I’m concerned my child might be in danger. Will counseling help to assess my child’s safety?
Many parents seek out counseling following their separation from the child’s other parent because they are afraid that their child is in danger during visits and time spent with the other parent. If this is the case, counseling is not the appropriate choice. Counseling is focused on helping the child to process their experiences and adjust in a way that is healthy and appropriate for their age and abilities. Counseling is not intended to identify child abuse and neglect.
If the main reason you are seeking counseling for your child is to assess whether your child is in danger or has experienced abuse or neglect, a forensic evaluation is the more appropriate choice. You can learn more about forensic evaluations by contacting Sanford Child’s Voice or by contacting Child Protection Services to report concerns related to abuse and neglect. The number for the Sioux Falls area is 1-877-244-0864.
I’m looking into counseling for my child because of my separation divorce. Is counseling the right step to help my child?
The process of parents’ separation and divorce can lead a child to experience some challenges. In many cases, counseling can be a great fit to help the child with their adjustment to their new arrangement and to learn healthy ways of responding to the changes. In some situations, however, counseling may not be the best choice and in some cases it may actually create more challenges for the child.
If you are seeking out counseling for your child because of your separation or divorce, this page [link to Adjustment to Separation/Divorce page] will help you to decide if starting counseling for your child is an appropriate next step.
How often do we have sessions?
Generally speaking, sessions take place once per week, and then transition to every other week and maybe even once per month as progress is made.
There may be times when counseling takes place more often than once per week, due to the severity of the problem, but this is discussed with the client on a case by case basis.
For younger kids under the age of 5, it may be necessary to meet more frequently to help the young child to feel comfortable with me.
I’ve never talked to anyone. I’m used to handling things on my own. Aren’t people who go to therapy weak?
Not at all. People who ask for help know when they need it and have the ability to reach out. Everyone needs help now and then. You already have some strengths that you’ve used before, that for whatever reason isn’t working right now. Perhaps this problem feels overwhelming and is making it difficult to access your past strengths. In our work together, I’ll help you identify what those strengths are and how to implement them again in what is happening now.
If I just wait a few years, won’t my child just grow out of this problem?
I often hear stories from parents of kids who have just entered kindergarten and they are coming to counseling for the first time because of their child’s classroom behavior. The child’s parents knew that there were concerns from an early age, but many well-meaning people told them that their child would “grow out of it” and to not be concerned because it’s “just a phase” or the child was just acting like children are supposed to act.
While some children do go through challenging phases that don’t require therapy, most children who have concerning behavior at an early age have those same behavior concerns—only intensified—by the time they reach kindergarten.
If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, it’s best to look into counseling to resolve the issues now instead of hoping that they will “grow out of it,” because so much valuable time can be wasted during the waiting phase. The cost of counseling for a young child is significantly lower when it is addressed early, compared to the cost of counseling later, when the behaviors have become more intense and solidified into the child’s way of living.
Does seeking out counseling for my child mean that I’m a bad parent?
Children have emotional and behavioral difficulties for a variety of reasons, sometimes related to parenting deficits, but often related to personality characteristics and life experiences. Society is quick to judge parents for everything that their child says and does, which may make you wary of asking for help for your child’s behaviors.
Seeking out counseling for your child does not mean that you’ve failed as a parent, or that you’ve caused your child to have these behaviors in some way.
But, while your child’s behaviors are not your fault, there are still plenty of things that you can do as their parent to help support and guide them through those emotional and behavioral difficulties, which is why counseling will include a parenting component to help you to help your child to achieve their emotional and behavioral goals.
Do you sit at home at night judging the choices I’ve made in my life?
I get this question more often than I would have expected prior to becoming a counselor!
Life is hard and there are so many choices that we all have to make on a daily basis. Sometimes we make choices that we regret, and we may let those choices eat away at us. You may worry that if you tell me about something you’ve done, said, or even thought about relating to your friendships, career, marriage or even to your children, that I will sit at home and judge the choices you’ve made.
