Finding a therapist for your child can be feel challenging. For one, there just aren’t enough of us out there! This can mean waitlists, limited options, or driving further to find someone that works well with you and your child. It can also feel daunting to try to find someone you think your child will open up to, especially if they are reluctant to try therapy in the first place. But there is hope! And when you find that good fit, it makes the work that much easier and results come quicker. Here’s what to look for when looking for a therapist for your child:
– Specialist: Someone who consistently works with children the age of your child. You wouldn’t want to see a dentist for your foot pain, would you? So be sure to seek out someone who really understands the nuances of doing therapy with children.
– Comfort: Someone your child feels comfortable with. Opening up to a stranger is (and should be) a foreign concept to children. What you’re looking for is that they are gradually opening up to the therapist and are comfortable with the therapist. This process tends to happen more slowly in therapy with children, so try to be patient as they get there.
– Confidentiality: Someone who respects your child’s confidentiality, but doesn’t ignore their safety. Children are entitled to confidentiality, legally and ethically, at the age of 12. Which means that what is discussed stays between the child and the therapist unless there is a serious safety concern or permission given. However, younger children benefit from having a private space as well. Even if the child is under the age of 12, they are going to feel less comfortable opening up to a therapist if they know that everything they say is going to be shared with their parent. It’s important for the parent and therapist to have a good relationship, and to have enough trust that the parent knows the therapist will share something of significance when the time is right.
– Timing: Not waiting too long before seeking help can make all the difference. Waiting too long can mean general anxiety turning into school refusal, or depression turning into self-harm. It also tends to mean spending a longer time in therapy to resolve the, now growing, issue. But finding a time that works perfectly with school, sports, homework, and the rest of the family’s schedule can be quite difficult and can lead families to wait until a more convenient time to seek out therapy for their child. Instead, I recommend addressing the issue early, and finding ways to make therapy work. Ways that I’ve seen families make it work include: taking their child out of school early or taking them in late (try to choose a time when they are in gym or another non-academic class), arranging rides to activities for their other children, or decreasing out of school activities for a period of time. It’s not easy, but you won’t regret making that commitment to your child’s mental health and acting quickly.
Stephanie Samudio, LCSW