As noted by the National Federation of Families, one out of five children has a “diagnosable mental disorder” in the course of a year. Are you concerned about your child’s emotional or mental well-being? While plenty of friends and family members will offer well-meaning advice, knowing how to pick the right mental health professional for your child may yield better results. Is it difficult to pick a great therapist? No, it does not have to be.
Narrow Down the Selection
Consult with your child’s pediatrician for names of mental health professionals in the targeted field that she has worked with in the past suggest the experts at the William Greenleaf Eliot Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Ask trusted friends or family members for their advice. Narrow down a list of names and look up the therapists online. Continue to whittle down the list of names until you find two or three that you feel comfortable with. Make an appointment with each of them.
Meet with the Therapists for an Interview
There is no need to bring the child along. Before you pick the therapist whom you introduce to the child as the doctor who will be assisting your family, make certain that you can work with the professional. Find out about the therapist’s treatment style, ability to communicate and willingness to sit down and discuss your child’s case. If you do not feel heard or the therapist’s treatment style is just a bit too “out there” for you, it may be best to pass.
If you do believe that this professional could be a good fit, explore the different types of therapy settings that may come into play. Some professionals offer a mix of play therapy, family therapy and individualized sessions. Others include age-appropriate stress management techniques for school-aged children. While the therapist has to meet with the child to determine the form of treatment, this meeting should at least offer you a generalized road map that you should be in agreement with.
Observe the Therapist/Child Interaction
Illinois State University Child Care Center Director Karen Stephens urges parents to observe the way that the therapist and child interact. Warning that some professionals are great at building rapport with the adults but not necessarily with their young patients, you may doom the child’s therapy outcome from the start if you proceed with a professional that the child just does not connect with during the sessions. Remember that – depending on the age – your child may feel a bit odd about talking to a doctor about stress, fears, anxieties or other problems. Make it easier for the youngster by finding a therapist who makes the child feel at ease.
When you and your child feel at ease with a mental health professional who comes personally recommended and has the educational background and specialized training to meet your current therapy goals and needs, you have indeed found a great therapist.