Why committing to therapy is not an overnight process and tips on how to make the most of it.
Committing to therapy is a big deal! Maybe you’ve been discussing this as a family for a while. Perhaps the school suggested your child would benefit from a Psychologist. Whatever the reason for deciding to take this big step, it can often feel overwhelming. You may have had experience with therapy before or maybe you are brand new and are unsure of the process. Whatever your past experience we all bring pre-conceived notions with us into whatever new experience we encounter.
Many people come into our clinic ready for change. They are aware of the challenges facing their family and have an idea of what behaviours they want reduced and the end destination they want their family to reach. However, many come into this process of ‘change’ naively, unaware of the time, personal commitment and effort required to achieve the desired goals.
It is not uncommon for families and parents to feel frustrated with the process of change. Change is slow, this coupled with unrealistic expectations that just attending a session for forty-five minutes or one hour per week will enable them to feel happier in their lives, can actually stop true personal growth from occurring. In fact, achieving goals in therapy depends upon the child and parents working hard during the week practicing and flexing the mind and body muscle to move therapy forward. Attending therapy and being committed to change is more than just a way to solve problems and build skills, it becomes a place to create a new way of living. In the same way that we go to the gym and exercise or tone our body, therapy is like exercise for our mind, heart, and soul. Supporting children and teens change is more about helping them create cognitive flexibility, internal self-compassion and develop all the necessary mind skills needed to live a life of satisfaction, fulfilment, joy and connection. This is what we call planting the seeds. The seeds we show them and then teach them how to grow.
When you put a seed in the ground you expect a plant to grow. In fact, you not only expect it, you know it will grow with the right care and nurturing. As we grow up, we seem to forget that our minds and bodies are just like the seeds in nature and that our thoughts, perceptions and emotions are created. We must put in the time, effort and commitment to nurturing ourselves if we want to achieve the life we desire. This requires practice and a great coach supporting you along the way. This is what we help support at our clinic. We help teenagers, children and parents see the possibility for this desired life. We hold your hand along the way, help you grow the skills needed and develop the mindset that empowers you to actually live your life, rather than passively watch it from a distance.
It is understandable to get frustrated along the way, no matter what therapy you may be in, impatience is a universal challenge, especially when you are desperate for your child to feel better. Therapy takes so long to show results because it took years and decades to settle into these unhelpful patterns.
Here are our 3 tips on making the most of your therapy experience:
- Be open and honest. It is important to be open and honest throughout the process. A therapist job is not to judge you or your family. Trust me, we see it all, there is nothing different about you or your family. We are all humans and experience the same emotions and have the same behavioural responses. When you let go of your facade and surrender to the process this is when things really move forward.
- Don’t interrogate your child or hold therapy over their head. It can be tempting to use therapy as a place to air your child’s misbehaviours and use the threat of disclosing them to your child’s therapist in the heat of a fight to get them to comply. Unfortunately, these can set a child’s therapy back months! This creates mistrust and fear in going to therapy and will encourage your child to see their behaviour and emotions as bad and this will make them fearful of not being “good enough” in their therapy process. The therapy room is a safe haven, a place whereby your child is not judged or told off. It is a place they can be their authentic selves, good and bad. It is a place they can learn to feel strong in their vulnerability and feel like their therapist will care for them unconditionally no matter what they do. This is key to supporting change. In order for change to occur we must be vulnerable and take ownership for our life, behaviour and mindset. This is extremely hard and needs lots of trust and safety.
- Role-model rather than force your child to practice their skills! It is important to help support your child do the ‘work’ and practice their skills and new mindsets outside of therapy, without it becoming a choir or something they begin to resent. This is a tough ask. It is important to know pressuring your child to practice, complaining about the cost of therapy and generally getting frustrated with them when they don’t seem to be practicing will only further create shame and mistrust to the therapy process. Children are very sensitive and can easily feel like there is something wrong with who and how they are. When this occurs we get defensive behaviour, refusal, arguing, yelling etc… We want to keep therapy safe therefore practice will look different to typical practice. As parents you are always the role-model the best way to help your child practice their new skills is for you to practice the skills and then model this new behaviour to your child. Communicate regularly with your Psychologist and ask for tips on how you can implement these skills and role model them for your child. Another nice way to encourage practice is to help your child make meaning from their experience through journalling. This can be words, collages or pictures.