Home Health Navigating Obstacles: Challenges Faced by Parents in Initiating Therapy for Children

Navigating Obstacles: Challenges Faced by Parents in Initiating Therapy for Children

Children with depression

This article aims to inform and support parents who are planning to commence therapy services for their children. The author aspires to bring attention to the challenges parents face in relation to their child’s therapy and dispel myths surrounding the therapy process.

Myth #1 : Therapy yields instant results


Often parents initiate therapy hoping for immediate results, underestimating the complexities involved in the process. Therapy encompasses multiple stages, starting with assessment and diagnosis, followed by treatment planning, progression toward treatment goals, and ultimately concluding with termination. The therapeutic relationship between the child and the therapist is crucial to the process and rushing to achieve this goal could jeopardize the process of building and maintaining trust. Addressing emotional and behavioral challenges experienced by a child is a complex process and any kind of change is not possible overnight. The therapist collaborates with the child and the other stakeholders like parents, caregivers, teachers and psychiatrists to initiate a gradual cycle of change that unfolds across several sessions, spanning months and sometimes years. 


Myth #2: The therapist is solely responsible for initiating change


Many parents initiate therapy with the perspective that the responsibility for instigating change in their child’s behaviors solely lies with the therapist. While the therapist serves as the guiding force in the process, success in treatment relies on the collaborative efforts by the therapist, the child and the parents. A proficient and experienced therapist collaborates with the parents and the child during the treatment planning process to determine the treatment goals, so that every party involved is engaged and committed to change. The child spends an hour every week in therapy sessions; however they spend much more time with their parents. Therefore, the parents play a crucial role in initiating change. The therapist provides psychoeducation, parental training, recommendations, support and explanations of interventions. The parents are responsible for complying and incorporating the recommendations provided by the therapist. Parents’ inability to take accountability and attributing the lack of progress to the therapist could lead to a breakdown in trust and hurt the therapeutic relationship, impacting the treatment’s success.  


Myth #3: In order for things to get better, the child is the only one that needs to change


Children are frequently brought into a therapy office being told that their behaviors need to change, which can cause feelings of shame and guilt. Parents place the responsibility of change on the child without acknowledging changes they need to make themselves. Children are shaped by their environment which is predominantly influenced by their parents and caregivers. Multiple factors including family dynamics or familial systems and behavior patterns can cause a child to struggle emotionally or have behavioral concerns.  

Parents lacking awareness of their unhelpful and hurtful behaviors, combined with a reluctance to modify their behavior, can hinder the therapeutic process and delay any potential for change. The therapist assists the child and their family in identifying and observing systemic factors contributing to the child’s difficulties, and replacing them with newly learned more positive behaviors and responses. Oftentime, this work requires sessions with parents, or with the parents and child together. Parents may even be asked to explore their own histories, and ways in which it is influencing their parenting style, in a way that may be interfering with their relationship with their child.


Myth #4: Therapy will “fix” my child


Therapy can be mistaken as a magical solution that eliminates all the emotional and behavioral struggles of the child. Therapy is not an immediate and effortless fix and requires patience from all the stakeholders. Therapy provides insight, reduces symptomatology, improves daily functioning and one’s quality of life. However, the process takes time, patience, commitment and engagement. Children acquire valuable skills in therapy that enable them to effectively communicate their needs and express their emotions in constructive ways. In therapy, they process challenging experiences and learn strategies to cope with life stressors and traumatic events. Therapists provide safe spaces for children to be their authentic selves and express their unresolved issues through talk and play therapy. This safe space encourages and enables them to work through their unresolved issues and learn skills that enhance their overall well-being. 


Author’s Bio- 

Urbi Nag, LCPC, is a clinical therapist who provides trauma focused therapy to clients across all ages. She specializes in play therapy to address issues related to divorce, trauma, grief and loss, anxiety, depression, addiction, and body-image.

Urbi has worked for 16 years at various mental health settings like community mental health centers, high schools, private practice organizations, rehabilitation centers and special education schools. Urbi has earned her master’s degree at Women’s Christian College, India. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Mount Carmel College, India.