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A Parent's Guide: Choosing Your Child's Therapist

As a child and family therapist who has personally witnessed the amazing transformation that can result from a meaningful therapeutic relationship, I can't help but to advocate for it at every turn. There has been much stigma associated with seeking out a therapist and engaging in counseling. Often times, it can be viewed as a weakness, which can make it difficult for us to seek the help that we need and could benefit greatly from. This is why one of our major missions here at Pinnacle is to do all that we can to eliminate Mental Health Stigma through normalization efforts rooted in thoughtful information sharing and innovations.

When it comes to our children, most of us are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that they are feeling well, and are living a happy, healthy life. For this reason, parents often seek out the help of a therapist when they notice that their child is struggling socially and/or emotionally.

The thing is that when this decision is made, it can also be extremely overwhelming to try to find the right person to help your child. As a therapist, I often hear from families that before we connected they had multiple challenges in finding a therapist for their child. These challenges include problems with insurance, being on lengthly wait lists, and unfortunately, there are sometimes stories about negative experiences with providers. Despite these potential challenges, finding the right therapist is not only possible, it can be a much smoother and efficient process if a few things are sorted out to begin with.

First, decide what you are looking for in a therapist.

If your child is old enough and well enough (for example they are not seeing or hearing things that aren't there or having a hard time being based in reality) their input should be incorporated to give you a better chance at finding a good match.

Some questions to consider:

  • In the era of Covid-19- Are you able to engage in Tele-therapy either via video chat or phone call?

  • Should your child's therapist be male? female?

  • Someone of a similar cultural background?

  • Someone with similar life experiences?

  • Someone who has worked with children experiencing the same things as your child?

  • How old should they be?

  • How far are you willing to drive for therapy?

  • Are you open to an in home provider?

  • Can you pay out of pocket or will you want/need to use your health insurance?

Once you have a general sense you are ready to dive into the search

How to Find a Therapist

There are typically five challenges to find a therapist:

1. Ask people you know and trust: friends, family, co-workers if there is anyone that they would recommend. It is likely that you know someone who has engaged in therapy or who knows someone who has. You can get some really good leads that way.

2. The general Google Search for therapists in your area. Depending on where you live, the results can be many or few. Call as many people on the list that find your search criteria and leave them message. It's unclear from Google which therapists have a waiting list, and sometimes it can be difficult to decipher if they take your health insurance as well. So, if you decide to go this route- making a list of who you have called and what you know about them can help you to keep track of it all.

3. Ask your pediatrician for a referral. You pediatrician's office likely has one, two, or more relationships with mental health providers in the community. Keep in mind that these providers often have a waitlist. My advice? Get on the waitlist no matter how long it is. You never know when they will call you and whether or not their services will be helpful.

4. Call your Insurance Company. They can give you a list of providers that take your health insurance.

5. Do a Psychology Today Search. Whenever I get calls from parents who are looking for therapists for their children (many find me on Google) and we don't end up being a good match for one another, I always direct them to next. This is a great resource for so many reasons. You can filter your search for your child's therapist by Geographic Area, insurance, specialization, and more.

Once you set up your child's first session with their therapist just remember: If it doesn't work out you can always find someone else and try again. Much like many things in the mental health field; finding a therapist can be a trial and error process. Be open to that process and don't get discouraged. It will all be worth it once you've found the right one!

Pinnacle Co-Founder Dahyana P. Schlosser, M.Ed. is a Child and Family Therapist and tireless advocate for Children's Mental Health. Her passion for helping others serves at the core of her perspective on problems and innovative solutions.

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