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This past year has been a lot of ups and downs with everything that life has thrown us. To say this has been easy is not the case. We have seen many changes take place within the world. For example, we all had to deal with Covid-19, virtual learning, working from home, emergence of telehealth, and being stuck in our homes with decreased supports and outlets. A question often discussed is, “When should I start counseling services for my child?”
When to Consider Counseling
Immediate Counseling Needs
There are multiple factors to take into consideration when determining if now is the appropriate time to begin counseling. Some situations that are appropriate would include: when risk/safety are a concern, substance abuse/misuse, and eating disorders. These types of situations would require a more immediate response.
Counseling Needs That Are Not Immediate
There are some situations that you can observe/wait to see if something longer term occurs. Some examples are transitioning to a new school/home, parental divorce, managing grief/loss, and a new sibling within the family. It can be common to have an adjustment period to the changes. However, if symptoms continue to occur it would be appropriate to begin counseling services to assist with mood management.
Consider counseling if behavioral concerns impact school performance and/or conflict within the family. When this happens, it may be beneficial to seek services to assist with compliance, time management, and impulse control. The same goes for anxiety/depression symptoms that limits their ability to do things that are appropriate for kids their age. Some examples of anxiety/depression symptoms to be aware of might include but not limited to the following:
- lack of motivation
- appetite/sleep issues
- increase in worrying
- increased isolation.
There are other concerns/issues that arise that may not be a counseling issue but you will want to address. Instances such as your child refusing to go onto virtual appointments/classes, not wanting to complete schoolwork/homework, and conflict within the home. Though these problems may be difficult, they may not need a service as intensive as therapy. Some supports within the school can assist with these issues. This may include talking with your child’s teacher about issues/concerns regarding homework, discussing with parent supports on strategies that works for them to manage virtual learning, and activities to do as a family to strengthen relationships at home. If the problems continue to be ongoing then it may be time to discuss it with a counselor.
Expectations from Therapy
Some of the expectations you want to discuss when beginning counseling services with your child begins with how appointments are set up, the frequency, duration, and involvement in treatment. Therapists can assist your child and family in a variety of ways through developing coping strategies to manage emotions, building communication skills to function better overall, learning how to slow down and take time completing chores/schoolwork, learning healthy ways to identify/express emotions, and how to problem solve. When you first meet with your counselor you should expect the following:
- discussing confidentiality and its limitations
- various releases for those participating in treatment
- obtaining a history of presenting problems and other information to better understand the presenting problem
- duration/frequency of appointments.
For children and adolescents, it is common to see weekly to biweekly appointments to further assist with skill development and management of skills. With a shorter time between appointments, it allows for the skills to be implemented and reinforced to promote long-term growth. It is also common for parents/caregivers to participate in counseling to provide prospective on behaviors/emotions, be able to reinforce skills at home, and to further assist family dynamics to further lengthen the success within counseling.
I hope this information is helpful in your search to determining if counseling would be beneficial and/or who to get into contact with regarding the issues. This is a way to further evaluate if counseling for your child/family is appropriate or if you need to explore other options. Every child/family face situations differently and there is no one answer that applies to everyone. If you ever feel uncertain if this is a time to begin counseling, please reach out to a therapist to consult appropriateness for services.
Mark Lesniewski, M.S., LPC is the owner of Forest Counseling LLC and has worked with children, adolescents, young adults, and families through his career and had assisted them through a lot of life's challenges. To learn more about his work and what he does, check out his website at www.forestcounseling.org.