All About Therapy: Perspective From a Therapist’s Child

All About Therapy: Perspective From a Therapist’s Child

When I made the decision to open my private practice last September in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I worried most about how my return to work would affect my children. They had gotten so used to having me home with them for several years while we lived abroad. After we returned to the States, I started making plans to go back to work only to discover I’d need a pretty involved hip surgery which kept me home and off my feet for quite a while longer. By the time I was done with physical therapy and fully recovered, I was beyond ready to be out of the house. Unfortunately, by then the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing and my children’s elementary school had gone online. My son and daughter needed someone to be at home with them, and I was the obvious choice. After several months of being a surprisingly decent homeschool teacher, mediocre lunch lady, enthusiastic recess monitor, and very half-hearted custodian, the children were back at face-to-face school and I was even more ready to be out of the house. But… was I ready to be out of the house while my children were home? I loved being home with my children and I was not driven to return to work, but rather called to it. I knew I was sitting on a unique skillset that was deeply needed during the pandemic, and it didn’t feel right not to use it. While so many parents were being pulled away from their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was being pulled toward mine. 

And yet, being a child psychologist typically means you need to keep some after school hours available for clients, which means you can’t be home in the afternoons or early evenings with your own children. It often means that you miss family dinner and are warming up a plate in the microwave to eat while simultaneously reading your kids their bedtime stories. If you have a partner like mine who works an on-call job, it also means you need to be ready to find last-minute childcare in a pinch – not a thing to take lightly during a pandemic. Halfway through the first year of coronavirus, we were all VERY used to me being able to be there for my kids whenever they needed me. Would they resent the change?

Although I had a fairly demanding job at Brown University until my children were 3 and 1, they were really too young to remember much about this time. Now that they were 8 & 6, I knew they would definitely notice my absence a lot more. What I didn’t anticipate is that either of them would take such an interest in what I was doing while I was away. Because of state and federal privacy laws such as HIPAA and ethical codes around client confidentiality (which ethical psychologists like myself take very seriously), I obviously cannot discuss any details about my clients with anyone without my client’s written permission unless there is clear risk of harm to themselves or others. However, my children – especially my daughter – have taken enthusiastic notice of my “new” job and pepper me with endless questions about my day when I get home. “What clients did you see today? Was it a boy or a girl? How old are they? What problem do they have? Are they getting better?” They have gradually learned about confidentiality, and that I cannot tell them anything about what was said in private during a therapy session or any identifying information at all about my clients. What I can tell them, though, is about the different disorders I treat (mostly anxiety, OCD, and eating disorders) and how I go about treating them. Sometimes I teach them the techniques I use in therapy (they are both really good at deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation by now) or discuss therapy process issues with them, such as how important client engagement in treatment is or about the therapeutic alliance. Recently, my daughter’s 3rd grade class was assigned to write about a topic they knew a lot about, and she surprised me by choosing therapy. So, if you have ever been curious about what a therapist’s child thinks about their parent’s work, here is your chance to find out! I hope you enjoy this post by Guest Blogger and therapist’s daughter, Camilla (age 8 3/4), as much as I enjoyed it. 


“Do you know what therapy is? Therapy is when you pay money to see a therapist about all your fears and worries. Therapists also help people with mental health disorders such as: OCD and eating too much or not enough for your body. Do you want to know more? If you do then keep reading!

Most people in therapy have mental health disorders. OCD is a mental health disorder when they are worried they will do the bad thoughts they think. Everyone thinks weird thoughts but people with OCD are really worried they will do them. To make them less afraid, they do a habit to prevent their fear from coming true. We have talked about OCD now I will tell you about eating disorders. There are two types. The first type of eating disorder I will tell you about is not eating enough food. It is when you start to worry about eating too much and stop eating enough food to energize your body. You will get unhealthy if you don’t see a therapist about it. Now I will tell you about eating too much food. It starts when you eat too many unhealthy snacks and then when you try to eat a normal amount of food it feels like you didn’t eat enough. Eventually you will get overweight. You need to see a therapist or it could become dangerous.

A therapist working with her client

My mother is a therapist and she works with 10 people. These people are her clients. Therapists like my mother want clients to trust them. If your clients don’t commit to their treatment they won’t get better. Once they commit to their treatment they have a better chance of getting rid of their disorder. If they don’t commit to their treatment they have little chance of getting rid of their disorder. When/if they commit to their treatment it will still take a few months of the treatment to get better.

Eventually if the therapist did a good job the client will not have their disorder anymore! They graduate! They no longer need therapy! If they want another session they can have a check-in next month. That way they can see if they need some more therapy. If they decide they are done they are free to go!

Did you like my essay? I hope you did! There are many interesting books about therapy! Stay healthy! Bye!”

By Camilla, age 8 3/4


I did like your essay, Camilla. More than I can say. I especially loved how you were so eager for me to read it that you couldn’t even let me take my coat off or put any of my stuff down before shoving it into my hands. I might have acted cool about it (just kidding, I didn’t), but I was secretly thrilled. Because reading your essay has helped set my last remaining worries to rest. Any negative impact of Mom working late a few nights a week is balanced out by knowing that you see me, you hear me, and you know I’m making an impact. I can tell that you are proud of me and the work I do helping other children. And my heart is full of pride for you too. You and your brother have adjusted so well to this “little change” to our family and — although you should probably stop trying to “therapize” all your classmates at school before the Board of Psychology gets you for practicing without a license, lol — I love that you are so interested in my work. If you don’t become a pop star or germ scientist, maybe you will consider joining me in the family business someday. You are a natural helper. Of course, whatever you choose to do, I know you’ll make an impact too. That’s just the kind of girl you are. 


Camilla is an 8 3/4 year old girl who lives in Traverse City with her therapist mother, pilot father, little brother, and 2 cats. She likes reading, drawing, and singing. Her favorite toy is her American Girl Doll, Kaylee. She wants to grow up to be a pop star, germ scientist, or both! Camilla is very interested in therapy and has invented her own breathing technique for calming down. Camilla says most of her calming strategies would not have been achieved without her mother’s help.

Dr. Rebecca Swenson (Camilla’s mother) is a licensed clinical psychologist and parent coach who works with children, adolescents, young adults, and families in Northern Michigan. Dr. Swenson writes about child and adolescent mental health on her blog, check-with-beck. If someone in your family is struggling with anxiety, OCD, an eating disorder, or other emotional/behavioral health issues, contact Dr. Swenson today to learn more about evidence-based treatments that can help.

Follow Dr. Rebecca Swenson on: Facebook or LinkedIn