The family’s role in the therapeutic process
Yes, you can rest a little easier now, and pat yourself on the back! You’ve gotten your child enrolled in therapy, and completed the first major hurdle to helping your child reach their full potential. However, some caregivers make the critical mistake of thinking that their portion of the process is done, and that the rest remains in the hands of therapist(s). This is not case, and research has documented that children who achieve the most therapeutic success have the support of their families during the therapy process. So the big question remains, ‘how do I support my child during therapy so they reach their highest potential as quickly as possible?’
Most therapists view the therapeutic process as a team effort, and the caregiver and therapists’ first role is to ensure that they can function as a cooperative team. Building rapport is critical and is done by making sure you, as the caregiver, have had all your questions and concerns answered, and are comfortable in the therapist’s knowledge base, treatment strategy, and interaction style. Make sure your therapist has reviewed all evaluation information and goals and that you understand and agree with the therapy plan of care because this is what you, your child and therapist will be working on for at least the next six months. It is important to make sure that you are comfortable asking your therapist questions and maintaining an open line of communication, as often, new information or techniques may be presented that you need to understand fully to achieve the best result.
Once therapy has begun, sit on the sessions to observe what treatment strategies the therapist uses. This will help you to correctly model the same strategies at home. At this point, it is important to mention that some caregivers may feel that their child may perform better if they are not present, which is perfectly fine, but always make sure to discuss what was done during therapy once the session has ended. The therapist should leave some “homework” or home activities to work on until the next therapy session. This “at-home” work is what enables clients to achieve the most success.
Most children are scheduled once or twice per week, which drastically limits the amount of therapeutic activities they receive. Since the therapy session is the only time the child engaged in therapeutic activities, it is necessary for caregivers and families to supplement what the child receives. Ideally, therapists want their patients engaged in some form of therapeutic activity DAILY! The more practice a child gets with a skill, the quicker the they will retain that skill. Small amounts of daily practice are more effective than a longer treatment session, less often. Consistency has proven to be the key in achieving maximum therapeutic success.
It is also important to make sure your therapist provides you with regular updates on your child’s progress. Knowing exactly how your child is doing on particular goals allows you to target what activities need to be worked on more than others. Likewise, inform your therapist of what you see happen with your child while they are not there. It is not uncommon for a child not to do something during a therapy session, but to do it once the therapist has left! Therapists love hearing these stories, and it allows them to document that intervention is successful.
And one of the most obvious ways to ensure a successful therapeutic process is to make sure your child attends therapy! Your therapist can’t help your child or teach you strategies for home if you are not present. And finally, the one of the most important aspects to achieving therapeutic success is maintain a positive attitude! Everyone has good and bad days understandably, but when your overriding personality and disposition is negative, it effects everything. It can affect the team dynamic, how effectively the therapist is able to interact with you, and most importantly, how your child views therapy, the therapist and themselves.
It is important to remember that therapy is a process that is best tackled using a team approach, and every member of the team has a role. As the caregiver, it is your role to make sure your child is present for therapy, maintain communication with the therapist, do all “homework”, and remain a positive and motivating factor in your child’s life. Utilizing these steps, partnered with the right therapist, will ensure that your child receives the most that they can out of therapy!