By the time most kids start therapy, they’ve already been through a lot and might be afraid to try something new. But you can help them prepare by reading this to them.
Therapy means getting help from someone outside of your family.
A therapist went to school to become the best at helping you be comfortable with your feelings. They are safe and mostly quiet. They listen and ask questions.
Therapy helps with serious stuff like:
- Abuse. This is when someone does something to you that is not your fault: hands that hurt, mean words, or inappropriate touches.
- Divorce. This is when your parents make the decision to love you and raise you from two different places.
- Bullying. This is when someone at school or in your neighborhood is bothering you every day and it is scary.
- Loss. This is what you feel when someone in your life is no longer there, like when someone dies. They are not on Earth anymore and you may be way too sad.
We all have big feelings sometimes, for lots of different reasons.
Your big feelings might be because of something big that happened to you, like abuse or being bullied.
Or you might not know why you are feeling the things you do — and that can be scary, too.
Some of the other big feelings you might be having are:
Feeling so angry
Like a furious lion, you just want to roar and rip things apart. This can happen when you are frustrated or mad.
Your fists might tighten up and you might feel like you want to break something or hurt someone else — or even yourself.
You might want to scream or say mean things. You might not even feel like you are in control. You are just so angry, you feel like you could explode.
Feeling so sad
Like a puppy who does not want to be left alone, you feel like crying out loud.
This can happen for lots of reasons. You might want to talk about them with your new therapist.
You might not even know why you are feeling so sad. You just woke up feeling that way and you cannot make it go away.
You might cry, sleep a lot, or think hard about the things that made you sad in the first place.
Your stomach might even hurt, because when we get so sad, our tummies can knot up and make us feel yucky from the inside.
Feeling so nervous
This is like what you might feel if you get lost in a crowd outside. You might feel worried and alone. You do not know who you can trust.
Being nervous can happen when you are anxious about something that is coming, like going to school and being apart from your parents or caregiver.
Or you can be anxious about something that already happened, like getting yelled at.
Just like being so sad, being so nervous can make us feel sick to our tummies and heads.
You might also feel like you cannot sleep because you cannot stop thinking about the thing you are so nervous about.
Feeling so scared
Like a bird squawking suddenly or tilting its head around back and forth, you might feel jumpy, jittery, and not safe at all.
Being so scared can make you want to hide in a cozy space and never come out.
We all are afraid sometimes, for all sorts of reasons.
You could even be so scared of something you know is not real. You are still afraid of it anyway, like monsters under your bed.
Being so scared can make it hard for you to do things you know you should, like going to school or playing with other kids.
Feeling so excited
Like a mouse scurrying all over the place, you have so much energy you cannot stop moving.
We all get so excited sometimes, about things like treats and adventures with friends.
But maybe you feel so excited all the time, and that can make it hard for you to sit still or pay attention.
You might feel like you are bouncing around and want to touch everything. Or maybe you have a hard time staying quiet, even when you should.
You might not understand why everyone does not feel as excited as you are.
Feeling so confused
Like a dog when it lifts its ears to the sky and just stares, you may not understand what is happening around you, or to you.
You might not really know what big feelings are blowing up like a balloon inside of you or how to explain them to other people.
Feeling so ready for therapy
Like going on your first ride at a county fair or amusement park, maybe you feel scared. But you could also feel hopeful. Therapy might feel good and bring you happiness.
And that is a good thing, because most of the time, it really can!
There are different kinds of therapy and different kinds of therapists.
What you do in therapy will depend a little bit on your therapist and what they think might help you most.
Because that is the most important thing, right?
Some of the things you might do include:
You and your therapist might play games together, where you pretend different things are happening.
This can be fun! It can also help you figure out some problems you might not know how to solve on your own.
Sometimes we all just need to talk it out.
Whatever you are going through, your therapist is a helpful person to talk with about what you are feeling and experiencing.
They will listen and remind you that your feelings matter. And they may even help you come up with answers to things bothering you.
