When working with children, it is easy to see the importance of involving parents. Parents need to bring their child to the session, provide information and context. They also understand the skills being taught so they they can support their child outside of the session, as well as reinforce effort and progress.
Adolescence however, is a unique developmental stage between childhood and adulthood. Young people need the space to experiment with new ideas and ways of being but they also need guidance and support. The role of parents in supporting, empathising, guiding and setting boundaries for adolescents is so important.
Parents also need to find a flexible balance between connectedness with their adolescent and while remaining an authority figure. Navigating these issues is hard for all involved. Parents and their children often need support to achieve this balance.
Unfortunately, not having parents involved is frequently counterproductive. Not understanding what is going on for their adolescent and how to best support them can make parents anxious and lead to actions that unintentionally worsen the situation. Young people can also become isolated from their “real world” support group which then leads to therapists and GPs becoming overly responsible for solving the young person’s issues.
The benefits of involving parents in psychological therapy:
• Change and improvements occur more quickly
• Parents have greater appreciation and understanding of their child’s difficulties
• Increases parents’ confidence and agency
• Improves child/parent relationship
• Changes can occur even if the young person does not want to engage
The extent to which parents are involved is fluid and individual to each client and family. Parents can be involved whilst the therapy process continues to provide a confidential, safe space for a young person.
Types of ways psychologist’s will involve parents include:
• The assessment phase, and then intermittently throughout treatment
• Beginning and end of each session
• Parents being involved throughout each session either as an observer or active participant
• Separate parent sessions
Often being the first port of call when issues arise, general practitioners are in a unique position, to help foster a parent inclusive attitude to child and adolescent treatment. When completing Mental Health Care Plans and associated reviews for children and adolescents it would be very helpful to involve parents, and encourage them to be active participants in their child’s treatment process