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Therapy – How much should parents be kept in the loop?

As a psychologist working primarily with kids and teens, I have noticed that sometimes parents / carers feel left out of the loop when it comes to what happens during your child’s therapy sessions.  This article has been created to give you a general idea of what to expect, and why this is.  Each therapy provider and each type of therapist may share information a bit differently.  This will also depend on things like how old your child is, as therapy for a 2 year old is likely to look very different to therapy for a 15 year old.

Different types of therapists have different reporting requirements, which impact on how much information can be shared outside of a therapy session.  For example, when seeing a psychologist for the first time, the psychologist should explain that what is discussed in the therapy space, stays in the therapy space…. Unless someone’s life is in danger.  If a psychologist identifies risk, then they will break confidentiality in order to keep that person (or someone else) safe.  Speech pathologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists also have an obligation to protect the dignity, privacy, autonomy, and safety of the people they work with, but because the topics discussed during these types of therapy sessions are less likely to contain super sensitive information, it is often a bit easier to share what has been covered whilst still respecting the privacy of your child.

So when it comes to therapy sessions, some parents / carers may attend appointments with their child, but often parents / carers do not attend therapy sessions with their child for various reasons.  As a therapist myself, I try to make sure that the child has control over who attends their session, as we want them to have some choice and control – who doesn’t want that in their lives!

If you do not attend therapy sessions with your child, but would like to be kept up to date with what has been covered, it is ok to ask your therapist to provide a session summary, or a copy of their session notes, or a summary report at the end of each term (you may be charged fees for this, depending on how long it takes to do and how the therapy provider bills for services).  This will likely be possible for speech pathologists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists, but due to the need to maintain client confidentiality, psychology notes are not shared.  This is really important in psychology sessions as children seeing a psychologist need to feel safe to be able to talk about their worries and get help for them.

If your child is engaged with a psychologist, and you would like to know more about how therapy is going, it’s a good idea to ask your child first (but if your kids are anything like mine the response will be limited), and it’s important to respect their wishes if they don’t want to tell you about the session. You could ask to have a parent session with the psychologist to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.  What can be discussed is limited, but the psychologist will be able to provide you with some strategies or recommendations to try at home.  At the end of sessions, many therapists will also speak with a parent / carer if there is something that needs to be worked on or monitored in between sessions, so also use that as an indication of the types of things that have been covered.

It is important to understand that our children have the right to be heard, but they also have the right to privacy.  There may be topics discussed in therapy that your child does not wish you to know about. This doesn’t mean you have done something wrong as a parent / carer. It is often because the child does not want to worry you. I invite you to trust that your child’s therapist knows when a topic is something that needs parents to be involved and will work towards making that happen when, or if, it needs to.  If a psychologist feels that a child should discuss something with their parent / carer, they will generally encourage them to do so (and offer support to the child to do this).


Photo of Mel Jacobson, a woman with wavy shoulder-length blonde hair, blue eyes and glasses. She has blue eyes, is smiling and wearing a black top.

About the author

Mel Jacobson works for SWAN one day per week, and is a Registered Psychologist for a  therapy provider in south west WA in her other role. She’s a Youth Mental Health First Aid trainer, and delivers the two-day workshop with our CEO, Nick Avery around the south west a few times each year. Mel does an amazing job working with Nick on grant writing, reporting, project management and is an huge support to the SWAN team. Mel has family members with psychosocial disability, and has been volunteering for SWAN since 2015, before joining the team as a staff member in 2017.