Parents face new challenges each day with our children and we are always searching for answers to help us face hard to answer questions, behaviors that may seem like over reactions and as well as practical solutions to setting limits and boundaries from books, other parents, family members, and even the internet.
Sometimes the answers we find simply don’t help and it feels like we are sending out an SOS for support/guidance to figure out how to help our children weather the storm. We will question and doubt ourselves and wonder will they just “grow out of it”, “is this ”normal?” and hope it is “just a phase.”
Getting to the point where we realize we may need outside help is exhausting, emotionally and physically. Finding the right person or group of people to help your child and family get back on track can add to that already overwhelming feeling we are facing.
As adults we may have some preconceived notions and ideas about mental health treatment that include a room with a couch, an adult with a notepad and statements like “how does that make you feel?”
When we try to place a child within this image we question how this will work….and you are so right that this will likely not work! So then what!?
Here are five things to look for when choosing a therapist to work with your family:
#1: Comfort with the Therapist
Research shows that one of the most critical factors that contribute to positive results in therapy is the relationship. It is important that you meet with the practitioner first. If you are able to have a phone consultation first to get a sense of the person before you decide to meet, that is an ideal first step. You know your child best and need to get a sense that the person will be a good fit for your child.
#2: Therapist should include you in the process
Although you are exhausted and looking for help, the practitioner you choose should include you in the process. Whether it be through brief check-ins at the beginning or end of a session, periodic parent sessions or family sessions, your voice and experience is important.
It is also important to remember that the therapist will likely work with your child for 50 minutes per week…you will continue to parent the other 167 hours and 10 minutes of the week. Working with your child’s therapist will help you with ideas about what to try at home and how to support the changes that will begin to happen in session throughout the week.
#3: Knowledge and experience working with children
Knowledge, approach and experience are important factors to consider as well. Children benefit from using their natural language, play, and other non-verbal, expressive ways of sharing about their experience. When we are in an emotional state, accessing the parts of our brain to answer questions is just not possible.
Having other tools and resources available to help your child express themselves is critical. Ask questions about the practitioner’s training, certifications, and how they tend to work with children. Do they have experience and training specific to the presenting issues you are looking for help? Answers to these questions will help in your decision making process.
#4: Location, location, location….
This may sound funny, but securing a therapist that meets all your criteria and is reasonably close to where you live is important. Long travel times can negatively impact you’re your child feels about going to therapy and your ability to commit to weekly sessions. Research studies tend to indicate that it takes 21 days to break a habit and on average 66 days to create a new habit. Consistency is important for your child to feel safe and develop the therapeutic relationship to make the changes you are hoping for.
#5: Consider your Feelings
Be sure to consider how you are feeling about reaching out for additional support for your child. Children are sensitive to and can read their caregiver’s feelings about coming in for services. If you are feeling anxious or maybe experiencing mixed emotions about the next step of bringing your child in to meet the therapist, they will likely feel the same way. Be sure to ask the counselor for assistance managing your own feelings to help facilitate the process of beginning services.
Here at Kid Matters Counseling we want to make sure that the needs of your child and family are met. We will work with you every step of the way!
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Disclaimer: These writings should be considered a matter of personal opinion. They do not reflect professional advice. This medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and intimacy required to provide professional advice. If you are in need of consultation, I highly recommend you seek professional counseling. If at all possible, you should seek a reliable referral from a trusted source.
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