What should I tell my child about why they are seeing a therapist?
With young children, one of the first things I reassure them about is that although I am a type of doctor, I am not a medical doctor. There are no pills, or shots or poking around or anything that hurts. I explain I am a doctor who only works with kids because I like kids a lot. Some children who see me have had some rough things happen in their lives, while others may be having problems right now that are keeping them from being happy. My main goal is to help children be happier.
It is important to reassure your child that they are not in trouble and this is not a punishment for their behavior. Rather, you as the parent or guardian, are concerned about them, and see that they are not happy a lot of the time. Therefore, you found them someone who helps children feel better.
My child is very anxious. How can I help make this first meeting go well?
As I'm sure you've learned, anxious children do better when they know what to expect. You can show them my picture on this website, and I've included pictures of the building I'm in as well as pictures of my office, so they know what to expect to see. There is a video greeting on the "About Dr. Lott" page you can show them, so they will hear the sound of my voice. As far as what to expect in our first meeting, you will come into the waiting area and have a seat. You don't need to sign in. At the time of our appointment I will come out and greet you. You will have already met me for a separate interview so there will not be a need to leave your child alone in the waiting room. I will ask them to join me in my office, if they are too fearful you can walk them into my office to show them it is safe, and then you will return to the waiting area. On my first meeting with your child I am probably going to ask them a lot of questions about their lives, like: “Tell me about your mom,” “Tell me about your dad,” “Tell me about school” and so on. You can assure them that they can tell me as much or as little as they want. It is important for you to assure them they can tell Dr. Lott anything, and that he won't get upset or tell anyone else.
Will I be involved in my child’s treatment? How will I know what you are talking about?
You will definitely be involved in your child’s therapy. I have found that without parents’ full participation, little progress can be made. By “parents” I mean the significant adults the child is living with, (parent, step-parent, grandparent, etc.) If the parents are divorced, and both are involved in their child’s life, then I need to meet with both people. It is preferable if all three of us can meet together, but we can meet separately.
What I prefer to do is meet with the child for three individual sessions. For the fourth session, I meet with just the parents, while the child is at school, or with a sitter, and not anxiously sitting in the waiting room while we talk about them. When we meet, I will share my clinical observations of your child and you can share what you are observing at home. I want us to be “on the same page” regarding your child. We will discuss “parenting” and things you can try at home to improve your child’s emotional state/behavior.
Regarding your question about knowing what your child is telling me, I cannot disclose that information to anyone, because it is “confidential.” Your child must be able to trust me if they are going to be able to do any real work in therapy. I explain to each child that the only exceptions to confidentiality are if they are planning to seriously hurt themselves or someone else; and if they disclose any past or present physical or sexual abuse. I am required by law to report that to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Frequently Asked Questions