First Steps in Finding a Therapist

Mental and emotional health is a lifelong journey whose path we do not always discuss at home or with friends. Searching for mental health support can be daunting. Stigmas and reactions rooted in the fear of the unknown can hinder a loved one’s experience in their healing process, or possibly impact a person’s view of the therapeutic experience. There are many factors to consider in your search for the most supportive therapist for your child.

Some reasons to seek out therapy for your child:

  •  life transitions/changes
  • help processing thoughts and emotions
  • confidence building
  • family support
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • grief
  • a space to be heard and validated 

What are some things to consider when talking  about therapy with your child? 

If you suspect a specific challenge or diagnosis, it is important to be mindful about your personal views and emotions towards your child’s experience. Your choice of words may impact and influence your child’s receptiveness to therapy. A good way to cultivate support is to inform your child that therapy is a time to speak or play with someone who is there to listen to anything they wish  to express. 

You can use  descriptive phrases such as: a private talk space to explore what has been difficult lately, to seek support and strength for specific experiences, to receive support in growth, a person who is there to celebrate and encourage you in being yourself, a safe space to just be, without judgment. All such examples steer away from language that can make a child feel like they are deficient or broken. Therapy is a tool to help a person navigate their own self work or healing desires.

Finding a therapist who is the right fit for your child

Once therapy support is agreed on, looking for the right fit for your child requires some more thoughtfulness. Things to consider are: would my child enjoy the setting of the therapy offered, does the location of the therapy conflict with my commute, has the therapist worked with children/youth whose challenges are similar to my child’s, meeting with the potential therapist to ask questions and gain understanding of their approach, and most importantly that your child feels comfortable talking with the potential therapist. Once you and your child find a therapist who is a good fit, the therapy experience can come to life and be of service.

Important to consider

Healing is not a linear process and neither is the therapy experience. During the first few weeks to months, your child and the therapist are building trust and rapport. This may take some time. There may be times when your child exhibits growth or changes that positively impact their life and your whole family. There may also be times where your child may appear to return to challenging behaviors or thoughts that highlight the reason therapy was sought out. This ebb and flow is a normal part of what it means to work on oneself. Some days are good, others are not. However, reflection is the bigger gem of the therapeutic process. Encouraging your child to embrace the reality of being a human being and the work it takes to reach specific goals of self-awareness is a valuable accomplishment. Some ways  bring encouragement towards your child’s therapy experience are: parent with warmth and patience, welcome conversations that healing is not linear, remembering that your child’s therapeutic relationship with the therapist is their own and not the same as yours, hold parent sessions with the therapist as well, and if needed consider what mental/emotional supports you may want for yourself and add them to your life so that healing may ripple out for your child to witness. 

Mental/emotional health and healing are a constant practice, not a temporary exercise to fix someone. When children can have judgment-free conversations about their own mental/emotional health, they are able to hold more ownership on what health means and looks like for them as they get older. Perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself when seeking a therapist for your child is, “What do I want to pass down to my child regarding how to manage their own mental/emotional health when they are adults?”

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