Author: Rachel Jones, LMFT
Parents are an integral part of treatment. Since the time in the therapy room is brief, it is vital to the healing process to carry over what was learned from the session and applied at home. When working with children and adolescents, parents are encouraged to be active in treatment. This is called systemic therapy, an approach that works within relationships to foster change.
The focus is not only on the behavioral outcome desired, but also on the process to achieve the outcome. For example, a child may learn that he can’t kick when he doesn’t get what he wants because the parent threatened a feared consequence. The child may end up behaving well externally by controlling his actions, but internally did not learn new coping skills to deal with those challenging feelings and it may only be a matter of time before he acts out again. Focusing on the parent-child relationship provides the child opportunities to learn that he is not alone when it comes to figuring out how to manage challenging feelings, but he also learns to trust his caregiver to help him with difficulties. The parent now serves as an emotion coach for the child and not only do the behaviors improve, but the relationship stays intact.
This systemic approach not only equips the child, but also empowers the parent, leading to the overall health of the family.