Lots of kids have a hard time controlling themselves in certain situations, especially if they are feeling so sad or so angry.
Maybe you do something you know you should not do, just to get the anger out — but you also do not know how to stop yourself.
With a little practice, your therapist can help you get it out in a way that does not hurt yourself or anyone else — or get you in trouble.
When we get so nervous or so scared, our body can actually feel it. Your body might start to do all kinds of wild things.
You might start breathing really fast or feeling like you might throw up. This can be uncomfortable, especially on top of the things you were already feeling.
Biofeedback connects your mind to a computer. It can help you understand what is happening in your body when you are feeling a kind of way.
Learning what is happening in your body helps you control your reactions. It does not hurt at all — and it can be really cool to learn more about how your body behaves.
Maybe you are feeling something that other kids your age have, too.
Your therapist might suggest group therapy. This is when you can talk to other kids about how they handle the same things.
This can be a great way to make friends who understand what you are going through and be reminded you are not alone.
Sometimes your whole family needs help to learn how to get along better.
With family therapy, your whole family goes to therapy together. This could be in person or maybe over a video call on the computer. If you have brothers and sisters, they might even go, too.
Your therapist might have you play games together or talk with each other about things you are having a hard time with.
Family therapy will even help you figure out how to talk with each other in a nicer way when you are at home, too.
Parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT)
Sometimes your parent gets to go into therapy with you.
In PCIT, you get to play with them in a room while your therapist watches. This way, your therapist can help them learn how to talk and play with you better.
And you both get to have fun and learn a little more about each other in the process!
Parent management training (PMT)
Being a parent is hard, and sometimes parents do not know how to give you the care you need.
PMT helps them — and you — figure out how to work best together.
The person raising you will mostly do PMT with your therapist on their own.
But you might get to tag along sometimes to practice ways to better talk to and work with each other.
Positive parenting program (Triple P):
Triple P mostly involves your parents or caregivers working with a therapist to learn how to be better.
They have to do the work here, not you!
But you might get to join them every once in a while so the therapist can make sure they are learning the lessons they need and you are feeling heard and understood.
It is A-OK to be a little unsure about therapy before you start. You might have some of the same questions that lots of other kids have had about therapy. Here are a few of them:
Q: Will my parent be there?
A: Maybe. Sometimes parents are in therapy with you, and sometimes you get to go alone.
If you want your parent there (or if you do not), you can let your therapist know and they will talk with you to see if it is a good idea.
Q: Will my teacher know?
A: Sometimes teachers suggest that kids try therapy because they think it will help. But that is as much as they would know, so the answer is no.
Q: Will the person who hurt me know?
A: No. If you are going to therapy because someone hurt you, it is important for you to know that therapy is a safe place.
That person will not know anything you say there — or even that you are there at all.
Your therapist is there to protect and help you.
Q: Can I get in trouble in therapy?
A: No. You cannot get in trouble for anything you say in therapy.
Remember: Your therapist just wants to help you work through your big feelings.
They are not going to punish you or tell on you. You can trust your therapist.
Q: Do I have to go forever?
A: No. Some people continue therapy for a long time because they feel better when they have a therapist to talk to.
But most people do not have to go to therapy forever.
Your therapist is there to help you with some of the hard stuff going on inside.
When you both feel like you are calm and feeling powerful, you can stop going if you and your parents or caregiver decide.
Therapy can be an awesome way to explore your big feelings so that you can stop being so sad, or so angry, or so scared.
Lots of kids and adults go to therapy every day. Most of them are much better because they do.
You and your family will use teamwork to pick the right therapist for you, and you are allowed to have a say in that.
Maybe you want a therapist who looks similar to you — or even one who is completely different — or a therapist who likes Legos or being outside or pets.
You can tell your parents those things, and they can help to find a therapist you will feel comfortable with.
You can also tell your therapist what might make you feel more comfortable.
Your therapist is like a friend who just wants to help you.
It does not matter what you say, they will not stop wanting to help or like you any less.
When you are all done, we bet you will feel a whole lot better than when you started.