Placing the child and young person in the therapeutic frame

Preparing the child and young person for the assessment process

At the end of the first session and meeting with the parents or parent, the scene is set to invite the child or young person into the assessment process. Time needs to be given to advise the parents on how to prepare their child and what to say. Parents are encouraged to be completely truthful about the problem and their concerns, and to be truthful about who the therapist is and what their focus will be. How parents listen to this preparation or not, and what they make of it when they inform their child of the appointment, provides helpful data about how the family communicates. For young children it is advised that parents do not tell their child that they are going to see ‘a lady with toys’ or ‘a friend’ as even young children demonstrate an immediate grasp of what is at stake. In some cases, the complete lack of preparation of the child, or merely informing them in the car on the way to the session, gives us important information about the parents’ ambivalence and also reflects a level of unconscious aggression towards the child, which needs to be noted. We may speculate for example, that a parent who has survived a cruel and uncaring childhood may feel impelled to repeat something similar with their own child, in not preparing them properly for the session.

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