One of the most common questions that I receive from parents in my consultations is how to tell their child about coming to therapy for the first time. Most of the questions sound something like this:
- How do I describe what you do?
- What do I explain about why they need it?
- What if they don’t want to come?
- What should I say (or not say) about coming to see you?
- How much do I tell them about it?
The good news is, I have a shockingly simple answer for all of the above questions. And it generally surprises parents because it is not what they anticipate. But, first let’s look at what should NOT be said.
Therapy is never presented as a threat. Therapy is never a punishment. Therapy is not a result of a problem that needs to be fixed. Therapy is not needed because of bad behavior at school, at home, or anywhere else. I am not going to make kids feel better. I am not a doctor that helps with “other issues,” rather than medical ones. I will not take sides. I will not expect kids to talk about their feelings.
What to Say
So, the simple answer is that the presentation to your child only has neutral and positive elements. Just enough information to appease a curious mind, but not too much to overwhelm it. Truth at an age-appropriate level, without disclosing more than they need to know. Something like this:
“I met with a lady named Ms. Brenna, and I think you will really like her. She has two play rooms, and each week you’ll get to go play with her for an hour. It will be a special time just for you.”
Notice that all of those things are true. But, there is no mention of issues, problems, concerns, outcomes, process, or expectations. Just an understanding that this is going to be a good, fun experience. And that is one of many magical components of play therapy – when all a child needs to know about therapy is that a playroom filled with toys and a special playmate are going to become part of a weekly routine.
Little do they know about all of the growth, healing, and wholeness that will result!