I do not do this—ever—and I want you to know that you are the hardest critic on yourself. I’m not here to judge and ridicule, I’m here to help you to move past the guilt you feel for your choices and to help you to make choices that you feel great about.
What’s the difference between talking to you or my best friend or family?
The difference is between someone who can do something, and someone who has the training and experience to do that same thing professionally. A mental health professional can help you approach your situation in a new way– teach you new skills, gain different perspectives, listen to you without judgment or expectations, and help you listen to yourself. Furthermore, therapy is completely confidential. You won’t have to worry about others “knowing my business.” Lastly, if your situation provokes a great deal of negative emotion, if you’ve been confiding in a friend or family member, there is the risk that once you are feeling better you could start avoiding that person so you aren’t reminded of this difficult time in your life.
Why shouldn’t I just take medication?
Medication alone cannot solve all issues. What medication does is treat the symptoms. Our work together is designed to explore the root of the issue, dig deep into your behavior and teach strategies that can help you accomplish your personal and/or relational goals.
Medication can be effective and is sometimes needed in conjunction with therapy.
How does it work? What do I have to do in sessions?
Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual. I tailor my therapeutic approach to your specific needs.
How long will it take?
Unfortunately, this is not possible to say in a general FAQs page. Everyone’s circumstances are unique to them and the length of time therapy can take to allow you to accomplish your goals depends on your desire for personal development, your commitment, and the factors that are driving you to seek therapy in the first place.
I want to get the most out of therapy. What can I do to help?
I am so glad you are dedicated to getting the most out of your sessions. Your active participation and dedication is crucial to your success. After all, we only see each other for a session a week. It’s the work you do outside of our sessions that will really help you see your personal growth and development.
My partner and I are having problems. Should we be in individual counseling or come together?
If you are concerned about your relationship, and you would both like to work with me, I would initially work with both of you together. After this work, if one of you would like to continue in individual sessions, I could work with only one of you. It is not helpful to move from individual into couple’s work with the same therapist because of potential trust issues.
Does Coming to Counseling Mean I’m a Bad Parent?
If you’re worried that bringing your child to counseling makes you a bad parent, don’t be. You’re a good parent, and your child just needs a little extra help learning the skills that will help them to make better choices and know how to cope with challenges better. I’ll help you both to make sure that happens.
Will Coming to Counseling Make My Kid Feel Bad?
If you’re worried about the stigma of counseling for your child, don’t be. Your child will have a blast and you’ll feel welcomed and supported while we work together to find playful ways to solve your child’s most challenging problems. You won’t leave my office feeling like you were in counseling; you’ll leave feeling like you just had coffee with a great friend.
Is My Child Old Enough for Counseling?
If you’re worried that your child is too young for counseling, don’t be. Play therapy is a research-based approach that helps young children to develop skills to improve their behaviors and learn new ways of coping with challenges. Behaviors tend to worsen over time without intervention, yet parents and even some professionals believe that they should just wait until the elementary school years because things will work themselves out. Problems rarely work themselves out without intervention and it’s a much better idea to bring your child in now, before the behaviors become even more severe.
When Is It a Good Time to Seek Counseling for My Kid?
If you’re worried about your child’s behaviors and you’ve started looking at counseling, it’s time. All children can benefit from play therapy, even kids who are showing very developmentally appropriate behaviors. Play therapy helps to accelerate the child’s development of appropriate social and emotional skills, such as understanding and managing emotions, dealing with challenges and frustrations, solving problems, interacting socially, and many other skills.
If your child is experiencing any of the challenges described below, I would suggest that you call me to get an appointment set up so that we can start working together to help your child to overcome these challenge and return to a more enjoyable childhood (for both of you!).
Encompass Mental Health provides counseling to children and their families in the forms of individual play therapy, sibling play therapy, family play therapy, family therapy, and even parenting therapy or parent coaching to improve the parents’ ability to help their children through whatever struggles they are facing.