How to Find a Good Counselor for Your Child
Imagine being an 8-year-old and dealing with all the stuff they are dealing with today. As a parent, you can see something’s just off with your child. Maybe your kid’s teacher, guidance counselor, or some other adult in their life has noticed it. And now you’ve decided to take the brave step of finding a counselor for your child. Because you care so much, not just any counselor or therapist will do: you want to find a good one.
Here are some tips on finding a good counselor.
Don’t be shy to ask your network of people you know.
Ask your child’s pediatrician and talk to the school guidance counselor. Mention it to church youth workers. Definitely ask your friends. You may find out that more people have experience with child counselors than you thought. However, when you ask, be sure to ask what makes their recommended counselor good. I mean, just because they know the counselor doesn’t mean they are a good counselor. Or that he or she is the right one for your child.
Dr. Christina McCroskey says she and other pediatricians often hear from parents about which counselors are effective. Your child’s doctor may also have a better idea of what type of care your child may need.
Figure out all the letters.
MD, Ph.D., LMFT, LCSW, MSW, LPC. You’ve heard the terms psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, family counselors, therapists, etc. It can be overwhelming when you’re starting from scratch. Here’s a good list of different designations for mental health professionals. Like I said, your pediatrician can help you choose what your child needs. That’s a great place to start.
Gather your thoughts and be specific.
Whether someone recommended counseling or you’ve decided to go this route on your own, take some time to write down your concerns about your child and any potential triggers. It’s easy to get nervous on the spot and forget critical details. Writing it down can help you accurately communicate your concerns.
Ask around about counselors. Get on the internet and read their credentials, articles, or blogs they may have written. Check out their social media accounts. Find out how much experience they have. Learn what their areas of concentration are. You want someone who’s experienced working with children, not just counseling people in general.
Interview Potential Counselors One-On-One.
Good counselors should be used to being vetted to determine if they’re the best fit. You can do this in person or by phone, and maybe even through Zoom. If they are resistant and try to rush you to an appointment, move on to another counselor.
When you talk to them, ask…
- About their experience working with children.
- What methods they have used with children in their practice.
- How the parents are included in the process.
- How they differentiate between medical conditions and behavior issues.
- If they have a particular specialty.
- What they do to stay current in their practice.
Questions to ask yourself afterward:
- How did I feel after talking to them? Did I feel inspired, hopeful, and encouraged? You can speak to some counselors and feel like they are life-giving while others are so heavy and gloomy.
- Did I feel heard and understood? Were they genuinely listening to me or quick to diagnose and tell me what we needed?
- Were they empathetic?
- How would my child receive them? You know your child well. There’s a good chance that if you didn’t feel like they connected well, they might not connect well with your child.
- Is this person truly an advocate for the family?
Listen to your gut.
It’s ok for you to talk to multiple counselors until you find one that just feels right. I wouldn’t introduce the child to the counselor until you’ve chosen one.
Schedule a consultation.
Many counselors will schedule a one-hour consultation with new clients before asking you to commit your hard-earned dollars to their practice. If so, use this opportunity to learn more before you make a choice.
“As adults, it’s important not to assume that our youth can handle emotions. If we as adults struggle (with a fully developed brain), imagine the difficulty our youth are having with a developing brain and body,” says psychiatrist Dr. Cassandra Simms:
By taking your time, practicing patience, and showing due diligence, you are the best person to identify who can best help your child. Demonstrating your strong love by getting your child the help they need will be something that will pay off for years to come.
Other helpful blogs:
How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them
How to Prevent Depression from Affecting Your Child