Therapy of any kind requires a commitment of time, energy, finances, and emotion.
Most parents who seek out therapy for their children want to see positive results happen quickly and continue over time. After all, you sought out therapy to make things better!
When the therapy process feels like it’s not moving along quickly, or doesn’t appear to be improving symptoms or changing your family’s life for the better, it’s easy for frustration and ambivalence to set in. Even when working with excellent therapists, frustrations and plateaus can occur. When this happens, communication is critical to get things moving in a more positive direction again. Here are some helpful strategies to consider if you’re feeling like your child’s therapy isn’t moving fast enough or in a productive direction:
- Talk with the therapist about your frustrations – It may be difficult to broach the issue when you’re feeling less than thrilled with the therapy process. Most parents like their child’s therapist, and are worried about hurting his or her feelings. However, being open and honest about your frustration is important, so the therapist knows how you are feeling and can address your concerns. Try opening with something like, “We really enjoy working with you, and feel you understand our needs; but lately it seems like we just aren’t making as much progress.”
- Review expectations – As therapy progresses, it is important to review what it is you want to get out of the therapy process. Perhaps your goals or expectations have changed since you began. Taking time to discuss your expectations and desires with the therapist should occur regularly during the therapy process, especially when you are engaged in therapy over a lengthy period of time. Ask the therapist to help you set specific and reasonable goals, and determine reasonable time periods for achievement.
- Reflect on how things are different from when you started – Depending on the needs of your child, progress could be measured in inches or miles; and the pace of progress may vary along the way. Pausing to reflect on changes that have occurred, and the things that are better since you began, helps parents and therapist stay optimistic and see the rewards of their efforts. Reviewing positive changes should be a regularly scheduled part of the therapy process.
- Ask the therapist to provide information differently as needed – People have different learning and communication styles, and what works for one person may not be effective for another. For example: If you tend to understand written information better than hearing it, you may be frustrated when working with a therapist who tends to explain things verbally. Let the therapist know how you process information best, and ask for things to be communicated differently as needed.
- Take responsibility for lack of effort on your part – Therapy with children very often involves parents, and requires carry-over of strategies and interventions outside of therapy sessions. This means there is work for parents to do, and this can be a challenge for some families. If you’re feeling frustrated with a slow pace or lack of progress, take time to be honest with yourself about the efforts you are putting into the process. Be willing to accept responsibility for your own role in the degree of progress your child is making. Discuss your lack of involvement or follow-through with the therapist, and ask for help to become more consistent with what you are supposed to be doing outside of sessions. The therapist will appreciate your honesty, and therapy will move forward in a more productive way when everyone takes responsibility for their role.
When you’re feeling frustrated with the therapy process, or feeling like you aren’t making progress, open communication can help get things moving in a better direction. Discussing the emotions and issues involved will help you and the therapist, and lead to more productive sessions for everyone involved.