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 ~More