Finding a therapist for your child can be a daunting experience for any parent. Believe me I have been there. Even trying to get my son evaluated for a diagnosis was frustrating. He had to be evaluated with his school district (which took months to setup). Then he needed a medical evaluation (which took over a YEAR just to be seen by a doctor).
When I found out my son was autistic I was so lost. I didn’t know what Autism was. I didn’t know what help to get him. I went to his pediatrician and unfortunately she offered little help/assistance when I was reaching out for help (don’t worry I changed my son to another doctor/pediatrician). So I asked an old high school friend who has a son a little older than my son who is also autistic, she suggested my son find a Speech and Occupational Therapist. After much research and meeting so many different therapists I found a home in EASTER SEALS.
If you’re looking for a particular therapist for your child there are questions you need to ask yourself and the therapist before choosing the right one for your child’s specific needs. Social problems, learning difficulties, and family disruptions are among the most popular reasons for contacting a therapist. Here are some tips on gathering referrals and choosing the right therapist for your child:
Choosing a Therapist
There are plenty of therapists to choose from, so before you decide, here are a few tips to help guide you through the process:
Ask questions. Before making an appointment, here’s a checklist of questions to ask on the phone:
- What’s your background and training working with children?
- How often do you meet with parents?
- Will you be in contact with my child’s teacher or guidance counselor?
- How long do children usually stay in therapy with you?
- Can I speak with a parent whose child has worked with you?
Prepare for your consultation. Before you set up a consultation, prepare a list of concerns about your child. Bring along any educational evaluations or classroom reports you have. Consider your child’s long-term history. Are these struggles recent? Have there been any significant changes or disruptions in your family?
No one knows your child better than you, therefore the more information you gather on your child, the better. Partnering with your child’s therapist and working together is the express route to helping your child.
Consult three therapists before choosing one. Therapists have different styles and approaches to working with children. For example, some therapists work collaboratively with parents, while others prefer working with children alone.
Take your time and interview at least three therapists. You wouldn’t hire just any babysitter for your child, would you? Many eager parents hire the first therapist they meet and regret it later. Don’t rush. Be patient. Trust your instincts.
Learn the differences in credentials. Social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists — what’s the difference? Good question. Although they all are referred to as therapists and all have licenses, they have vastly different training and unique specialties. Here’s a quick glance at their qualifications:
- Clinical social workers have master’s degrees in social work and are generally trained in empowerment and advocacy. Social workers often have a practical approach to problem-solving and seek conflict resolution through talk or play therapy, counseling and group work.
- Psychiatrists and psychopharmacologists have medical degrees and primarily prescribe medication. If you’re looking for antidepressants or medications for problems with attention or anxiety, these doctors are for you.
- Psychologists have doctorate degrees in psychology and provide psychological and educational testing, in addition to talk therapy. Learning and perceptional differences, such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, or auditory processing difficulties are identified and recommendations are made. Recommendations could include medication, individual or group therapy, a specialized school or additional academic support.
Types of Therapy
There are dozens of different types of therapy for children and teenagers. Here’s a short list of the most common.
- Play therapy. Play therapists use toys, action figures, games, and art to help small children express themselves, and describe their fears and concerns. Play therapy works best for pre-K or elementary school-aged children who are struggling with emotional difficulties.
- Group therapy. Group therapy is ideal for children or teens who suffer from social problems, such as extreme shyness, bullying or social isolation. Group therapy helps build social competence and resilience.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT is the most popular treatment for children who struggle with attention problems, phobias and obsessions. CBT is time-limited and uses a variety of techniques, such as relaxation exercises, personal diaries, and computerized programs to target and change specific behavior and mood problems.
- Family therapy. Families experience all kinds of disruptions, such as divorce, separation, illness, the death of a loved one, or economic hardship. Family therapists conduct family meetings to help all family members express their concerns and frustrations with the goal of reestablishing positive communication and mutual respect.
- Individual therapy. Who doesn’t feel better after talking out their problems? Nearly all therapists have training in talk therapy; however, make sure the therapist you choose has specific training and experience working with parents, children and teenagers.
Questions to Ask Yourself.
- Did I feel comfortable talking with this therapist?
- Was he/she respectful of my parenting style and perspectives?
- Did I walk away with a feeling of trust and confidence in him/her?
- Would my child feel comfortable spending time with this therapist?
I let my son interact and spend time alone with his current Speech & Occupational Therapist before I made a decision.
I know it can be frustrating and worrisome. I was worried about how to pay for therapy (luckily my insurance covers his therapy), how was I going to find the time to take him while working, finding a great therapist, etc. Just breathe and take your time to find the RIGHT one for your child.