Preparing for your child’s first in-home therapy session is more than about keeping your home pristine. Parents often have questions about the expectations for their first treatment. They also need to know how they can introduce therapy to their child and how much their involvement will be in the treatment.
Your child is also likely to have their own set of concerns. Your concerns may be the same as your child’s, yet they could also be different. While welcoming a therapist into your home may feel daunting, you have various ways to prepare for the first session.
Ensure you and your child are comfortable following these general guidelines.
Know What to Expect During Treatment
Your child’s first in-home treatment can look significantly different from someone else’s. Some children may connect to their counselor and the therapy immediately. Other children may be more cautious and want to ensure their safety before opening up to a therapist.
Whether your child has an unpleasant reaction, it’s helpful to remember that this is your child’s way of communicating their internal emotions. Therefore, tentative responses must be tolerated, responded to empathically, understood and valued.
Once you and the therapist bear their reactions respectfully, your child can begin to build their capacity to regulate their emotions. Then, the real work of therapy can begin.
Even if you witness a setback, keeping this in mind will help you maintain courage and hope throughout your child’s sessions.
Create a Designated Space for Therapy
Provide a clean and organized space that allows the therapist to work safely with your child. Many therapists will arrive with a therapeutic game or activity requiring a clean workspace. For younger children, the floor may be an adequate working area, especially for an Applied Behavioral Analysis.
These trials often require verbal responses and your child may be more comfortable working on the floor.
Whether you choose to work in the living room or play area, ensure it is mess-free by clearing it of toys, laundry and garbage. That way, the therapist has room to work with your child and makes the most out of treatment.
Discuss Who Should Be in the Room
For your first in-home session, you should find out who needs to be present by having a discussion with the therapist. First-time in-home sessions involve completing paperwork and discussing your child’s symptoms, developmental history and treatment goals.
The treatment goals you and your child’s therapist define will determine who should be present during future sessions. For instance, if the goal is to improve social skills and sibling relationships, it might be necessary to have the child’s sibling present. Likewise, if the treatment goal involves trying new parent strategies, you will likely have to attend each session.
On the other hand, the therapist may address your child’s needs through individual counseling or occasional family sessions. Once this is determined, you must ensure you have adequate seating arrangements.
If the therapist sees your child individually, you should also discuss the expectations of your involvement.
Introduce the New Situation to Your Child
Depending on your child, they may be wary of their first in-home therapy session. Often, children may feel anxious or view therapy as a punishment for their behavior. It helps if you introduce the treatment in the form of your child’s perspective.
For example, suppose your child is struggling socially. In that case, it may be more helpful to empathize with their feeling of loneliness — and that you’d like to find a way to help with that feeling.
Another way of introducing your child to something new is to develop a story. Children love stories and you can inform your child about all the fun activities they are going to learn. Then, you can tell them who they will meet and what to expect during these sessions.
Create a Space Free of Distractions
Unless you have everyone in your home involved in the treatments, the therapy sessions should be held privately. This is especially helpful if it’s during a talk therapy session. You want your child to feel like they can talk freely without interruption.
Achieving this might be difficult if you live in a smaller residence and have other children living inside the home. Consider scheduling different activities for other family members during your child’s therapy session. Or, you could place a fan near the door to reduce noise from different areas of the home.
If you keep a pet inside your home, you must safely contain them. Pets can be a distraction during a time of learning and reflection. The only exception may be if your child has a therapy-trained animal.
Learn As You Go
Be sure to ask your child’s therapist questions about what to expect during their first visit to your home. While your home doesn’t have to look perfect, it’s crucial to maintain an area that works well for their sessions.
Of course, it may take time to learn which area works best for your child and their counselor. As always, you can adapt accordingly and learn from your experience as you go along.