Finding The Right Therapist
With the school year now underway, many parents are seeking out services for their children and adolescents to assist them with behavioral issues, anxiety, depression, ADHD, or other issues. It can sometimes be confusing trying to find providers in general, let alone ones who are a good fit for your child’s needs.
Here are a few of my suggestions for seeking out therapeutic services for children and adolescents:
1) In order to locate a provider, you can contact your child’s pediatrician for suggested referrals. If you feel comfortable, you can speak with friends who’s children or adolescents currently see someone or have seen someone in the past and get recommendations from them. Word of mouth referrals can be great, but always remember that just because one person had a positive or negative experience with a provider does not mean that you will have the same experience.
You can also search on the internet for a provider. Many mental health professionals are listed in online directories such as Psychology Today and/or have websites that discuss their treatment approach, specialties, and training.
2) When you first make contact with a potential provider by phone or email, don’t be surprised if you get an answering machine or do not get an immediate email response back. Clinicians that have their own or a very small practice often handle contacting potential patients, scheduling, and most other administrative duties themselves. Thus, the benefit of working with a clinician in a solo or a small practice is that when you want to reach the clinician, you usually deal directly with them rather than a receptionist or office assistant. Of course, the benefit of seeing a clinician in a bigger practice is that you can often reach a receptionist or office assistant easily during regular business hours. Regardless of the size of the practice, pay attention to the way you are treated when you contact a provider about beginning treatment. For example, if you have to wait two business days for a phone call or email back, that may be reflective of how that provider runs his or her practice.
3) When speaking with a provider about your child, it is ok to ask them questions about how they conduct treatment. Some clinicians use a lot of toys and games to engage children, while others don’t. As an example, for children that like sports, I play catch, floor hockey, and other active games with them to help facilitate a strong therapeutic relationship. It is also ok to ask the clinician about their training and experience, but remember that training and amount of experience are not the only factors that affect treatment success. A clinician’s ability to engage children, relate to them, and develop a strong rapport are essential to a successful treatment outcome.
4) When you go for the initial session, if you are unsure how therapy works or what to expect, speak with your provider about this. Being informed about the process is very helpful. Also, don’t be surprised if the clinician wants parental involvement in treatment. This may involve meeting with the therapist for a few minutes at the beginning or end of each session, having separate parent sessions periodically, or some other arrangement. Parents often have a big impact on the success of treatment by supporting the therapist’s work/interventions with their child at home.
5) If you start seeing a provider and feel that it may not be a good fit for your child or see other things that bother you, talk to the clinician about it before deciding to switch providers. It is usually best to speak with him or her alone for this type of conversation. Often times, the issue can be easily addressed by a change in the therapist’s actions, but they don’t always realize certain things may be an issue unless you speak up. Feedback from parents and children themselves about treatment is very helpful for the clinician. As an example, in my work I always tell parents and children during the first session that I welcome feedback at any time. I also check-in periodically for feedback. This is very helpful, and a great way for a clinician to learn various things such as: if parents feel that they need more strategies to use at home, feel they need more assistance implementing structure at home, or if children feel they need a different approach to more fully benefit from treatment.
These are just a few suggestions to keep in mind when trying to find a provider for your child or adolescent. I hope that these suggestions are helpful.
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*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*