You are feeling you need to get help for your child. You want the BEST to help your child feel better and be able to function in the world in the most healthy way possible. It is so hard to come to a place where you feel you need help. But at times that is what is needed. Part of our job as parents is to recognize this and do what is needed to help our child have a reparative experience to heal and move forward. It may be to learn coping skills or how to communicate feelings or to deal with other things that are affecting your child in a negative way. As a child therapist I always try to help those in this situation find the best fit for their child or teen and for them as parents because I know this will mean the best outcome.
Key Components in Finding the BEST Child Therapist for Your Child
- Take into consideration what age your child is and find a therapist who has specialized training to do work with this age. If you have a child who is under 9 years of age, it is best to consider a Registered Play Therapist. Even if your child is older than this, it may be best to go this route. Those under 12 will normally benefit from this kind of therapy as well. Play therapists are trained to interact and treat children in a way that is developmentally appropriate and that is most effective with this age. Play therapy is not just for young children. As a Registered Play Therapist I work with children and teens in a playful, activity based way that engages and helps children / teens to process and heal. In addition, play therapy can be used with adults. Go to www.a4pt.org to find a listing of Registered Play Therapist in your area. This is the Association for Play Therapy’s national website. It has information on Play Therapy if you go into the Parent’s Corner section. If you have a teen, then you will want to have someone who regularly works with teens. A good play therapist will adapt the therapy to match the child or teen. Please note: Different child therapists will each have their own lower age limit. For many it is 3 years of age. Therapy for under 3 years of age is normally done in a parent/child format.
- Check in with the therapist and make sure they treat whatever you are needing help with. Each therapist will have their own specialties within the Child Therapy world. Or some areas they do not treat. So it is good to ask before you book an intake.
- Find a Child Therapist who also does Family Therapy. Good child / teen therapy work will involve parents. As a therapist we will most of the time only see a child one hour a week. Parents play an integral part in helping their child or teen to get better. Parent sessions should be a part of treatment, along with parent / child work or family therapy if this fits with the particular situation. This kind of work involves a balance of helping children / teens have a safe place to express feelings and one in which they will be encouraged to work with their parents, but not forced. I love this wonderful opportunity to help families be more whole and help each other be more supportive and nurturing of one another. One therapist licensure that has specialized training in family therapy work is Licensed Marital and Family Therapists (LMFT). But there are others who have great training as well.
- Read up or ask about the therapist’s professional background – training and experience. Many therapist have a website which can be helpful in an initial screening as you begin your search. Some folks do an internet search. This said not all therapist have a website. In this case you will want to ask them directly about their background.
- Ask parents or other professionals that you trust if they have a recommendation to look into. Sometimes your school or child’s doctor will know of some folks they feel comfortable recommending. But in the end it is who you feel comfortable with to treat your child. I might add that I think it is best to talk with a couple of different folks to get some feel for them as a person and as a professional before you set an appointment. Some therapists are willing to have a bit of a chat with you before you come in for a parent intake. This can be very helpful.
- Seek an individual that you feel will be a fit for your child or teen and you as a parent. Therapists come with different kinds of training and different kinds of approaches. Plus therapists are humans. They will each have their own personalities and ways of connecting with their clients. Find one that is a fit as to feeling comfortable with their approach and their personality. If you find you or your child are not able to connect and develop a relationship, then find someone who fits that bill. I am not suggesting going from therapist to therapist. If you have done some homework before and have a parent intake, you will probably know if it is going to work for you and your child or teen. Developing a close working relationship is key.
- Check out the therapy “environment”. Does it feel warm and safe? Is the child therapy room set up with developmentally appropriate therapy materials? This would include: a therapeutic sand tray with miniatures, creative art therapy materials, puppets, doll houses, make-believe props, plus other materials that will allow children to express or act out their feelings. Therapeutic games for those that are older may be a part of this therapy set up. This kind of environment leads to playful fun and healing at the same time.
- Don’t be shy. Ask any question that you have about the therapy process or really anything that you feel you need to know as a parent. Your therapist should be ok with questions. A good child therapist will want to have a collaborative relationship with you the parent.
- The practical basics have to be considered: Kind of Setting, Fees, Location, Appointment Times. This really could be an article in itself. So this is the highlights. Settings could include: Private Practice, Non Profit Organizations, School Based, Home Based. There really are some choices. There are pros and cons for each of these choices. You will want to decide what you most want from the therapy to help decide this question. There is self pay and in and out of network insurance, health savings accounts as to how to pay for therapy. There are special considerations with choices here as well. Appointment times and location are of course another thing that will impact your choice.
The right therapist for your child is out there. With a little bit of research you will find the BEST therapist for your child. Best wishes in finding the right fit!