Finding the right therapist for your child can become a challenge for many parents! There are many therapists out there whose profiles indicate they work with all age groups, including children. Making sure that their therapeutic approach and interventions would be a good fit for your child’s needs can take a long time.
Before choosing the right therapist, it is important to understand the difference in the titles of the professionals and what they can offer as it gets confusing for a lot of parents. Here are some tips that could help you narrow down your search criteria while you search for the best therapist for your child:
Who is a “child psychologist”? A child psychologist often has a PhD in either clinical psychology (with specialized training in child psychology) or child psychology. Most child psychologists are trained to administer psycho-educational assessments and can make a diagnosis based on their clinical evaluation. Child psychologists, often use art or play when they work with children and families. Most child psychologists are trained in CBT and DBT as they are the most common evidence-based therapeutic approaches.
Tip: If you are looking for a diagnosis of any sort, whether a neurological diagnosis (such as ADHD, Learning Disability, or Autism) or a mental health diagnosis (such as mood disorders, personality disorders, etc), seeing a child psychologist is recommended.
Who is an “art therapist”? An art therapist must have a Master’s degree in art therapy and has a background in both psychology and basic knowledge of arts. An art therapist works with the child’s symptoms and their goal is to reduce the maladaptive behaviors/emotions. An art therapist cannot make a diagnosis but instead uses the child’s language (art and play) to help the child express his/her needs, thoughts, and emotions.
Tip: If you are not looking for a diagnosis and would rather help your child manage their behavioral and emotional symptoms, learn tools and techniques to emotion regulation and self-expression, seeing an art therapist is recommended.
Art therapists are often trained in CBT, mindfulness, psychodynamic, attachment theories, and trauma informed therapy. They are trained to evaluate the child’s needs, regardless of the diagnosis, and develop creative interventions based on their therapeutic approach. Art therapy interventions are specifically helpful for children and teenagers in expressing their heavy feelings, such as anger, anxiety, sadness, and grief.
How To Find A Therapist:
Depending on your child’s needs and presenting problems, here is a list of where you can find the best therapist for your child:
- Teachers and school’s counselors: with the growing number of mental health issues in school-age children, teachers and school counselors often keep a list of therapists who are great to work with children and families.
- Get a referral from your child’s pediatrician: family doctors and pediatricians often keep a list of therapists for children as the number of children who present psychosomatic symptoms has grown over the past decade.
- Ask your trusted friends and other parents: don’t be shy to talk about your child’s struggles to your friends and other parents. If they have a positive experience with a child and adolescent therapist, they are the most reliable source of referral.
- Ask your family lawyer (if you are going through a divorce): experienced divorce lawyers often keep a list of therapists for children and adolescents as well. Art therapy is often suggested (by lawyers or by judges) for children and teenagers, who present emotional reactions to parents’ separation.
- Google Search: After deciding whether to go with a child psychologist or an art therapist, limit your search to your area (city or neighborhood) and to your needs (e.g., anxiety, ADHD, anger). Look for the professional’s statements, where they talk about their educational and professional background, their years of experience, and their fee.
In sum, when it comes to choosing a therapist for your child (or teenager), don’t hesitate to ask questions about the therapeutic process such as the parent’s involvement in therapy, the therapist’s approach, frequency and cost of sessions, and any other question that you might have.
By: Reyhane Namdari