By Katherine Bergamo
Maybe you are thinking about taking your child to see a therapist. Or maybe you are just wondering about whether your child’s behavior is in the “normal” range. Maybe a teacher or childcare provider has expressed some concerns. In any case, you probably have questions, the main one being, “how can I help?”
Here are some important tips to help you get started:
How do I know if my child needs therapy?
Your child may not vocalize that they need, or are interested, in therapy. If your child is displaying any of these signs, it may be time to talk to someone – ask yourself, Does my child…
- Have trouble managing emotions or behaviors
- Seem distressed or upset for more than a few weeks
- Have problems in more than one setting – like both home and school or school and childcare
- Display behavior is getting in the way of everyday activities
- And finally, if your efforts to support your child are not helping, it may be time to ask for help.
Every child is unique and displays their emotions and behaviors differently. Your child may display different signs than the ones listed above. You know your child best. If you feel they are struggling and in need of help, reach out and speak to a therapist.
How do I Choose a Therapist for My Child?
It’s important to choose a therapist that you, your family, and your child trust. Start by asking people you trust – medical professionals, teachers, or maybe even friends and family. Most professionals recommend a therapist that is licensed such as a social worker, psychologist, professional counselor, or a marriage and family therapist. A good place to begin is to find a therapist whose training matches your specific concerns. These concerns could be family issues, anxiety, depression, behavior problems, divorce, or other major family transitions to name a few. Don’t hesitate to ask the therapist about their experience in treating the specific concerns you have and ask about the approaches that they use. It helps to ask if the approach is “evidence-based,” which means research has shown these strategies to be effective with children who have these particular challenges.
Trust your instincts and listen to your child. Make sure you support your child to see the therapist for at least 4 weeks and then assess the person and the process together. As a parent, you want to be sure that your child is seeing a therapist who includes you in the process, invites you to be part of goal setting, and offers you specific guidance about ways you can support your child.
There are no wrong questions to ask the therapist, just as there are no wrong answers to give the therapist. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What is your experience treating this kind of problem?
- Do you expect us (parents) to be involved in sessions with our child?
- Will you meet with us separately?
- Will you develop behavior plans to try at home?
- Will you ask us to help our child practice new skills?
- Help us understand how therapy works and how it might be helpful for our particular child.
For more on this topic, please check out our class, “Children and Therapy: Let’s Talk.”