How Often should a Child see a Therapist?
If you and your child have made the decision for them to start therapy, you have made a great step towards a healthy mental state for them. But since every child is different, you may be having trouble determining the best schedule for their therapy sessions. Generally, therapy requires regular attendance in order to see results, but “regular” is sometimes too broad of a term. In order for children to begin seeing real positive results from their therapy, there are some golden rules to keep in mind – read them below.
Therapy sessions should be scheduled on a regular basis
Children of all ages need more time than adults to process new ideas and turn them into action, which means that a predictable and repetitive therapy schedule is exactly what they need. Part of what makes therapy work well for children is that it happens on a regular basis at pretty much the same time and place every week. Simply knowing that their therapist will be there to talk about their feelings at the same time every week can help a child feel confident about their therapy process. It also helps to build trust between the therapist and their client and can help reduce anxious feelings about the overarching therapy process.
The key to therapy is to remember that positive effects don’t happen all at the same time – they appear gradually over time. With each session, a little piece is added until a solid foundation is built. For this reason, it can be difficult for children who only attend semi-regularly to see real progress. Not only does more time need to be spent on ‘catch-up’, but there may be a lack of trust between the child and someone they only see once in a while.
Younger children may need more frequent therapy sessions
Since younger children (mainly preschool to young elementary school age) can’t retain information over long periods in the same way as older children, it may be necessary for younger clients to see their therapist more frequently. This way, repetition will help them remember their sessions better and be able to practice the strategies provided by the therapist. More frequent appointments are also great for children who have separation anxiety away from their parents, as it gives them more opportunities to practice being away and getting comfortable in the therapist’s office. Depending on your child’s individual situation, they may or may not need to have more appointments scheduled – this is a great question to discuss with your child’s therapist.
Some older children may be able to have less frequent sessions
Conversely, some older children and teens over 12 years of age may start to schedule sessions every two weeks rather than weekly. Once a child becomes a teenager, they are more able to retain information and practice skills independently. Many kids in middle and high school also have jam-packed schedules full of extracurriculars and homework, so it can be more stressful to schedule regular Toronto child therapy sessions. In these cases, scheduling sessions every other week is a good compromise. That being said – children and teens with severe anxiety and depression should not compromise their wellbeing for the sake of other commitments!
Having more frequent sessions may mean fewer overall sessions
Many therapists agree that their clients who continually show up on a regular basis often need fewer sessions overall than those who schedule sessions less frequently. Since frequent attendance gives the opportunity to lay a great foundation of coping mechanisms and positive effects, many children are able to build this foundation quickly with regular sessions.
For many parents, financial concerns are a barrier to scheduling weekly sessions. While this is completely fair, it is good to note that you may be spending more money in the long run if you opt for less frequent appointments.
Weekly sessions are a good place to start
For most children, the most commonly recommended starting place is to schedule sessions once a week. Many experts recommend weekly sessions as it sets the expectation that one to two hours per week will be set aside for self-care. Framing the sessions in this way helps your child look forward to their sessions and plan ahead for them, just as they would any other activity such as music lessons or sports. A week is also a perfect amount of time for kids to practice the strategies given to them by their therapist without forgetting what they talked about in their previous session.
In some situations, your child’s therapist may recommend scheduling sessions twice or three times a week. This is often a short-term plan that will help the child through a difficult time by building up their coping skills until they can function well enough to see their therapist less often. This is most common with children who:
- Have experienced a trauma or loss, such as a recent death of a family member
- Have experienced serious suicidal thoughts, or have made a suicide attempt
- Have troubles with severe anxiety or depression disorders that prevent them from functioning in their day to day life
- Have just completed more intensive therapy, and are now ready to slowly transition into weekly sessions
Now that you have a better idea of how often your child should be going to therapy, it’s time to think about what’s next for your family. If you’d like to chat with a professional who can help your child deal with their anxiety or depression, contact our team to get started.
You can find more information on https://www.behaviourmatters.ca/child-therapy.