I first entered counseling at about six or seven years old. At this time, my family was dealing with anger, fighting, separation, addiction, and undiagnosed/untreated mental health issues, and we had just welcomed my little sister. What her birth meant for me was that suddenly, I was no longer an only child.
Looking back, I admire that my parents took the initiative to seek counseling for themselves and for me, especially since they were only in their early 20s at that time, and I saw at least five different counselors off-and-on throughout my childhood and into my teenage years. While I now have gratitude for the process and to have been introduced to therapy early on, it was sometimes a confusing and frustrating process.
I have now re-entered counseling as an adult and find it to be a rewarding (and much needed) tool in my life. I now have the language and emotional awareness to articulate what I wish I could have asked of my parents then.
What I wish I would have known earlier before my first appointment and throughout the process:
- I wish it was made clear to me that I had done nothing wrong to have to go to counseling. On top of school, homework, and a social life, going to counseling was a new commitment and change in my routine that seemingly popped out of nowhere. Part of me wondered if I had done something wrong to have this new figure brought into my life. While my counselor did a good job of explaining the purpose of our time together, I never did hear that from my parents beforehand, and I wish I had.
- I did have an opinion on my counselor. I wish someone had asked. Because a new adult figure was being introduced into my life, I didn’t know if it was right for me to form and express an opinion about them or not. About how they communicated and engaged with me, or whether I felt safe with them. Going in to counseling as a child, I do wish that I was offered an opportunity to provide this feedback.
- I wish we had talked about my experience more outside of my sessions. Not necessarily in terms of what was discussed between me and my counselor, but moreso just how I was feeling about the process. The experience existed in a silo which made it unclear what the boundaries were in terms of sharing my feelings around the entire process.
- I wish I would have known that it is common for people to be in counseling. I had no sense of what counseling was outside of this new thing that my family and I were doing, and when we first arrived to the quiet, empty waiting room to meet our counselor, it seemed like an uncommon place to be. It would have helped to know that many people see counselors for their health just like they do medical doctors, the dentist, and more.
Now having been in therapy as an adult for nearly six continuous years, I have a lot more understanding and neutrality toward experiences from my childhood, including the counseling journey I started so early on. Ultimately, I am grateful to have been introduced to counseling as a tool and design for living early on and hope parents seeking counseling for their children find some value in hearing a child’s perspective.
If you are a parent considering counseling for your child or children, please feel free to contact us for more information by filling out this form. JEM Wellness & Counseling has clinicians with extensive experience in counseling for children as young as five.