I knew that my children needed to see a therapist for some time before I ever got them in to see one.
Part of the delay was practical: finding a therapist that took our insurance and had a convenient location and available hours.
But the other part was a fear of having my children labeled or pathologized and not knowing what to look for when it came to someone suitable for counseling them.
As an adult, finding a therapist for myself wasn’t so difficult.
I was able to get a sense of their personality and how we might fit together as a patient and therapist through meeting with them. I was able to personally assess how it was going and how I was or wasn’t connecting with my therapist.
But when it came to my children, I wanted to make sure I knew the fit was right and wasn’t going to cause more problems and frustration for them (and our family) in the long run.
And it’s different.
Because I’m not them.
But I’m their mama… and how do you assess that and know you are making a good decision for someone else?
That can be so paralyzing, right?!
Long story short: we did eventually find a therapist who works fantastically, not just with the kids, but also well with us, as parents.
Had I known what to look for from the beginning, I could have more easily narrowed down my list of options and had the process feel less frightening, overwhelming and frustrating.
Finding the Right Therapist for Your Child
So how do you choose a therapist for your child?
And what should you look for?
It doesn’t have to be complicated to find a therapist that is a good fit for your child and the following tips will help you navigate your decision.
Ask a trusted friend and/or your child’s school counselor & pediatrician. A trusted friend can be a great resource. Ask them if they know of any therapists to recommend. Even if they don’t, they may know someone who is able to make a recommendation.
You should also ask your child’s pediatrician and the counselor at your child’s school. Both will have recommended resources that they keep handy for parents.
Ask questions before making an appointment. Call and ask about their background and training. Find out what their specialty is and what their credentials are.
Do they specialize in working with children, or how much of their practice includes working with children?
What are their thoughts about medication for children and how do their views align with yours?
How do they work with and communicate with parents through the process?
I’ve created a download to note the answers you get so that you can easily compare them later >> Download your free questions sheet for choosing your child’s therapist.
Inquire about an initial consultation. Ask if they offer an initial consultation so that you, your child and the therapist can all meet. There may be a fee for this meeting, so be sure to ask about that as well.
Is there a specific issue your child is dealing with? Many therapists are trained to deal with a variety of issues. However, if there is a more specific issue presenting, such as eating issues or self-harm, a more specialized and experienced therapist might be necessary.
Do you have a preferred therapy method for your child? All of the common types of therapy can be beneficial for a child when they are facilitated by a good and genuinely caring therapist. But be aware that there are different types of therapy that may be worth considering.
Do you think your child would prefer play therapy?
Maybe your teen might respond well to group therapy?
Should the family attend family therapy together?
Read up on the various types of therapy available for children and teens. See what sounds like a good option to consider for your child’s needs.
Talk with your child. I know there is already a lot to consider. However, ask if your child has a preference about seeing a male or female therapist. It may not matter to your child, but depending on your child’s situation, it might have an impact – positively or negatively.
Don’t meet with just one. In some places, this will be a luxury… But if possible, try to meet with more than one therapist before making a decision. Meeting and consulting with more than one therapist will give you a better sense of the various types of therapy and personalities that your child is comfortable with.
Red Flags and Gut Instinct
In addition to all of the question above, there are red flags and things to be aware of. Be sure to note those and listen to your instinct.
Examples of some red flags to look out for:
unresolved complaints with the state’s licensing board
insufficient training and/or experience
unwilling to consider your child’s culture and background
dismissive of your questions and observations about your child
Making the Decision
Your child’s emotional health is too valuable to jump into a relationship with a therapist that isn’t a good fit. But with preparation, asking lots of questions, and paying attention, you will be able to find a therapist that fits best with your child.