There are many reasons why a parent or guardian might seek therapy for their child. There are serious issues such as a child being the victim of sexual or physical abuse, or perhaps a child is having trouble adjusting to a new situation in their life, like a new stepparent.

Specific situations where you might seek out a child psychologist include:

  • Your child has a learning or attention problem like ADHD/ADD
  • Behavioral problems like excessive anger or bedwetting
  • A drop in school performance
  • Signs of sadness or depression
  • Isolation or social withdrawal
  • Being the victim of bullying or bullying other children
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances
  • Developing a growing list of unexplained physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches
  • Custody evaluations

Choosing the right therapist for your child is important and can make a difference in their treatment.

Consider the following when choosing a child therapist.

Credentials and Qualifications

There are a lot of different types of professionals who may work with children. These can include psychiatrists and psychologists but also clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, and family therapists.

It’s often advisable to look for someone who has graduated from an accredited program and has at least a Master’s degree. You should also look for a licensed professional in your state. The therapist should have specific expertise and experience working with children and families.

If you think that medication may need to be part of your child’s treatment plan, you’ll need to find someone who can prescribe medicines such as a medical doctor or a nurse practitioner.

Good Fit

When it comes to a therapist who works with any age group, including children, the biggest consideration beyond qualifications should be the patient-therapist “fit.” With a child therapist, there needs to be a good fit with your child but also with you.

The most successful therapy relationships occur when the therapist and the family get along well, there is a bond and there is a sense of trust.

Even if your child is shy or reluctant, a good therapist will be able to engage him or her.

It’s not always the most obvious matches that work the best either. For example, you may think that a younger, hipper therapist is best for your child or teen, but that may not always be true, so look beyond who you think might ostensibly be the best fit.

The therapist should also work to foster a good relationship with the parent or caregiver and understand the important role of that person in the child’s life.

There should never be a sense of blame on the part of the therapist toward the child or their family.

Type of Treatment

Therapists may approach treatment in different ways, and certain therapies are more effective than others in specific situations.

You should speak with a child therapist about what their treatment approach is and how they apply it, as well as how it will work for your child.

A therapist should also be able to provide you with a treatment plan.

The treatment plan will highlight what they’re going to do and how their therapies will specifically address the issues your child may be experiencing. A treatment plan should also have progress benchmarks, and it should show how long therapy may be expected to last.

Don’t Let a Therapist Over promise

A therapist should be a skilled professional, and if their pitch seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Therapists are incredibly helpful, but if you speak to someone who seems unrealistic about what they can achieve when working with your child, you might want to consider someone else.

You need to find someone who’s realistic in their expectations and talks about achievements that may be small, but over time meaningful. You want practical, achievable results. Also, if a therapist offers something that they say will take years, that’s another red flag.

Most treatment plans usually require anywhere from 12 to 16 sessions, and if it’s longer than that, you should ask why it’ll be longer and also discuss the cost.

If you can get a referral from someone you trust, that’s often best as you choose a therapist.

Finally, even if you do get a referral, you should ask plenty of questions before you have your child work with someone.

Go over their background and experience and their areas of specialty.

You should ask how often the therapist meets with the parents, how long children typically do therapy with that person, and what their stance on medication is.

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