The initial appointment for you or your child will include 90 – 120 minutes of information gathering and discussion with parents only. At that time, your therapist will describe the therapy process that is most appropriate for your family, as well as recommendations for treatment. Over the first few sessions, the therapist will work collaboratively with you to develop a treatment plan most appropriate for you and your family.
During each of the subsequent individual sessions, parents may be asked to participate, depending on the particular needs and age of the child. Both parents or guardians are often encouraged to attend, especially for play therapy sessions for children under 6 years of age. Many difficulties and concerns can be addressed in the playroom as it is an effective way for families to connect and strengthen the family unit. For older children and teens, your therapist will determine the appropriate level of involvement for parents and guardians.
Preparing Your Child
Helpful Conversation Starters
“You are going to be meeting in a special place or playroom, where there are lots of toys for you to play with. You may play or talk, or both.”
“Sometimes you have a hard time at home (or school, etc.) and sometimes you get angry or scared and you don’t know what do to. It can be helpful to have a special play time just for you.”
“Your time with this grown-up can help you:
- feel better
- feel less sad
- feel less angry
- feel less scared”
The following will maximize the effectiveness of your child’s therapy.
We recommend talking to your child about coming to therapy before their first appointment. You may tell your child that this play time or talk time will usually last about an hour and may happen every week or every other week. It is important that they know that this is not a test, they will not be judged. And he or she is not expected to do anything but to play or talk as they wish.
Do’s & Don’ts
- If your child will be participating in Play Therapy, please have them wear comfortable clothing that can get marker, play-doh or other messy materials on it.
- Ask your child if he or she needs to go to the bathroom before entering the playroom
- Leave the waiting room while your child is in a session. If your child needs to leave the session early due to an emergency, it is important you are there.
- Tell your child to listen to the therapist and to do whatever they are asked, or tell them to “behave” or “be good” in session.
- Ask your child questions about their session when they leave the office such as “what did you do?” or “did you have fun?.” Your child’s session is a special, private time and your child should not feel that they have to report what happened. Some children may offer to share their experiences while others may say nothing at all. We will share more information about the session with you at a later time. These conversations usually occur by phone or during a scheduled parent session.
- Be surprised or discouraged if your child tells you they “just played.” Children are often unaware of the meaning of their play.
- Tell your child that he or she is bad, sick, or the problem.
- Put pressure on your child to talk to the therapist about specific issues.
- Try not to force your child to come to sessions. Please do not give consequences or punishments if your child refuses to come to his or her session. If your child does not want to come, please call or email your therapist to discuss.
- Do not be surprised if your child’s emotions or behaviors are different after or between sessions. Like adults, sometimes children leave a session feeling great, and other times they leave feeling more negative or unfamiliar emotions. Each play session is a personal experience for children that can impact them differently each time.