by: Cate Brandon, Psy.D., Kenneth A. DeLuca, Ph.D., & Associates, Inc.
Meeting a counselor for the first time can be intimidating for both parents and children. Knowing what to expect in a first session can help you and your child to feel more comfortable.
Often, your child’s counselor will want to meet separately with parents first, to gain a thorough background and reason for your visit. This allows the adults to talk openly, without making the child feel uncomfortable or embarrassed and giving the parent an opportunity to ensure the counselor will be a good fit for the family.
Typically, the child will meet independently with the counselor in their first session. Often toys, games or crafts are used to set your child at ease. Some of the session will be spent establishing a relationship, by talking about your child’s interests and activities, friends, family and school. Once the child appears comfortable, some of the concerns that initiated counseling can be discussed, and your child may learn some techniques to try at home. The counselor may meet briefly with parents at the end of the session to review these strategies.
One way to introduce the idea of counseling to your child is to describe the counselor as an emotions coach or teacher. These are labels that are more familiar to children and establish the counselor as a helpful adult who will teach them something new. Be specific about how the counselor may be helpful to your child (e.g. “She can help you learn to calm yourself down when you are upset” or “He can help you to feel less worry about going to school”). It is normal for your child (and you!) to feel anxious about a first visit, but your counselor will be well equipped to help everyone feel at ease.