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Preparing Youth & Families for Appointments

If you have referred a youth and/or their family for an appointment with a mental health professional or another educator such as someone in a Clinical Services role, you may also need to help them prepare for that next step. This page will provide some useful tips to help you with this process.

Find out about how to prepare for The First Appointment and Ongoing Help.

The First Appointment

To assist the youth and their family to feel comfortable during the first appointment, it is a good idea to cover the basic information:

  1. Where is the appointment located?
    Provide the location and address of where the youth and/or family will be going. Consider printing instructions from Google maps or mapquest.
  2. How do they get there?
    Transportation can be an issue – assist with arrangements if needed. If this is not your role, find out who would have this responsibility (ensure you have consent to contact other agencies and services).
  3. When do they need to be there?
    Write down the date and time of the appointment for the youth and family.
  4. Who can they contact at the facility?
    Provide the phone contact information for the practitioner they will be seeing. If they need to, they can call independently and ask for more information.
  5. What is the purpose of the appointment?
    Inform the youth and family why they are attending the appointment. Generally, first appointments are about assessment and information gathering, and may be an opportunity for the family to get comfortable and ask questions. Ongoing appointments can be different – they are often about more specific issues, as well as strategies and activities aimed at helping.
  6. What information will they need to provide?
    Questionnaires and history taking are often a part of first appointments. While families usually need to provide some history information, kids and teens may be asked to fill out questionnaires regarding their stresses or other issues. Youth and families should feel free to ask about any information shared, such as who will see the information and what are the confidentiality rules.
  7. How long will it take?
    Give it time. Sometimes kids, teens and families feel like nothing helpful happened during the first meeting. It can be helpful to know that it often takes time for help to become clear. Encourage them to keep trying.

If possible and appropriate, you may offer to accompany them to the first appointment, to provide support and encouragement.

Ongoing Help

Whether you have referred a youth for help from another resource or you are providing the help, you may find that over time, people want to quit or give up on the process of getting help.

There can be various reasons to make people want to give up. The help may seem too slow to the youth and family, or sometimes a feeling of well-being occurs from having a plan and getting organized, and this can seem sufficient.

You may need to be supportive and encouraging to urge the youth and family to continue getting help. You may find that barriers exist on the practical side of attending appointments (such as transportation or time off school or work). Try to assess what the individual situation needs and provide assistance if you can.

The appropriate supports the youth and family need may be directly related to the issues that are causing them to want to give up. You may ask yourself:

  • Is everyone in the family supporting the help efforts? If you are concerned about this, can you speak to key members, such as parents or other caregivers, and explore further?
  • Is mental health stigma an issue? At times, kids and teens may be teased about going to their appointments or find that stigma is attached to the process. What kind of help may be appropriate if this is occurring?
    • Depending on your role, you could take an active part in trying to reduce stigma by providing education
    • You can also provide support to the individual to encourage continued attendance at appointments.
    • See the Getting Help and Stigma section of this website for more information.
  • There are times when appointments can interfere with other activities, and support from coaches and teachers can help. Depending on the situation (considering the age of the child or teen, who is involved, what confidentiality issues might be in place), can information be shared to improve tolerance of absences for appointments?

Sometimes youth and their families do need to take a break from the helping process to give them time to process what has occurred. As well, trying to “force” attendance can increase resistance.

Try to identify the positives gained during sessions and focus on reinforcing these. Continue to monitor the situation, and remain open for future helping efforts. Keeping a good relationship with the youth and family can be a very important factor in ongoing help!

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