As if parenting wasn’t hard enough, you’re now faced with the task of choosing the best therapist for your child. To many parents, this task feels overwhelming.
How do you know what to look for? Who will provide the best intervention and support?
The Essential Qualities in a Child Therapist?
As you begin your search, you'll want to keep the following in mind. These seven traits top the list of qualities a child therapist should offer.
- Strengths Perspective: A good therapist sees your child, not just their symptoms. They focus on your child’s strengths and ultimate potential. They see their patient as “a child struggling with anxiety” rather than “an anxious child.”
- Emotions Prioritized: If your child is struggling, they most likely have difficulty regulating their emotions, so it’s important for the therapist to prioritize them. The therapist should seek to develop a supportive and engaging relationship with these emotions in mind.
- Emphasis on Safety Over Management: Neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges notes that “nurturing the child’s feelings of safety should always precede simple behavior management. Otherwise, a child may appear to be thriving, but on a deeper level, he or she is suffering.” The therapist should make it a priority to ensure your child feels safe, rather than simply try to manage their behavior.
- Relationship-Based Therapy: The therapist should start by building a relationship with you and use relationships to understand what is contributing to your child’s challenges. Relationships should be the foundation for treatment, rather than talk therapy.
- Ally Mentality: The therapist should view you as an ally and understand the importance of your role in your child’s life. They should look to you and other supports in the child’s life to fully engage all the resources the child has. Their work with the child is temporary, but these supports will remain, and the therapist’s efforts should reflect this truth.
- Culture Context: The therapist should have a good understanding of the child’s culture, to provide context for their challenges. They do not have to share the same culture personally, but they should be aware of the child’s culture, values and norms and how these can help support your child.
- The Right Credentials: This will depend on what the goals are for your child’s therapy. Clinical social workers typically use counseling, group work and play therapy to work on conflict resolution and problem-solving. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Psychologists provide psychological and educational testing, talk therapy and recommendations for treatment of any challenges identified. As you choose a therapist for your child, seek out the level of credentials that are appropriate for the specific struggles your child is facing.
Imaage Source: iStock