“Where do I find therapy for kids?”
Over the course of my career, this is the number one question I get from parents/caregivers on a regular basis. As parents and caregivers, we want the best for our children in every aspect of their lives, including their mental and emotional well-being. When faced with concerns about our child’s mental health, finding a high-quality therapist is crucial in providing them with the support they need. But with a plethora of options and considerations, the search can be overwhelming.
Here are nine steps every parent needs to know when finding therapy for kids:
- Understand Your Child’s Needs:
Before embarking on the search for a therapist, take the time to understand your child’s needs. Pay attention to any concerning behaviors, emotions, or difficulties your child may be facing. Identifying specific challenges or concerns will help you narrow down the type of therapist best suited for your child.
I always recommend that parents have thoughts and concerns written down prior to the first appointment. Sometimes in the moment it can be hard to remember all of the things that were important or concerning, so this is helpful for your own notes but I also recommend giving the therapist a copy, too.
- Seek Recommendations:
Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or other parents who have experience with therapy for their children. Their firsthand insights can be invaluable in finding reputable therapists who have a track record of success.
While sometimes it seems like your family may be the only ones, it is far more common than not for many other people and families you know to be seeing a therapist for a lot of reasons. It is an incredibly responsible thing to do as a parent to make sure that your children and everyone in the family unit are getting all of their health needs met.
Very rarely are people explicitly taught critical emotional regulation, self-awareness, stress management, communication, and problem-solving skills so therapy is a wonderful opportunity to learn with guided support.
- Talk to Your Insurance or Medicaid Provider:
Unfortunately, in the US, insurance and Medicaid providers have far too much power and authority in what providers you have access to (and your treatment). Contact your provider and ask for a list of therapists they cover locally, any background information they have on each provider, ratings, and contact information. Many have this information available on their websites to search as well.
- Research Credentials and Specializations:
One of the biggest myths getting perpetuated daily is that more mental health professionals is better. While we have amazing professionals that are truly changing the lives of countless individuals, we also have a significant discrepancy in quality of professionals so you need to do your due diligence to make sure that you’re investing in a high-quality professional.
When selecting a therapist for your child, it’s essential to ensure they have the necessary qualifications and credentials. Look for licensed mental health professionals, such as psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, or licensed professional counselors. Additionally, consider therapists with experience and training in working with children, adolescents, or specific issues your child is facing.
- Use Psychology Today:
Psychology Today continues to be one of the leading resources with an abundance of background information, pictures, training, specializations, etc. It allows you to filter and sort therapists by different categories such as specializations and location.
I highly recommend that when you’re narrowing down your options you also have your child, especially adolescents, look, too. For some children, having a picture of a therapist ahead of time can help reduce anxiety. The more ownership a young person can have in finding a therapist, the increased likelihood they will have buy-in and engagement in the therapeutic process.
- Check Online Reviews and Testimonials:
I, personally, think this is extremely valuable. I would not go to a cardiac surgeon that had one star with 100 reviews online and I wouldn’t do it with a therapist either.
The internet can be a valuable resource in your search for a high-quality therapist. Check online reviews and testimonials from previous clients or their parents to gain insight into the therapist’s approach and effectiveness.
- Interview Potential Therapists:
In my experience, many people get nervous about this part. They are afraid they are going to burden the professional so they omit this step. A good therapist should be open to answering your questions and providing clarity on their therapeutic approach.
Consider conducting brief interviews with potential therapists to gauge their approach and how they handle issues specific to your child. Ask about their experience, treatment techniques, and how they measure progress.
Potential questions to ask:
- How do you assess what type of therapy my child needs?
- What types of therapy have you been trained in?
- What metrics will you use to measure progress?
- What will parent involvement look like during the therapeutic process?
Be wary of a therapist that only has training or specialty in one therapeutic approach. There are an abundance of therapists that advertise as EMDR only-therapists or asking patients to choose a therapy model. That should be a red flag because not every approach is best for every patient and if I need heart surgery I am hoping the cardiac surgeon will not ask me to tell him which procedure to perform. She may give me treatment options but I hire a professional to guide my care using best practices.
A therapist should be well versed on assessing a patient’s needs and collaboratively creating a treatment plan with the child and family using evidence-based practices aligning with needs.
- Seek Compatibility:
I have friends that have spent years going to a therapist they didn’t really like but they felt bad going to a new one. Not all people will be a good fit with even the best of therapists. Everyone is different in their needs, personalities, approaches, and expertise.
The rapport between your child and their therapist is vital to the success of therapy. Look for a therapist with whom your child feels comfortable and connected. An initial meeting or trial session can help assess the therapist’s compatibility with your child’s needs.
- Consider Accessibility and Logistics:
Take into account practical considerations such as the therapist’s location, availability, and scheduling flexibility. Therapy sessions should be convenient for both you and your child to ensure consistency and commitment to the therapeutic process.
Finding a high-quality therapist for your child is an essential step in supporting their mental and emotional well-being. By understanding your child’s needs, seeking recommendations, researching credentials, and ensuring compatibility, you can make an informed decision that positively impacts your child’s life. Remember that therapy is a collaborative journey, and with the right therapist, your child can develop valuable coping skills and thrive emotionally and mentally.
Need more resources to help your child thrive with their mental health? Raising a Beautiful Mind has an abundance of tools, learning & resources to help you navigate mental health and school systems.