessions with family members. Especially when childhood trauma is involved because in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (we have a podcast episode about this in the future) (Kliethermes et al., 2017) does emphasise the need for a child and caregiver to have sessions together as part of the therapy process.


In addition, we do these family sessions because they can be really beneficial to the young person because it gives them a place to express what they’re feeling and these family sessions can be powerfully healing.


As a result, if a therapist invites you to a family session, this isn’t because the therapist wants to punish you, shout at you and say you are the worst parent in existence. This is just a normal part of the therapeutic process.


Personally, I definitely get the immense power of family sessions because honestly, it would have been lovely to have some family sessions for my situation last August. It would have been more structured, more focused and more healing for all of us I think. As well as even towards the end of my breakdown in August/ September 2023 when I had this massive conversation with my family about what they had done, how they had made me feel and everything because of the homophobia and other things. It was very healing, powerful and it did change our family for the better.


Therefore, there is immense healing in open and honest conversations so it is critical to attend these appointments when you’ve been invited to them.


Psychologists Are Experts In Therapy and Practise, Not Experts In Your Child

Even though clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals are highly trained and skilled professionals, we aren’t experts in your child. Yes, the vast majority of therapists have achieved a Masters’ degree or a doctorate so they’re been in higher education for at least 6 to 8 years, and they received Continued Professional Development even that after. We acknowledge there is a lot more to family and people than you can ever learn in a classroom.

This is why despite psychotherapy training giving therapists the specific skills to practise different types of psychotherapy, we know that some of the techniques and experiential activities and strategies we use might seem mysterious to a parent because they don’t know why we’re doing them.


For example, let’s face it an art therapy activity looks really weird when you think about it. Especially because most laypeople believe therapy is only laying on a couch talking about your mental health difficulties, so when a parent hears their child is making art, that just smashes into the myths and confuses them.


Whereas in reality, an art therapy activity can be very useful in helping a young person to challenge a self-limiting belief or building rapport with them, before the more in-depth therapy work begins.


Ultimately, if a parent is ever confused about an activity, strategy or whatever is going on in therapy, then therapists want the parent to ask them questions. Parents shouldn’t suffer in silence and it is more than okay to ask questions and want to understand more.


Make Sure Your Child Comes To The Appointment

I was rather surprised when I came across this one because I had no idea this was a real thing. I couldn’t believe there were times when a parent just didn’t take their child to an appointment. Or I’m honestly not naïve enough to think clients always turn up to appointments but in an ideal world, they would because you cannot get the professional help if you aren’t there.


Of course this can be difficult at times, especially with children.


Therapists understand that after-school clubs and family activities can make getting to a therapy appointment difficult at times because most therapists do have a few appointments outside of school hours. I talk more about this in a book coming out next year, but I was so happy and so impressed when a charity I’m working with had some 5 pm to 8 pm therapy appointments.


Those out-of-hours appointments are seriously impactful and potentially life-changing for a client.


Moreover, therapists really hope that parents want to work with them to make a time work for the therapy session, because everyone wants the child to be okay and thrive. And I think the most important aspect to realise here is that missing a therapy session certainly is not like missing a football or trumpet lesson. Missing therapy sessions add up and these missing sessions can throw a young person off if they’re working through a particular treatment.


Also, a lot of clients and parents don’t know this, but therapists put a lot of time and thought into creating effective, evidence-based interventions outside of these therapy sessions. So I feel like it’s a little disrespectful to not try to make the therapy session when the therapist has put in a lot of work into them.


Ultimately, it is attending therapy sessions that give the therapy the best chance of working, being successful and helping your child.


Parents Need To Know Seeking Therapy Is A Wise Thing, It Isn’t Shameful

I was always going to end on this note because I strongly believe this is the most important message to focus on, and I see this in my own family.


At the time of writing, there are more children and young people in therapy than ever. I don’t think this is because the world is more dramatic, everyone is a snowflake or whatever else the idiots say. I think this is because stigma is thankfully decreasing, therapy is more accessible and people are becoming more aware of when they need help.


