― Bruce D. Perry, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing
There are many events in a child’s life, such as death of a loved one, a divorce, abuse, or some other traumatic event, that can lead to a number of emotional and behavioral issues. In certain cases, the child may be battling emotional or behavioral problems. This can have a major impact on the child’s mood, behavior, appetite, and social and academic life. A potent way to resolve these issues for your child is by hiring a therapist.
Therapists can help the child deal with physiological and emotional problems. From alleviating many emotional and behavioral problems for children to helping them adjust to losses and traumas and resolving anxiety and depression, a good therapist can do a whole lot of good. Finding a therapist is not something that a parent can take lightly. Here are some useful tips with regard to the same.
What are the traits that you want your child’s therapist to have? What degrees and credentials should he or she hold? You need to make a list of these traits that you want to see in your child’s therapist. One of the first things that confuse a layman are the various labels assigned to mental health professionals. Psychologist, family counselor, marriage and family therapist, and social worker―there are so many professionals that provide mental health services. So, how do you ensure that you choose the right person?
Understanding the training, treatment tool, and experience of each individual can help make the right decision. If you are choosing a psychiatrist, you need to know that they are doctors who are medically trained for diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They have the license to prescribe drugs. Their main treatment tool is talk therapy or psychotherapy.
Psychologists, on the other hand, are trained to study the mind and human behavior. They have a doctorate and advanced training in psychology. Many child psychologists are especially trained to help children and teenagers. There are also licensed counselors who have a degree in counseling and are certified to treat emotional and mental disorders. Social workers also help in enhancing and maintaining a person’s life by dealing with and solving problems.
One of the best ways to find a therapist is through the references provided by friends and family who have worked with the therapist. You can also ask your child’s doctor, the school counselor, or a large clinic to provide some good references. If you are moving to some other city, ask your current therapist for some references there.
If you are looking for a therapist in a specific city, you can check sites such as www.goodtherapy.org, etc. You can enter the city or zip code and find a list of the therapists residing in your area. You can also check the websites of professional organizations, such as The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, that provide lists of therapists.
Each therapist has an individual orientation, and you need to find a therapist with an orientation that fits your child’s needs. For example, a therapist who believes in cognitive behavioral therapy might believe that the thoughts and behavior are linked to the problems and may work towards restructuring negatives thought to positive ways of thinking. On the other hand, a family therapist may link the symptoms with the family dynamics, and the treatment may involve counseling with family members.
It is very important to check the therapist’s degree and qualifications. For example, check whether they have a Master’s or doctoral degree (a Ph.D. or Psy.D are both doctoral degrees) in the subject. Also, look for therapists who are board-certified. For example, a clinical psychologist can be certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), while a specialist child psychologist can be certified by the American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (ABCCAP), which is ABPP’s Specialty Board for assessing competency in child psychology.
It is a good idea to look for a therapist who has some experience working with children. An experienced therapist with the right approach and training will be able to address the child’s problems in a better way.
It is important to consider a therapist’s approach to treatment. For example, does he/she take time out to listen to your concerns, or is he/she more mechanical with regard to work? Is the therapist going to focus more on the child’s thoughts, behavior, and feelings, or would he/she involve family members as well? These are some of the questions that you need to clarify when choosing a therapist.
You need to know about the cost of the therapy including the fee schedule, which can be for each session, or paid monthly. Some therapists also have a sliding scale fee where the fee is established based on your income. You also need to clarify about missed sessions. If you have a health insurance plan, check if the therapist you choose is on the plan. Also, find out the details of the insurance coverage, whether you are getting full or partial reimbursement, and the documents you need for the coverage.
Once you have chosen a particular therapist, schedule an introductory session. You can introduce the therapist to the child and check whether he/she is comfortable with the therapist. This session will also allow you to ask questions and figure out whether the therapist is best for the child or not. If the therapist does not have time for a face-to-face meeting, schedule a phone interview before you commit.
You also need to check the location and availability of the therapist. Do not fall for false claims like “perfect cure.” If someone promises such things, do check their treatment measures. If your child and you are not comfortable with the therapist, consider switching to someone with whom the child can develop a trustworthy relationship with.