What to expect when seeing a clinical psychologist with your child

Attending an appointment with a clinical psychologist can be a time of mixed feelings. Especially if you are attending with your child, you might be feeling especially vulnerable. Many people struggle with knowing how to prepare themselves and their child for an appointment, however hopefully this will help you feel more comfortable knowing when to seek help, how to prepare your child and what to expect from your appointment.

When to seek help

For many families, difficulties become progressively worse over time before they seek external help. These difficulties might include high anger and conflict, a child having lots of worries, low mood or difficulties with self esteem. In some families, the parents might be worried that their child isn’t talking with them very much. These difficulties often come up at times of transition (such as the start of a new school year), bullying, conflict in the family or illnesses.

It may be time to access external support if your child’s difficulties are impacting:

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Attending school or leisure activities
  • Making and keeping friends
  • Your family’s normal functioning
  • Or if your child is threatening self-harm or expressing suicidal thoughts

How to prepare your child for the appointment

When it comes to bringing your child to see a clinical psychologist, honesty is always the best policy. Some families are concerned that if they tell their child, that the child might react badly or worry excessively. However, a surprise trip to therapy rarely goes down well. Instead you might say ‘I’ve been thinking about the difficulties (with anxiety, your mood etc) that we have been talking about and I think we should go and get some help so that we can work together on making things a little easier’. It’s best to have this conversation at a time when you are both calm.

What to expect

Most sessions will start with yourself and your child in the room for a conversation about confidentiality and what to expect from the appointment. Depending on the age of the child, they might then be seen alone or with you.

Typically, in the first appointment we will provide an assessment in order to develop a shared understanding about the nature of the difficulties and think about a treatment plan. This appointment (50 minutes) will allow your family and your clinical psychologist time to get to know each other and provide a thorough assessment. This might include a conversation about who is in your family, how your child’s eating and sleeping are going, whether they have good friends, how their school attendance is going and how long the difficulties have been around for.

It is possible that the clinical psychologist you see may be creative in discussing this information and may use drawing, games or play to discuss these topics in a sensitive manner. Your child might be asked questions about self harm or suicidal ideation and you might be asked to complete some questionnaires either in the session or at home afterwards.

What happens next?

At the end of your initial appointment, your therapist will have a conversation with you about a treatment plan, including what therapy might look like for your child and family, how many sessions might be necessary and what sort of commitment will be required from your family outside the therapy appointments.

At the start, it’s best to attend weekly sessions unless you agree with your clinical psychologist that more or less frequently would be suitable. The weekly sessions allows your family and your clinical psychologist to get to know each other and establish some therapeutic momentum. Subsequent sessions (50 minutes) generally will start with a check in about how things have been since the last session, a conversation about any homework tasks and then talking therapy.

Feeling comfortable?

Hopefully this will help you feel more comfortable with preparing yourself and your child for your appointment. If you have any questions, please contact our client team or speak with your clinical psychologist on the day.

Please note that if you are concerned about immediate risk you should take your child to Perth Children’s Hospital or if they are over 16, your local adult hospital.

More information

If you would like to learn more about therapy or book an appointment with one of our experienced clinical psychologists, contact our friendly client team by calling 6143 4499 or email via our contact page.

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