Skip to main content

My child is not connecting with their counsellor. What can I do?

Finding the right counsellor is often a challenge. We are all different and have our own ways of communicating, and so we may not connect with certain people.

If your child really does not want to go back to a counsellor, do not make them. Just like we try to trust our gut as adults, we need to honour that in our children.

Try to find out if it’s counselling they don’t like or the counsellor they don’t like – it’s an important difference, but can be difficult to tell.

It’s common for children and even some youth to not have the words to explain why they don’t want to see their counsellor. So don’t focus too much on the why, and if your child doesn’t like going then try a different counsellor.

A few suggestions… 

For children:

  • After each session, ask your child about it, but stick with general questions. This could be asking “Did you have fun playing with the toys?” or “Did they listen well to your stories?” Don’t ask things like “what did you talk about?” They may want to keep it private.

Read More

  • Check in after every few sessions with the counsellor to see how things are going. Don’t hesitate to express any concerns. Most are more than willing to problem-solve and explore barriers.
  • Suggest your child bring something to a session to show the counsellor, such as a game, new toy, photo album, something your child is proud of. When children start talking about their favourite video game or a sport they play, it’s often hard to get them to stop talking! A good counsellor will use this to their advantage.
  • Counselling doesn’t work for every child at every stage, and that’s ok. Your child might not be ready, or there may be other types of therapy that are a better fit, such as play therapy or music or art therapy. Speak with the counsellor about options.
Read Less

For youth:

  • Assure your youth that what they talk about with the counsellor is private. Sometimes your child may not want to talk with the counsellor because they think the counsellor will tell you what was said. This may cause you to think they are not connecting. Let your child know that the counsellor will not share what they talk about in the sessions. You may touch base with the counsellor if you have a concern or if your child’s safety is in question, but their conversation is private. Remind your child that if they want to let you know anything that is going on, they can tell you at any time.

Read More

  • Check in after every few sessions with your child to see how it’s going. Listen to how they feel and open the door for talking about it. This may help you understand their concerns. You can say something like, “You’ve met with your counsellor X number of times now. Has it helped so far? How have things been going?” Or, “It makes sense that you feel this way.”
  • Make sure to tell your child that it is not their fault if they don’t like the counsellor. Sometimes they feel as if they are to blame for problems in therapy.
  • Brainstorm solutions together and let your child know that you care about their needs. You can ask things like:What kind of things could your counsellor do differently in order to help you?”, “Would you be more comfortable with a counsellor of a different gender?” Sometimes all you have to do is ask.
  • Give them an out. If your child has only met with the counsellor once, say something like, “Getting to know new people can take time. Would you be willing to try three sessions? If that doesn’t work out, we can try something else.”
  • Encourage them to talk to the counsellor about their concerns. A good counsellor will do what they can to improve the relationship. You can offer, “Would you like me to come to your next session so I can help you talk with your counsellor?” You can also let the counsellor know what’s going on, even if you aren’t involved in the session. Teens may not want you to come to a session, but they may still want help. Encourage them to make a list of things they want to talk about before they go to a session. Writing things down sometimes makes it easier to say them. As things come up through the week it can be helpful to say, "hey, that might be a great thing to chat with your counsellor about."
Read Less

It is perfectly OK to look for another counsellor. A good counsellor would encourage you to find someone your child or youth connects with. They may suggest another counsellor that they feel may be a better fit with your child. For older children or youth, you could try going through the Directory of Counsellors together with them, to see if there’s someone that appeals to them.

Was this information helpful?

Is this helpful?
Where You Are Podcast

Through real stories, expertise, and practical tips, this podcast helps families promote their mental health and wellness, navigating important topics to meet you where you are in your journey.