Choosing a therapist for our kids could feel as daunting as any other unknown journey we experience as parents. We know that the ‘right fit’ is so important, yet how do we get started?
What’s important to know, ask, and notice?
I put this list together after working with dozens of parents on this very journey and guiding them into the unknown with a few ideas.
1 – Ask around (school, friends, neighbors, family). While anyone they suggest could a) not be in your insurance plan or b) not necessarily a great fit, it could be a place to start.
2 – If using insurance, get the list of covered providers from your insurance’s behavioral/mental health plan. With this list, split in ½ with someone (friend/spouse) and share the task of calling.
Questions to ask upon calling:
– Are you taking new clients?
– Do you see/specialize in pediatrics (you could specify your child’s age ‘teen’ or ‘toddler’ to really narrow this down)
– If they claim that they see ‘any’ or ‘many’ ages, ask what percentage of their clients are kids (your kid’s age!). – If there is something specific with your child (social anxiety, depression, LGBTQ+, bullying, substance use etc) then ask if they have a focus on kids with these issues. – Many therapists also have background working in the medical setting so if medical illness is an issue impacting your child, do reference this so the potential therapist knows.
– Ask about an option to ‘meet and greet’ where they may offer a 20 min visit to assess for a good match between your child and the therapist, or even a brief 10 minute complimentary phone call
– Ask about their structure; do they meet with the kids alone only, bring in parents at some point, offer feedback in between sessions? What can you expect from working with them?
3 – pay attention to your gut instincts, they matter! This is the person you will be employing, working with, to help you help your child. It is important that you feel comfortable about this choice.
Remember this ~ the therapist is the expert in their field yet you are the expert on your child. Trust your instincts in forming a connection with a potential therapist. You will be working together in some capacity with, on behalf of your child.
4 – If the office is difficult to reach or they do not respond in a timely manner or if they respond with what feels like dismissive statements or otherwise you sense they are not interested in helping – this matters!
– The treatment modality (cognitive behavioral therapy etc) may be less important than finding a great fit between the therapist and your child
– Gender/culture may play a role for your child (you could ask if they have a preference). Involve them and do not assume.
– Just because a friend knows/recommends someone does not mean that person is the ‘right’ choice for you and your family.
Enjoy the journey, you are an active participant in this with your child ~
For centuries, people have applied mindfulness to everyday life as a way to enhance clarity and focus. Today, we can apply this tool to better relate and respond to our busy minds, that are sometimes too full to interact or even function.
Simply put, mindfulness is awareness. Awareness of our current, present experience and not that of past (regrets, sadness, loss) nor future (worries, fears, anxieties).
When we find ways to better respond and relate to our overwhelmed minds, do we really ‘fix’ the problems holding us back?
Not exactly ~ like many other worthwhile aspects of life, this is a practice, and that involves repetition. It includes the recognition that life involves suffering. This is not about pushing away these anxieties, worries, losses, regrets and sadness, but finding a way to make room for them all.
How can we do this? Invite ourselves into this moment.
The past has passed.
The future is not yet here.
All we have is the present, which can bring us some peace ~ perhaps in forgiveness (past) or calm (redirecting from future worries). This is mindfulness.
By identifying these very elements (anxiety, regret, anger, panic) as they approach, and without their attached story, we are already giving ourselves room to return to the present. We do it with softness, kindness and without judgment.
This is mindfulness.
We can mindfully wash the dishes, brush our teeth or take a walk. Keeping our awareness on what we can see, touch, hear and experience. This is mindfulness.
Life is never still ~ the mind is never still. Awareness is always still.
Settling into the present may liberate us from the busy mind (perhaps taking us into the past or future).
“Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Most of us are forgetful ~ we are not really here a lot of the time. Our minds are caught up in worries, fears, anger, regrets and not mindful of being here. We are caught up in the past or in the future, which sadly results in us not living our lives fully in the present moment.
It is human nature for our minds to wander ~ it’s just what it does with thoughts and the stories that accompany them. When we recognize that our mind has wandered, we can access mindfulness to bring ourselves back ~ without judgement or criticism and stories; just accepting we are back and have the opportunity to start again.
We bring ourselves back by opening our eyes to what is in front of us, our ears to what we can hear and allowing our minds to experience this.
Think for a moment about all of the birds outside our window that we may have silenced by the active mind, or the sunsets and sunrises missed when worries flooded our minds.
If we mindfully return to the present, even for a moment, we have stopped talking (not only the outside conversation, but the inside talking, our mental discourse).
Then, we can fully awaken to what is in front of us while, even briefly, the rest seems to settle. We become aware of something, such as a flower, and we can be liberated from the anger, despair, worries and fears that previously took us away.