by Rachelle Lipschultz
The decision to seek therapy for your child is not always an easy one to make. Choosing the right therapist, however, can be even more difficult. This month, we bring you some tips on how to do just that. Our author, Professor Matt Yeazel, is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Anne Arundel Community College. He is a licensed clinical social worker whose previous positions have included working with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health providing clinical services to children and adolescents. He also consults with the Family Outreach Network for bilingual parent education programs and works in private practice in the Elkridge/Columbia area.
If this topic is of interest to you, then you may also be interested in some of our upcoming programs for the spring semester. Our noncredit courses include “Managing Anger in Family Life,” “Controlling Your Child’s Behavior,” “My Child Might be Depressed or Anxious—Now What?” as well as one of our brand-new courses, “Solving Discipline Problems at Home.” In addition, our spring Family Life Education Series (a Saturday morning workshop) will focus on “Managing the Oppositional and Defiant Child.” Details about these and our other programs can be found in our spring brochure. We hope to see you soon!
FINDING THE RIGHT COUNSELOR FOR YOUR CHILD
by Matt Yeazel, LCSW-C
The process of deciding that your child needs mental health services can be a very emotional experience for parents. After the decision has been made, however, finding the right therapist for your child can determine whether or not true change will occur. There are several guidelines for parents that can make the process easier.
Exploring Your Options
Ask around! There are many people who can serve as valuable resources in helping find the right therapist for your child. The most obvious might be your pediatrician, but others might be a religious leader or your child's guidance counselor. You might even feel comfortable talking to friends or family members. People are much more open about mental health services than they used to be, and there is less stigma attached to counseling and psychotherapy. The more trusted people you talk to, the greater your knowledge base will be.
Be careful about the yellow pages or referral services. Just because someone is listed within a directory of therapists doesn't mean he or she is the best person for your child. The yellow pages can be even more risky. Don't be fooled by the person who has the biggest box around her name. The size of the advertisement does not reflect the quality of the therapist.
There are different types of therapists; no one discipline is necessarily better than any other. There are many licensed professionals who can legitimately be called counselors or psychotherapists; these include psychologists, clinical social workers, professional counselors, and psychiatric nurses. A psychiatrist, generally the only mental health professional who can legally prescribe medications, can also be a psychotherapist. Most often, however, psychiatrists devote their practices to medication management rather than counseling.
Is one type of therapist better than another? Every once in awhile you'll hear one profession claim to be better at handling a particular issue, but in reality what matters is the skill level of the particular person who is providing the therapy, not the profession. Find the counselor or psychotherapist with whom you feel most comfortable. You are looking for the right person for your child and your family.
Consult professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association or the National Association of Social Workers generally set professional standards for their members, so they can be a good referral source.
I Have Some Names—Now What?
When you have names of some potential candidates you can begin the interview process. You have every right now to talk to each therapist and see if you feel comfortable with him or her. If you don't, then it's not worth investing your time and money. Don't be intimidated! You have the right to ask as many questions as you need in order to make the best decision. Asking about the therapist's credentials, training, fees, or any other thing that comes to mind is fair game and should be expected by the therapist. Any therapist that objects to you asking questions isn't worth putting your trust in! Remember—if your intuition tells you that the person doesn't feel right, then he or she probably isn't best suited to work with your child.
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