Therapy for Parents of Children with ASD
How to Choose a Child Therapist
There are many factors that go into choosing a therapist for your child. Find a qualified therapist who is licensed in mental health where you live. Ask lots of questions and get familiar with what you can expect from each therapist, including how they conduct sessions and what type of therapy they implement. Above all, you and your child should feel comfortable with the therapist and feel like progress is being made.
Searching for a Therapist
Look for many providers.Do an online search or call your insurance provider to find some therapists near you. Depending on where you live, you may need to travel to see a child therapist. Compile a list of providers that meet your criteria, like those who live close to you, work with children, have expertise in your child’s problem, etc. Don’t consider therapists that make you feel uncomfortable for any reason.
- There are lots of people who can provide mental health therapy, so don’t let the titles scare you. You may see a psychologist, social worker, mental health counselor, or marriage and family therapist. While psychologists tend to have the most training and education, all therapists can provide effective therapy.
Inquire about their expertise.Find a therapist who specializes in children and families. Don’t see someone who typically does not work with children. If you’re looking for a certain type of therapy, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), see if the therapist specializes in this type of treatment. Ask about their experience treating children similar to your child.
- For example, if your child is struggling with anxiety, go to someone who specializes in childhood anxiety disorders.
- Many therapists have online profiles which outline whether they work with children and what areas they specialize in.
Obtain a recommendation.Many school counselors will have recommendations for child therapists in the local community whom they trust. The school counselor may have some insight as to who would help your child best given their needs. Make a phone call to the school and ask to speak with the psychologist for their recommendations and opinions.
- Ask your physician for a recommendation. You can also call your local psychological association, universities or colleges, or a local mental health clinic. If you know other parents who have brought their child to a therapist, ask for their contact information.
Research who is covered by insurance.If you’re getting therapy through your insurance provider, make sure any potential therapists you are interested in are covered by your insurance. Figure out what your co-pay for each session will cost, and ask about any other additional expenses on top of your co-pay. Call the therapist or the mental health clinic to be sure they take your insurance.
- Some therapists are private pay only, which means they do not accept insurance and payment is expected in full for each session.
Find a licensed therapist.Make sure your child’s therapist is licensed to practice therapy. Even if the person has a Master’s or Doctorate degree, they may not be licensed. If you look at someone’s website or call a local mental health clinic, there should be indications of a valid license to practice mental health therapy.
- A simple, “Are you licensed in this state as a therapist?” is all it takes to find out.
- Coaches (such as life coaches or mental health coaches) are not licensed or regulated and often do not have backgrounds in mental health. While they may help motivate your child, they may not be able to help with any underlying issues that your child has.
Call potential therapists.Once you’ve compiled a list of prospective therapists, find out more information about them. One of the best ways to do this is to call or send an email with your questions or concerns. While you should give them an general idea of the problems your child is having, the most important thing to do now is to talk about the therapist themselves.Some questions you can ask include:
- What types of mental health issues do you treat in your practice?
- How much experience do you have in treating children with similar issues or symptoms as my child has?
- Have you received training in particular treatments that may help my child? If so, which ones? What type of training did you receive?
- Will I be allowed to participate in my child’s treatment? If so, to what extent can I be present?
Understand the kind of therapy they perform.There are different kinds of therapists and therapy offered. For example, some child therapists practice play therapy, others focus on behavior modification, and still others seek to improve parent-child interactions. Each therapist may approach your child’s problems in a different way. The most important things are that the therapy is effective and that you’re on board.
- The therapist may offer different approaches depending on what’s going on with your child.
- Ask the therapist, “Is this treatment empirically validated for my child?” This means that research has confirmed that the treatment is effective.
Ask about parental involvement.Ask the therapist what the roles of the parents are in therapy. For example, some therapists want children and parents to interact during therapy. Others spend part of the session with the child and the other part with the parents. Still others want parental and/or family involvement throughout therapy. Ask what your role during therapy will be.
- Ask if there will be tasks or “homework” for you or your child between sessions to work on skills.
Discuss medication.Most therapists do not prescribe medication. However, they may recommend a consult with a child psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication. If you have strong feelings about medication, talk this over with your child’s therapist and see where they stand.
- For example, if you are opposed to medications and your child’s therapist encourages you to give them to your child, this can cause conflicts in the therapeutic relationship.
Talk about religious preferences.If you want a therapist with a religious lean, make this clear from the start. If you do not want religion as part of therapy and you are taking your child to a religious therapist, make it clear that you do not want any religious doctrine included in therapy.
Continuing with Your Child’s Therapist
Ensure that you and your child are comfortable.Your child’s therapist should make you feel comfortable and at ease. You should feel a sense of hope when working with your child’s therapist. If you feel uncomfortable with the therapist or don’t feel like your child is benefitting from their care, consider switching to a different therapist.
- The therapist should be someone your child feels comfortable talking to, yet you should also feel comfortable speaking and sharing with them.
Create goals together.When starting therapy, co-create some goals for your child with the therapist. Say what you’d like to improve or change and seek the therapist’s feedback. This most often occurs during the first session and gives the course of therapy a direction in which both you and the therapist can agree upon.
- Periodically check in with the therapist about your child’s progress and they are working toward the goals.
Notice clear differences in mood and behavior.Most parents want to know if therapy is ‘working.’ You should begin to notice changes in your child as a result of therapy. You may start approaching parenting through a different model or responding to your child differently. Communicate regularly with your child’s therapist to check in about their progress and goals.
- Your child’s therapist may give your child some tools to help them cope with difficulties, talk about their feelings, or learn to respond differently to hard situations.
Video: Speech Therapy: What to Expect | Cincinnati Children's
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