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Finding the right therapist for your child

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

(Therapy) help wanted

Whether your child is experiencing overwhelming anxiety, suffering with an eating disorder or struggling to "fit in" in school, a professional child therapist may be able to help.  
Counseling

Once you've decided to seek professional help, how do you go about finding the best child therapist for your family? Dr. Jerry Weichman, a clinical psychologist and adolescent specialist, provides insight to help you navigate the process.

The search is on

SearchFinding the right therapist for your child can be a difficult process, unless you have a solid game plan.

"Start by asking your child whether they prefer a male or female therapist," says Dr. Weichman. "Gender can play an important role in establishing the rapport critical for successful therapy."

Beyond that, you want to focus on experience, specialization and reputation. "If your child is dealing with specific issues, such as cutting, body image or bullying, you need to seek out a therapist who focuses either your child's age group or who has worked with that particular issue before," says Dr. Weichman.


Read: Does my child need therapy? >>

Do your research

After you narrow down your choices, you still have some legwork to do before you make an appointment. Dr. Weichman suggests you contact your state's psychology licensing board to confirm that the therapist is licensed and doesn't have a spotty past. Also, their online presence can help whittle down the field. "Google them, check out their web site and see if they have a Facebook or Twitter profile," he says. Read their posts and the posts from clients to get a feel for their practice and their personality.

Facebook is no help for eating disorders >>


Listen to your gut

"I have never seen a parent's -- especially a mother's -- intuition to be wrong. Listen to your gut."

So you've found the ideal therapist! Before your child jumps into a session, make an appointment to sit down with him or her one-on-one and put your intuition to work. "This enables you to download all of the pertinent information they'll need to help your son or daughter, plus you will get a better feel for that individual's approach," says Dr. Weichman.

Read about maternal instinct >>

Practical tips

Dr. Weichman offers the following practical tips for finding the right therapist:

  • Seek referrals from your friends, neighbors, pediatrician and school counselor.
  • Check out the Psychology Today website to locate a therapist by zip code, find out about their specialties, whether they accept insurance, their fees, and other relevant information.
  • Ideally the therapist should be able to lay out for you how many sessions or months that they believe it will take to effect change in your family.
  • Does the therapist take the time to hear and understand your concerns or do they have their own agenda?
  • If you are not seeing improvement with your son or daughter in four months of regular therapy, you need to find someone else that will get down to business and put the issues on the table.
  • Many times, parents have to adjust their behavior towards their child for the child to adopt lasting changes as well. It's not always easy but with the right therapist, your family can begin to heal and get back on a positive road.

Read more reasons kids may need therapy

What to do when your child is being bullied?
Recognizing eating disorders in children
Could your child have an anxiety disorder?

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