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5 Things Parents Need to Know About Children and Therapy

Figuring out if and when your child could benefit from therapy is not always easy. Here we will explore some answers to common questions that parents might have about children and therapy.

You might be at a point where you feel that your child might benefit from some outside help. This article will attempt to help you weed through some important questions (and answers) to guide you in your decision-making process regarding counseling for your child.

Does my child need therapy?

This is where most people get hung-up. We all want to know if what our child is displaying is “normal.” We may observe other children or ask our friends for feedback. Still, the answers may not be clear and we are reluctant to make that leap. 

There are many factors that may prevent us from seeking therapy for our child such as:  previous negative experiences with therapy, feelings of failure as a parent, the stigma of therapy, wondering if it is really “that bad,” or simply not knowing where to find help. Consider these possible underlying barriers to treatment. Exploring the root of the issue can help you see clearer to make the best decision for your family.

While there are no hard-and-fast criteria for seeking therapy, the following guidelines may help.  Consider seeking therapy for your child if he:

  • Shows an abrupt change in mood or behavior.
  • Has experienced a traumatic life event.
  • Has been symptomatic for 6 months or more.
  • Is demonstrating behaviors that severely impact your family’s day-to-day functioning in a negative way.

Your child may be experiencing some or all of these criteria. You and your spouse are in the best position to determine if the severity of his reaction or behaviors warrants treatment.

Who will be the “patient”?

Many parents seek out counseling because they want the therapist to “fix” the child in the family who is most symptomatic. They have the hope that they will drop their child off at the therapist’s office and pick him up 50 minutes later, somewhat improved. However, children do not live in a vacuum. They are part of a family system. Sometimes the child displaying the most symptoms is simply the manifestation of a broken family system. Entering into therapy with your child rather than for him will create a supportive atmosphere that will allow the healing to begin regardless of origin of the hurt.

Will the therapist call child protective services?

Even parents who have nothing to fear, fear this. Let me assure you that therapists are not looking to make reports to CPS. That being said, they are mandated by law to report any verified or suspected abuse or neglect of a child. To learn more about your specific state’s statutes as they pertain to the topic of child abuse and neglect, click here.

Are there any implications for his future?

This requires careful consideration. Many insurance plans offer a mental health benefit. You may be inclined to use it for your child’s treatment. Keep in mind that in order for the insurance company to grant sessions for your child, the therapist will have to come up with a diagnosis. This becomes part of your child’s permanent medical record. You may feel that this is not a significant issue for you. 

If it is, you may want to consider paying out of pocket for your mental health treatment. If you do so, your therapist is under no obligation to submit any information to your insurance company at all. Many therapists are willing to offer a sliding scale for clients who pay fee-for-service as it cuts down on a mountain of paperwork and out-of-session responsibilities required by insurance companies.

How do I pick a therapist?

This can be a difficult hurdle to overcome. Once you have decided that your child (or family) would benefit from therapy, you need to begin the task of selecting a therapist that will mesh well with your family. Word of mouth is likely your best resource as you can hear specific feedback on individual therapists. If you intend to use your insurance, you can search for a list of paneled providers in your area.

Alternatively, you can conduct an internet search to find a therapist near you. Psychology Today is a website that offers a search tool that will help you find a therapist in your area. Each therapist provides a brief synopsis of his or her work, helping you get a feel for her approach to counseling and the type of therapy they provide.

Furthermore, you need to consider your initial meeting with a new therapist as a “test drive.” You would never consider buying a car without testing it out first – therapy should not be any different. Much of the success of treatment lies in the “goodness of fit” between the therapist and client. If you can find someone with whom your child feels comfortable and who seems competent to you, you will be much more likely to stick with treatment until its completion and therefore have a much more successful outcome.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

1 Comment

  • My child has adhd and adjustment dysfunction and sometimes his episode can be violent. Throwing things at me, hitting me, screaming for over an hour. What can I do to protect myself. It gets to the point where I feel like I need to defensively knock him back when he keeps coming at me. Hes only 7 and its alot to handle.

    • Barbera – Sorry to hear of your struggles with your son. I would suggest that you seek some professional help. I am not sure what services are available in your state, but some state social service agencies have what is called “Families with Service Needs.” These are voluntary services to help parents, like yourself, with children whose behavior is very difficult. I would make sure to separate yourself from your son if you feel your or your son’s safety is in danger. You can also contact 211 in your state at any time for crisis services.

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