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How a counselor or therapist can help your family

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By Ann Christen, M.A., M.F.T. , Linda Broatch, M.A.

What questions should I ask myself before contacting prospective therapists?

Before you start interviewing prospective therapists, ask yourself a few questions to help clarify your goals and expectations for your child's therapy. Questions such as the following may be useful:

  • How urgent is it that my child receives counseling right now? Has she already got so much on her plate that therapy might put her in "overload?"
  • What specific changes in my child's behavior do I hope to see as a result of therapy? What are my most important concerns?
  • What if my child resists seeing a counselor or therapist? How can I talk to her about the benefits in a way she will understand?
  • Can our family handle the demands of regularly scheduled therapy right now?
  • What financial issues does our family need to consider in regard to therapy? Where can we look for low- or no-cost therapy in our community?

Finding and interviewing therapists

Once you' ve thought about goals for your child's therapy and how to manage the logistics involved, make some calls to friends, school staff, or community service agencies to get the names of therapists they recommend. When you are ready to interview the therapists in person or over the telephone, you may find our " Questions to Ask Counselors and Therapists- pdf worksheet useful. In-person interviews can give you a feel for whether you have "good chemistry" with a therapist. The worksheet includes several suggested questions to ask therapists and provides a way to organize your notes, such as:

  • What would a typical session with my child look like?
  • Describe a typical session...
  • How would you work with our family?
  • What is your experience working with children with learning or attention problems?

Finding the right therapist to help a child with emotional or behavioral problems may take a little time. When you begin working with a therapist, be alert to how helpful and supportive the sessions seem. From your first appointment, you should feel that you are getting emotional and practical support you need to deal with your child's issues. As therapy progresses, your child should become more comfortable with the process.

You may begin work with a therapist, decide the therapist is not working out well, and have to start your search again. But if you persist, the benefit to your child and family can make the effort well worth it.

© 2008 GreatSchools Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally created by Schwab Learning, formerly a program of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation

Linda Broatch has worked for many years in nonprofit organizations that serve the health and education needs of children. She has an M.A. in education, with a focus in child development.