When you have decided therapy may be needed for you and your child, how do you choose who to see? Your insurance carrier will give you suggestions and your friends will suggest people they know or have heard good things about. The school counselors may be able to help with a suggestion or two. But ultimately, the decision is yours.
Since this can be an overwhelming task by itself I offer a few pointers. Here are a some steps you can use to help make the choice easier. First, use a reputable source. Friends may be able to give you some names, but using an insurance carrier or a local mental health authority will cut the process time appreciably. Also you can be sure the person they are suggesting stands up to some sort of quality standards.
Next, be sure to verify the therapist you are considering is a child specialist. You can find this out by calling the office and asking a few direct questions. Make sure the therapist is skilled at therapy that is age appropriate for your child. Some therapists are not comfortable with play therapy and can only work well with a very verbal child. Also, check with the office on available times. If you are time stressed, perhaps a therapist who offers weekend or late evening appointments will work best. Find out how they handle after hours calls. At 10:30 in the middle of a crisis is the wrong time to discover your therapist uses a service that instructs callers to go to the emergency room. Additionally, you need to pick a gender. Some children do better with men, others with women. Generally, the person who is less threatening to the child will work the best, since therapy depends upon a trusting and honest relationship.
Be prepared to have sessions you are not included in. Children tend to talk more freely if the parents are not present. All therapists who work with children are duty bound to inform you of anything that is a danger to your child's health and well being. Most make it very clear from the beginning when they will break a child's confidence and why.
Don't expect rapid results. It takes time to form a relationship and this is what it is all about. Give the process time to have an impact. Encourage your child to feel free enough to call their therapist when they feel they need to. Let them know they have control over when and how much they talk to their therapist. Asks the therapist if they work well with other health professionals, like your family doctor, and especially teachers. Your child is provided care by a multitude of people throughout their day. They all have a perspective on what your child is going through that is different from any other. Use them all. They are all useful.
Finally, make sure your child is involved in the interview appointment with the therapist. The first meeting should be an informal one where you all can ask questions, and set some ground rules for the sessions. If your child feels they are given a say, the process can proceed much more smoothly. Don't be afraid to ask questions especially if you don't understand what the therapist is telling you. Information is only useful if it is understandable. Look at the therapy room. Is it child friendly? Is there child sized furniture, toys, a play area, maybe a sand box? What kind of art is on the wall? It should be something that appeals to a child.
With all this in mind, you are well prepared to find that special person who can work with you and your family to help provide the support your child needs through way may be a difficult period. Take great pride in pursuing help for you and your child. It takes a great deal of courage and compassion to help someone face their fears, because there are usually a few of you own that pop up along the way. Here's to starting the road to growing a strong, mentally healthy children. It is the best gift you can ever give. It can be one of the most enriching experiences for a parent and child to journey on this path together. One of lasting memories and exceptional insight into just who your child is becoming. Here is to good mental health.