As a child and family therapist in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona, I often receive calls from parents who are seeking professional help because of a concern they have with one of their children. The first step I take is to set up an appointment with the parents to gather more information about what is going on in the family and to come up with a plan that can help that child.
As I get to know the parents and how the family interacts with one another, I often let the parents know that my ability to create lasting change in their child is limited, but the parent’s ability endless. One reason is because those pivotal moments in a child’s life often come when the child is in a moment of crisis and under stress. It is in those moments that, depending upon what parents do and the parent’s own ability to be mindful and regulate their own emotions, parents can either draw their children in closer to them or push their children farther from them.
Therefore, rather than setting up therapy where the focus is on the therapist working with the child for an hour a week, it can be much more effective to set up therapy to include teaching parents how to react to their own children in those pivotal moments so that the parents can become therapeutic tools to help their child.
The parents have a greater ability to affect long term change in their children. They do so by demonstrating the courage necessary to look into themselves, and by become mindful of their own emotions and their part in the parent-child dance that occurs between them and their children each day. In this way, parents can create an environment of healing and change for their child.
So rather than the therapist standing between the parent and the child, the therapist should be positioned beside the parent, coaching the parent through the process of creating a healing environment of change for their child.
Shiloh Lundahl, LCSW, is a child and family therapist in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona. He is the founder of Parent Arizona and Counseling Services and is part of the Arizona Family Institute.
He provides parenting classes using the Love and Logic curriculum, classes for parents of children with ADHD, step-parenting classes, and advanced trainings for foster and adoptive parents. He also provides in-home therapy in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Chandler, and Tempe, Arizona.