The Role of Parents in Child Psychotherapy

When a child goes to the psychologist, it's necessary for the whole family to work together to address the problem. Discover the important work of parents in child psychotherapy.
The Role of Parents in Child Psychotherapy

Last update: 23 January, 2021

When it comes to psychotherapy, there’s still some stigma. However, when a child has emotional or psychological problems, the best gift we can give them is the accompaniment of a qualified professional. Nevertheless, the role of the parents in child psychotherapy is as important as that of therapists themselves. That’s why we want to tell you more about it.

When facing the situation of having to go to a child psychologist, parents can react in various ways. Many of them tend to blame themselves for the child’s difficulties and feel that they’re bad parents and have failed in their work. Others, on the other hand, consider that they’ve had the bad fortune of having a child with problems.

In reality, none of the above options fit the bill. In most cases, there is a confluence of factors that lead the child to manifest emotional or behavioral problems. Looking for culprits or victims won’t solve anything. Rather, the important thing is to work as a team to improve the situation.

What’s the role of parents in child psychotherapy?

The Role of Parents in Child Psychotherapy

Detecting the problem

When an adult feels sad, anxious or angry, they’re able to realize that something isn’t right, that they’re experiencing serious difficulties on a personal or social level. However, a child doesn’t have the ability to clearly identify their discomfort and recognize that it’s pathological. It’s the parents’ job to observe their child’s symptoms, behaviors and attitudes for possible difficulties.

And, in the same way, they’ll be in charge of seeking the necessary professional help. The decision to go to a child psychologist falls on them, as they’re responsible for ensuring the welfare of their child.

Family dynamics

Facing psychotherapy isn’t easy. But, if we want our child to benefit from it as much as possible, parents must be willing to understand and collaborate. In this regard, it’s important to remember that families function as a system. Therefore, many times, the child’s symptoms are only a reflection of certain dysfunctions in the family dynamic.

Confusing roles, incoherent limits, and conflicts between some members of the family unit are some of the reasons that can lead to the presence of symptoms in the child. Thus, for improvement to occur, changes must take place in the entire system and not only in the child.


As we mentioned before, the role of the parents in child psychotherapy is as relevant as that of the therapist, since they’re the ones who live with the child on a daily basis. In addition, they’re the main reference figures from whom the child learns to perceive, process and relate to reality. For the same reason, part of the therapy consists of providing the parents with guidelines that they can put into practice with their child.

Their work will be fundamental in ensuring the successes of therapy sessions and transferring them to the child’s daily environment. Therefore, it’ll be important that they collaborate in the application of many of the guidelines and techniques at home as well. In short, it’s a question of working together.

The Role of Parents in Child Psychotherapy

The role of parents in child psychotherapy isn’t limited to working with the child

Although the child is the one who presents the symptoms, they’re not the only one affected. The suffering of a child undoubtedly affects their parents, both individually and as a couple. For this reason, it may be advisable at this time to carry out a joint or separate therapy, so that they can also face their conflicts and difficulties.

This brings a benefit in two senses. Firstly, healed and conscious parents who take care of themselves will be much more capable of promoting the recovery of their child. And, secondly, they’ll be able to learn to face the consequences that the child’s problem produces in them and in their partner. To sum up, the role of parents in child psychotherapy is absolutely essential.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sei, M. B., Souza, C. G. P., & Arruda, S. L. S. (2008). El síntoma del niño y la dinámica familiar: la orientación de padres en la psicoterapia infantil. Vínculo5(2), 194-207.
  • Amat, G. L. C. A. G. El trabajo con los padres en la psicoterapia infantil, desde el punto de vista de la teoría de la mentalización.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.