1.) Plan to do or buy something special and small after the appointment (pairing a high and low frequency behavior—Premack Principle!).
2.) Reassure the child that this doctor just talks and plays games (no shots, medicine, tongue depressors, etc.).
3.) Tell the child that their parent can stay with them with the doctor in case they’re afraid of being alone with a stranger.
4.) Reassure the child that they do not have discuss anything they don’t want to discuss.
5.) Let the child bring one or two favorite objects (toys, stuffed animals, arts & crafts, etc.) to the first sessions for security and to act as transitional objects to help them separate from their parents and see the doctor at some point.
6.) Tell kids to “try it once” and see how it goes, no pressure
7.) Describe that they, themselves, once got help from a mental health professional
8.) Reinforce kids by taking them to lunch, dinner, IHOP, Fridays after each session
9.) “Demystify” Psychologist by describing what a typical session is like (example, just talking and helping express feelings, good ideas to feel better, etc.)
10.) Tell kids it’s a place to talk about things that they can’t tell parents, teachers, etc.
11.) Reassure kids that our therapists are “cool” and have modern stuff like WII and games
12.) Associate therapy with being smart, mature and making a good decision
13.) Let them know that they can use the time however they like to talk or not talk about whatever they choose, privately
14.) NEVER lie, be honest about why you want them to go, what you are hoping they will get out of it etc…
15.) If appropriate, and if the case is that one parent has an easier time getting them to do things they object too, have that parent bring the child to the appointment
16.) If age appropriate ask the child when it would be best to schedule the appointment – be sensitive to them missing activities, sports, things like that which will make it easier for them to argue about going
17.) Don’t ask TELL – meaning never say will you… instead say “I would like to make an appointment for us to see a therapist, when are you available or how do you feel about that?” as opposed to making it an easy option to say no to.
18.) Be open to hearing their feelings about going to a therapist, recognizing it was not their idea… try not to be defensive but open and responsive to their concerns.
Other Ideas? Please post a comment.