You’ve decided that your child would benefit from participating in therapy. Now you need to choose a therapist. How do you decide?
First, identify 3-5 therapists in your area who work with children and are accepting new clients. You can ask your child’s school counselor, teachers, other parents, and people in your community for recommendations.
Once you’ve identified your candidates, request a free consultation with each of them. A consultation is an opportunity to ask questions of a potential therapist and is usually brief (10-20 minutes).
Here’s a list of important questions to ask prospective therapists:
1. How many years have you provided therapy to children? Notice that this question is specific. You are not asking how many years they’ve been providing therapy or how many years they’ve worked with children. A therapist can practice for 40 years with zero years of experience in child therapy. It’s even possible for a therapist to work with children for 40 years without ever providing therapy to children.
2. What is your experience with children who have [your child’s issue]? You need to know not only whether the therapist has experience providing therapy to children but also whether they know the best ways to treat children with needs similar to your child’s. Anxiety, anger, lack of attention, hyperactivity, and defiance are a few examples of specific issues.
3. How are you going to build a relationship with my child? Your child’s success in therapy is strongly related to their relationship with the therapist. Therapists should be able to discuss multiple methods that they will use to create a safe and trusting relationship with your child.
4. Will you collaborate with my child’s school counselor, pediatrician, juvenile officer, etc.? Collaborating in this way requires more of the therapist’s time outside of sessions. You need to be sure that they have the time and are willing to provide any collaboration that is needed. Be specific about whom you need them to coordinate with and how often.
5. How much will you tell me about what’s discussed in sessions? Legal guardians usually have access to all or most of a child’s treatment information. Yet full disclosure can harm the relationship between your child and the therapist. If everything will be reported, your child might feel like they don’t have a safe place to discuss their feelings and concerns openly. At the same time, as their legal guardian, you need to receive some information. This balance can be tricky to navigate, but experienced child therapists know how to do it well. It’s important for you to understand what information you need to know and what the therapist recommends with regard to disclosures.
6. How involved should I be in treatment? Be sure to find out whether your child’s therapist recommends that you participate in family therapy or expects you to attend separate sessions with them without your child present. You should ask yourself if you’re willing and able to participate in family therapy or accompany your child to therapy sessions. Some therapists will not work with children whose parents refuse to accompany them to sessions or refuse to participate in family therapy.
7. Are you available to see my child outside of school hours? Some therapists provide weekend and evening appointments, but not all. If you do not wish for your child to miss school or other activities, you will need to choose a therapist whose hours match your child’s availability.
Choosing a therapist for your child can feel overwhelming, but asking the right questions can help you make the best decision.
Are you looking for a child therapist? Symmetry Counseling has a variety of therapists who provide child and adolescent therapy, including Amanda Gregory, Alexandra Fliess, Leanna Stockard, and Ann Edgington. In addition, Shannon Duffy, Andrew McNaughton, and Jonah Waseberg provide adolescent therapy. Contact Symmetry Counseling and request a free consultation with any of these therapists.