How to Choose the Best Therapist for Your Child (and Yourself!)

Napa & Folsom Child Wellness created this family friendly guide to help you in your search for the best therapist for your child.  Our recommendations are based on multiple studies done by the American Psychological Association, examining what therapist qualities make for the most effective treatment outcomes.  

1. The therapist has good interpersonal skills.  When you speak with the therapist are they warm?  Are they focused on what you are telling them?  Are they empathetic?  These qualities will help you and your child feel comfortable and heard in therapy.  

2. They create a "working alliance" with you.  Do they understand your goals for therapy? Are they on the same page with the outcome you desire?  Do you feel comfortable with their proposed route for achieving this?  Listen to your gut.  If after a few sessions you do not feel this alliance, reach out to another professional to gain some perspective.

3.  The therapist can explain what is going on with your child in a way you understand.  As a parent (or a client) you should fully understand the assessment and treatment process.  What is the diagnosis?  How will the therapist relieve the symptoms of concern?  The therapist should welcome your questions and weekly feedback concerning progress.  Feeling comfortable communicating with them is key.

4. They give you enough hope that you feel invested in the treatment plan.  You may be seeking support in a moment of crisis for your family and it can feel extremely vulnerable.  Does the therapist help you to see the potential for growth?  Do they help you to feel confident about the challenges you will overcome?  If the therapist makes you feel hopeful this will create a ripple effect for your child that will greatly benefit the treatment outcome.

5.  The therapist stays deeply engaged through out the process.  There are ups and downs in therapy, as in any process, but the alliance with your therapist is a tool to help you understand why this may be happening.  Is your therapist invested in your child's progress on a weekly basis or does it feel inconsistent?  Do they show care and concern for your child's well-being and progress?

6. The therapist is willing to be wrong and willing to refer out! if it means getting to the bottom of your child's issue a therapist will acknowledge when their idea or suggestion was wrong and when other professional support is needed.

7. They ask the hard questions.  Are they curious and engaged in understanding everything about your child's issues?  A well-trained therapist has practiced asking tough questions and examining uncomfortable material necessary to create an accurate treatment plan.

8. The therapist makes recommendations that your family can follow through on.  It is crucial that the therapist understands your family's strengths and resources so that you can follow through on actions that will support your child.  Example: If you have explained that you are short on money but have a lot of time in the afternoons to spend with your child the therapist could suggest low to no cost activities you can do daily with your child.

9. They do not use your time for themselves.  This is a big one and at first it can be a real draw for some people.  If a therapist shares a lot about themselves (their own family, their daily life and values) it can be immediately comforting to some, especially when they perceive the therapist to be similar to themselves or even hold some ideal characteristics.  But a good therapist should be able to connect with you and your child with out taking up all the space.

10. They know their research and they love to learn.  Our field is constantly evolving so it it is of utmost importance that we, as mental health professionals, stay up to date on the best evidence based treatments for the clients we serve.   It is our ethical duty to refer a client to someone who is up to date on your child's issue if we are not.