Why include the parents when working with kids in therapy

As a child and family therapist in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona, I often receive calls from parents who are seeking professional help because of a concern they have with one of their children.  The first step I take is to set up an appointment with the parents to gather more information about what is going on in the family and to come up with a plan that can help that child.

As I get to know the parents and how the family interacts with one another, I often let the parents know that my ability to create lasting change in their child is limited, but the parent’s ability endless.  One of the reasons of this is because those pivotal moments in a child’s life often come when the child is in the moment of crisis and under stress.  It is in those moments that, depending upon what parents do and the parent’s own ability to be mindful and regulate their emotions, parents can either draw their children in closer to them or push them farther from them.

Therefore, rather than setting up therapy were the focus is on working with the child for an hour a week, I teach parents how to become therapeutic to their own children so that they can become the therapeutic tool to help their child with whatever is going on inside that child.

It is the parents who have a greater ability to affect long term change in their children.  And as parents demonstrate the courage necessary to look into themselves and become mindful of their own emotions and their part in the parent-child dance that occurs between them and their children each day, parents can create an environment of healing and change for their child.  So rather than the therapist standing between the parent and the child, the therapist stands beside the parent and coaches the parent through the process of creating a healing environment for change for their child.


By Shiloh Lundahl, LCSW

Child and Family Therapist