Finding a therapist for your child can be intimidating and many parents are unsure about what elements to look for when seeking help. Parents may wish to consider the following:
- Research shows that the element that is most predictive of success within therapy, is the quality of the relationship. A parent should check-in with their child after two or three sessions to determine if the child likes the therapist. Kids might be uncomfortable with tasks a therapist is asking them to do (e.g., like talk about their emotions), but they should have genuine positive feelings about the person. If they don’t, try another therapist.
- Therapeutic goals are essential! All involved parties including the child, parent, and therapist should be able to name a few goals that are the target of intervention. As therapy progresses, growth toward the goals should be seen.
- Most therapists use a variety of techniques tailored to the person’s needs and goals; however, most therapists also tend to operate more heavily from one treatment modality than another. Ask questions about therapeutic philosophy and techniques and make sure it is a good match for your child’s needs. As an example, there is evidence that exposure and response prevention, a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, is most appropriate for significant symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Good therapy involves work outside of sessions. For example, this might include tracking how often something occurs, practicing relaxation techniques, or trying out a different way of communicating. Only with practice do the skills learned within therapy generalize to a child’s home or school environment.
~Lauren Cook, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist