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Choosing the right therapist for your Child or Teenager

Over the past few years and particularly since the pandemic there has been an increasing recognition of mental health and psychological difficulties in children and teenagers. As a parent, it is hard enough to come to the realization that your child may need help. You and your child have spoken about things and decided that they need additional help in the form of a therapist.

So, how do you go about choosing the right therapist for your child?

After all, there are so many options to choose from, multiple ways to access therapy in today’s world, and many different kinds of therapy.

In this article, we look at what you should consider when choosing a therapist for your child.

The importance of a good therapist

Why is choosing the right therapist important?  A good therapist is essential to creating a sense of hope, applying evidence-based treatments, and helping you and your child navigate through their psychological difficulties with understanding and empathy.  A good therapist provides a sense of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. In short, the right therapist for your child may be worth their weight in gold.

What is Therapy?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA “Psychotherapy (sometimes called talk therapy) refers to a variety of treatments that aim to help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. Most psychotherapy takes place when a licensed mental health professional.”

So, therapy is not just about talking to someone for an hour. It is a combination of techniques that allow a person to become aware of harmful ways of thinking, coping with stress, examining one’s interactions with others, and applying techniques such as mindfulness and relaxation.  There are of course specific therapies such as CBT, DBT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that are particularly suited to certain people with certain conditions such as depression.

Therapy should not be confused with the absolutely essential and crucial support that you, family members, teachers as well as friends, and your extended support network provide to your child.

9 tips for choosing the right therapist for your child

  1. Recognize that your child needs help from a therapist. 

You are a parent who loves and adores your child and always wants the best for them. Your role as a parent is more important than any other role for your child. However, if you and your child have tried to resolve problems but have not succeeded, it may be that they require more specialist input. The therapist is a clinician who does not have a pre-existing relationship with the family and comes equipped with specialist tips and techniques to help your child and your family.

2. Think about the kind of therapist your child needs

Psychologists are therapists that provide psychological therapy for children and teenagers. Psychologists may perform a comprehensive assessment before or during therapy. Counsellors adopt a more person-centred approach and start by listening and discussing goals. If your child is dealing with a problem such as ADHD, autism, depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder that may need an accurate diagnosis, a psychologist may be more appropriate while a counsellor may be more appropriate for a stress-related condition.

3. Will the therapy be face-to-face or online? 

Generally, face-to-face therapy is preferred over a telehealth option as it allows for a much better establishment of the therapeutic bond. A number of diagnostic assessments for disorders such as ADHD and autism can only be performed face-to-face. However, With improving technology today telehealth is a viable option for a number of families especially if they require a specialized kind of therapy (such as FBT for eating disorders), and are looking to connect with a therapist with highly specialist experience in a particular therapy or live in an area where therapy is not available. An increasing number of people prefer a “hybrid model” where they may do some sessions online while having met the therapist in person for the first few. Finally, telehealth may also help if you have a good therapeutic bond with a particular therapist but have to move away for any reason (such as attending University).

4. Does the therapist work alone or as part of a team? 

This may not be a major consideration if you are clear about the specific therapist your child needs. However, when making an initial choice, larger practices with a number of 

psychologists may give you more options to choose from.  If one therapist is not suitable, you can engage with another at the same location. A larger practice may also be helpful if the therapist leaves or moves away and your child’s care needs to be transferred to another therapist. Being in the same practice allows for better continuity of care. If the psychologist has a website, you can often check their qualifications and background, so this is something you will know before your first appointment.

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