When your child receives psychological treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) or other issues, it is important to work collaboratively with the therapist or counselor to ensure the most effective treatment. More specifically, your therapist should be up to date on what is going on at home (i.e., how is homework completion going, are there serious instances of impulsive behavior occurring); you should communicate your needs (more assistance enforcing consequences, managing meltdowns) and your child’s needs; and you should try to be respectful of your clinician’s time/preference for methods of contact outside of the scheduled session time.
While this list is not all-inclusive of items that should be touched on between parents and mental health clinicians, it provides a general framework to improve communication:
- Keeping the provider up to date: The clinician needs to know what is going on at home and at school when working with a child or teen. Depending on the situation and the clinician’s style, he or she may want frequent updates from you at the beginning of the session, end of the session, as a message/email before the session, or in another manner. In other cases, clinicians may prefer to let the child/teen update them initially on what is going on, especially with older individuals, and then obtain collateral information from parents later on. Related to this, if a counselor gives specific strategies to use at home, it is extremely helpful for him or her to receive feedback on how they went. This feedback sheds light on what works and doesn’t, and can help guide future interventions.
- Communicating your needs: Parents typically know what they need from the counselor, but don’t always communicate and then get frustrated when they don’t receive it. If you need specific parenting strategies, or if you want books to read on a specific issue, help creating a behavior plan, or other assistance, reach out. Depending on what you need, it is possible the clinician may feel that it is beyond the scope or boundaries of the work being done, and might refer you to another individual who could better assist you. As an example, if a parent needs significant support related to individual issues, the parent may be better served by his or her own individual therapist rather than relying too heavily on the child’s therapist to address such issues.
- Communicating your child/teen’s needs: Many children and teens can’t voice exactly what they need assistance with. Thus, making sure your clinician is kept up to date on what your child/teen needs is important. While the larger issues are probably fairly self-explanatory and likely were discussed during the initial session, smaller items may emerge. For instance, if you’ve noticed that your child has become fearful of social situations, let the clinician know so that he or she can further examine the situation and help. Another example: if you’ve noticed that your child/teen has been having difficulties calming down at night to go to sleep.
- Communication with clinicians outside of sessions: As mentioned previously, it is important to discuss with your child’s clinician a mutually agreeable way to communicate information. Many clinicians do not use email, or do not use it, understandably, for clinical issues. Thus, you may need to leave a voicemail. It is also important to be mindful, when sending emails or leaving voicemails, that clinicians don’t always have the ability to respond right away. At busier times of the day, they may see several people back-to-back-to-back with limited breaks, and thus may take a few hours or longer to respond.
Effective communication with your child or teen’s therapist or counselor is key to a successful treatment outcome for ADHD and other issues. I hope these suggestions are helpful.
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