Furthermore, whatever the reason why a child or young person comes to therapy, there is no shame to it. It’s okay if a child comes to therapy to work on a particular goal, to work through some trauma or a mental health difficulty or if they want to better themselves. All of those reasons and more are valid, shameless reasons to come to therapy.


I know I always talk about this but it’s important to note that there is nothing wrong with you if you come to therapy. And the same goes for your family or parents, there is nothing wrong with them if your child comes to therapy.


You wouldn’t hesitate in reaching out to a medical doctor if your child or young person was having heart problems or had a physical condition, so parents need to realise the same goes for mental health. Reaching out for mental health support is just like reaching out for other kinds of health support.


Ultimately, reaching out for mental health support is an act of love and it shows that you care about their health and well-being.


From personal experience, all I’ll say is that this is a million times better than knowing your child is struggling and just leaving them to it because you believe the stupid myths about children with mental health conditions have to go on medication and they’re barred from going to university.


Clinical Psychology Conclusion

 I always enjoy learning about myths and misconceptions that people create for themselves or others when it comes to therapy. In this episode, we looked at how parents need to trust us so we can help their child, parents might need to come to their child’s family sessions, how psychologists are experts in therapy but not the child, parents need to make sure children come to their appointments and how going to therapy is wise. It’s a massive shame that there are a lot of these myths that become engrained into the fabric of society so parents, aspiring therapists and everyone believes these damaging ideas.


But if you’re a current or future parent then I hope you now understand how important it is that your child goes go to therapy if they need the support, and you understand the truth behind some of these myths and misconceptions.


If you’re an aspiring or qualified psychologist, then again, I hope you understand the truth now. Yet I also hope you might bring these ideas forward into your work or they make you more aware of what the parents of our clients are going through. They will probably believe at least one of these myths and that will create a barrier to treatment that needs to be addressed so the young person can be helped and thrive.


Since that really is the job of a child therapist, of course it’s about improving the child’s life, giving them new adaptive coping mechanisms and decreasing their psychological distress.

But ultimately, child therapy is all about making sure a child can thrive for decades to come.

 


I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.


If you want to learn more, please check out:


Working With Children And Young People: A Guide To Clinical Psychology, Mental Health And Psychotherapy. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.



Have a great day.


Clinical Psychology References and Further Reading

Adams, D., & Young, K. (2021). A systematic review of the perceived barriers and facilitators to accessing psychological treatment for mental health problems in individuals on the autism spectrum. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 8(4), 436-453.


Babatunde, G. B., van Rensburg, A. J., Bhana, A., & Petersen, I. (2021). Barriers and facilitators to child and adolescent mental health services in low-and-middle-income countries: a scoping review. Global Social Welfare, 8, 29-46.


Gee, B., Wilson, J., Clarke, T., Farthing, S., Carroll, B., Jackson, C., ... & Notley, C. (2021). Delivering mental health support within schools and colleges–a thematic synthesis of barriers and facilitators to implementation of indicated psychological interventions for adolescents. Child and adolescent mental health, 26(1), 34-46.


Hamilton, A., Mitchison, D., Basten, C., Byrne, S., Goldstein, M., Hay, P., ... & Touyz, S. (2022). Understanding treatment delay: perceived barriers preventing treatment-seeking for eating disorders. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 56(3), 248-259.


Kliethermes, M. D., Drewry, K., & Wamser-Nanney, R. (2017). Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. Evidence-based treatments for trauma related disorders in children and adolescents, 167-186.


Radez, J., Reardon, T., Creswell, C., Lawrence, P. J., Evdoka-Burton, G., & Waite, P. (2021). Why do children and adolescents (not) seek and access professional help for their mental health problems? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 30(2), 183-211.


Weisenmuller, C., & Hilton, D. (2021). Barriers to access, implementation, and utilization of parenting interventions: Considerations for research and clinical applications. American Psychologist, 76(1), 104.


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