How do I tell my child or teen that I am taking them to therapy?
It is important that you avoid giving them the message that you are taking them because something is wrong with them. Most kids and even adults think therapy is only for people with severe mental health issues and therefore they are resistant to coming. What I usually advise parents to say to their child is something like: ” I love you very much, I want to help you but I have been trying and I don’t know how to. I want to go to counseling with you to get some ideas on how to: [ get along better, help you get better sleep, feel better about ___]”.
Please make sure you clarify to your little ones that I am NOT a doctor. Young children tend to worry that I will give them a “shot”.
In essence, your “job” is to get your child to my office for that first appointment and my job will be to get them to want to come back again and become an active participant in therapy.
What happens in the first session?
The first session is an intake session, in which I gather information about your child including family, medical, developmental, social, academic and of course presenting symptoms and concerns. I also give you information about my practice, confidentiality, your child’s treatment, and go over the intake paperwork with you. I recommend that both parents attend the first session. The goals for your child’s treatment will be developed and discussed together.
If you are using your insurance, this session does require your child (the identified patient) to attend, as I need to evaluate them for a diagnosis (more about the below). I understand there are somethings that parents might not feel comfortable discussing in front of their child. Which is why am flexible and I divide the session into parts to allow the parent and the child their own space and time. My aim is to make everyone feel comfortable.
If you are not using insurance, the first session can just include the parents and then I can meet the child for the second session.
I would like to use insurance, how does that work?
Coverage depends on your insurance plan. It is important to call the insurance company prior to the first appointment and obtain coverage and benefit information. In addition, the insurance company’s disclaimer usually state: “A quote of benefits and/or authorization does not guarantee payment or verify eligibility. Payment of benefits are subject to all terms, conditions, limitations, and exclusions of the member’s contract at time of service.” Which means that they might deny claims for payment if they do not believe the services are reasonable and medically necessary. My practice’s policy states that if claims are denied it by insurance then it becomes the full financial responsibility of the client or parent.
Also, please keep in mind that in order for your insurance to cover your child’s therapy sessions it is required that your child be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. When using insurance, the diagnosis, as well as treatment, becomes part of your child’s permanent medical record. Their diagnosis can follow them around in school, on to college, and possible be a barrier to doing certain things such as obtaining security clearances for federal jobs, or military jobs, or any job that requires health-care related background checks.
In addition, when billing claims to insurance companies confidentiality can be jeopardized. Your child’s confidential information is processed by that company and then stored in their system. Anyone involved in the processing or handling of the claim may have access to your child’s information.
What if my teen doesn’t want to talk in session?
In my experience teens will tell their parents they won’t talk to the therapist. But they usually do! Maybe not so much in the first session, but eventually they do open up. If after a couple of sessions they don’t talk or refuse to come at all, I encourage that parent then come to session instead and we can work on ways to help you at home with your teen. If that doesn’t work, I will help you explore other provider or treatment options.
Will you give my child medication?
Nope! I do not prescribe medication, I can not prescribe medication, because I am not a medical doctor or a psychiatrist. If you are interested in medication for your child, we can discuss this further in session and I can possibly refer you to a psychiatrist.
How long will it take for my child to feel better?
I wish I could tell you exactly how long but treatment length varies due many different factors. What I can tell you is that is that the first phase of treatment is the assessment and trust building phase. Rapport needs to be established so that the client (child) can be open, receptive and motivated to learn new coping skills and make progress towards treatment goals. Consistent attendance in therapy appointments does facilitate progress in treatment.
My policy is to keep parents involved as much as possible while keeping the child’s or teen’s privacy in mind. Please feel free to express any concerns or provide me with feedback regarding your child’s progress.
How often are the sessions?
Usually sessions in the beginning of treatment are held once a week. Unless the child is in crisis, in which case sessions held twice a week would be more appropriate. Once there is steady progress being made, sessions can be spaced out to bi-weekly sessions, and eventually monthly sessions etc.