A Guide to Understanding Therapy For
When should your child go to therapy or
Everyone has trouble at some point in life. No one escapes problems. Your
child/teen might be experiencing a situation he/she cannot solve on his/her own. You might have had something
happen to you, and/or your family may have had to deal with a crisis.
As a parent, you are also learning daily how to nurture and provide for
your child. You have to make more complicated choices, defend your choices with your children and other family
members, and learn to work through difficult relationship problems. There are many reasons for problems and it is
sometimes difficult to deal with your child's problems on your own. At times like these, therapy might be helpful.
It might help you and your child/teen work through some of the situations both of you are facing. It may also help
you and your child/teen learn the skills to help you both face future problems.
Oh, yes, there will always be problems but together you and your teen/child
can learn to become very good problem solvers.
Below are a few questions you can ask your
child to help you gain some idea if therapy may be needed:
Has your child or teen felt sad, frustrated, and/or lonely for
more than two weeks?
Has your child or teen felt angry, annoyed and/or restless for
more than two weeks?
Has your child or teen noticed changes in his/her sleep or
eating patterns? (i.e. eating less or eating more, sleeping less or sleeping
Has your child or teen experienced a major problem or event at
home, at school, or in your community?
Is your child or teen having trouble talking about
difficult thoughts and feelings with you, your family or friends?
Are these difficult thoughts and feelings affecting his or her schoolwork,
and/or relationships with family or friends?
Are these difficult thoughts and feelings affecting how your child or
teen thinks about himself/herself?
If your child has answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then it might help to
talk with a therapist or counsellor.
What is a Therapist or Counsellor?
One of the questions I hear a lot is “What exactly is a therapist?”
There are many types of therapists or professionals who work with teens and/or
Psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.) who has graduated from medical school with extra training in psychiatry.
A psychiatrist in New Brunswick sees teens when medication is needed to help solve their problems. Such
medications, for example, help teens deal with depression, anxiety, attention, aggression, and/or mood changes.
Sometimes teens need more than just therapy to solve their problems. A child and adolescent psychiatrist works
with you, your family, and your therapist to assist you in dealing with the problems you are solving.
Psychologist is an individual who has graduated from university and graduate school with a master’s degree or
doctorate in psychology and are licensed to practice. He/she will have “L. Psych. or Licensed Psychologist”
after his/her name. A psychologist is well trained to provide therapy and, if required, qualified to give
special testing to understand certain problems.
Worker is an individual who has graduated from university and graduate school with a bachelor’s degree or
master’s degree in social work and are registered to practice. He/she will have “MSW or Registered Social
Worker” after his/her name. A social worker provides counselling.
often have a degree or graduate degree and it can be from many different fields. Many counsellors belong to the
Canadian Counselling Association or the CCA. There is no legislative body in New Brunswick who governs
counsellors so it is best to ask the individual counsellor about his/her education and experience.
What type of
questions should you ask a therapist before you decide ‘who’ to see?
Your child or teen has a problem seem so he or she should see a therapist with whom
all of you feel comfortable. Before committing to a therapist, do not hesitate to ask the therapist a few
questions such as:
Do you feel comfortable treating the problems I am
What is your experience in treating these
What is your therapeutic
How does your approach
What kind of outcome can I
It is important to ask these questions since it is very normal to feel a bit
uncomfortable in the first few sessions. You need to know that any sense of anxiety, nervousness, and/or
self-consciousness is a result of starting therapy and not the therapist you have chosen. These feelings will
decrease and you will become more relaxed as you work with your therapist.
Therapy is a safe place for you talk about the problems you are having and learn to
solve them. Your therapist will listen, observe, ask questions, teach skills, and help you decide how you can
solve your problems. Your therapist will not judge you and will not look down on you. You and your therapist
will build a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Like in any good relationship, there will be times you
agree and do not agree with your therapist. There will be times you will not like what your therapist says. You
may not even like your therapist during these periods. These ups and downs in therapy are very normal. Your
therapist is not involved in your problem to agree with you but to help you solve your problem.
What does therapy look like for your child?
1. Your therapist will welcome you and your child to your first session. During the first session,
your therapist will talk with your child, explain confidentiality and its limits and he/she will ask
questions and collect any required forms. Therapy sessions usually last 50 to 60 minutes. It is important for
you as a parent, a family member, or guardian to be with your child as he/she begins therapy. Many unsolved
problems involve family. It is important to provide a lot of support to you during your child's time in
2. In the beginning, your therapist will ask lots of questions so he or
she can understand the problems he/she is trying to solve. During this stage of therapy, your therapist may
or may not give you some psychological assessments to fill out. These assessments may be needed to help you
and your therapist understand the problems you are experiencing.
3. Your therapist will talk with your child about what he or she thinks is wrong, what approach may be
taken to work on the problems, and will decide if any other family members or friends need to be included in
the therapy session.
4. One very important step in therapy is goal setting. Your therapist will work with you and your
child to create your goals for therapy and help you to visualize what your life will look like when he/she
has reached those goals. Examples of goals may be, “feel happier about going to school,” “feel more
comfortable in social situations,” “feel more confident in talking to family,” or “going to more school
outings and feeling comfortable.”
5. In the therapy session your child will talk about his/her problem, learn skills to solve the
problem, and decide what he/she will work on in the coming week or two. Your child will also review the goals
as he/she continues to work in your sessions to see if you are moving closer to reaching them.
Remember, solving problems takes time.
How Long Will
Usually, your child will see the therapist once a week for the first few sessions.
As your child starts to reach his goals, the time between his sessions will become longer. When he reaches his
goals, it will be time to stop therapy and try his skills on his own. In most situations, therapy is not
forever. Talk with your therapist to decide on the number of sessions. In certain situations, some problems need
a specific length of time and in other situations, it will depend on how quickly you are able to reach your
How Can I Find
There are many individuals who can help you find a therapist. Speak with your
parents, guardian, doctor, nurse practitioner, guidance teacher, coach, youth leader, or pastor. They can help
you with a referral and begin the process.
Payment and Insurance Considerations
If you are using private health insurance find out what professionals are covered and if you will need a prescription from your family doctor
before you begin. Some private health plans do require a prescription and some do not. It is best to check. You
will also want to determine the amount of your coverage. Some plans cover a specific amount of sessions while some
will reimburse up to a certain amount of money.
If you are using an EAP (Employment Assistance
Program) you will want to check to see how many sessions are covered,
are they just solution focused, or will they support your child/teen if another type of therapy (e.g.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy) is required to address the issues. Quite often EAPs will provide you with a list
of professionals or make the call to a professional whom they cover.
Keep in mind that all fees associated with accessing therapy with a
psychologist are income tax deduct able. Click here to learn how to receive this tax credit.
You must remember that you do have
If you would like a certain professional like a psychologist or social
worker, then be specific. If you have a name of a professional you would like your child/teen to see, advocate for
this professional. You need to remember this is your choice and it is for your most precious gift: Your
If you have read this guide and you feel like you need help with your problem
please do not hesitate to ask for help.
You can email Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org or call
If you feel that your problem is an emergency
please proceed to your local emergency department immediately.