Children don’t tend to think about accessing counselling or therapy if they are struggling with their emotions. For many adults, it takes a lot of courage and time to make that decision, so it’s understandable that many children outrightly refuse.
Here are some reasons why children don’t want to access therapy:
They can’t imagine they will ever feel better.
Your child has tried it before and they didn’t like it.
They feel shame or embarrassment about seeing someone.
They are tired of having to repeat their problems, especially to someone they don’t know.
They feel tired and exhausted about battling with their difficulties.
They have received negative feedback from others about their behaviour and therapy is reinforcing that something is wrong with them.
They wonder how talking about something can work when they may have already spoken to family and friends about their difficulties.
As a parent, it can be extremely worrying and frustrating to see your child suffer but not able to help. So what can you do? I’ve listed some strategies below to help your child start moving towards the idea.
Build Up To Talking About Therapy.
A good first step is to casually drop the idea of accessing therapy into a conversation every now and again. Maybe mention how common it is for other children to have similar experiences and what they do to manage them. Gradually build up the conversation and find out your child’s concerns. Self help books can be great to introduce the idea. Some books have sections discussing therapy with the family. Why not take a look at some of my book reviews.
Find Out Your Child’s Priorities.
Some children say they don’t have a problem or say nothing will help them, they can’t see how treatment will ever make things change. This can be a symptom of low mood, where people tend to think that the future is hopeless and will never change. If this is the case, it can be helpful to talk about what your child is hoping for at this stage. What would they like to improve? How can you help them achieve this and go forward?
Be Honest About Therapy.
Explain honestly and sensitively why you would like them to access therapy. For example, if something has happened in your family or your child is being bullied, explain that is the reason for accessing it. This reassures your child that it isn’t them that is a problem, but the situation they’re in is too much for anyone to handle by themselves.
Be Positive About Therapy.
Therapy is often used as a punishment. “If things don’t change or sort yourself out, I’m going to book an appointment for you to see someone”. It is also hard to talk to a complete stranger about things you might feel ashamed of. Your child might be afraid that they are seen going into a clinic or that the therapist will tell other people, like their teachers. You can support your child by really focusing on how therapy can help and maybe describe what it might be like. Many therapists have websites with pictures. Some therapists even have podcasts and videos so your child can get a feel of what they are like. I also have an article on what happens when children and young people access CBT therapy.
Find Someone Who Is A Good Fit For Your Child.
Give your child as much power in the decision making process as possible. If your child saw someone previously who they didn’t get on with. You can ask them the parts of therapy that were useful, the parts they didn’t like and then when you are looking for someone new you can keep these qualities in mind. Interview two or three therapists that you think could help the most and let your child decide on who they would prefer to see.
If your child isn’t ready to see a counsellor or therapist but you are concerned for their welfare, you can always contact the counsellor and explain the situation. Many therapists will be able to advise you on the next step. Your son or daughter’s GP can also be very helpful too.
If you would like to discuss with me how your child is struggling, call me on 0161 8831156.