It’s time. You’ve decided your child needs help and you’re determined to find just the right therapist.
You open a web browser, type a few keywords, and start searching. Child psychologist…play therapist…mental health clinician…family counsellor…psychotherapist… The list goes on. How can you tell if a therapist has the right training, experience, and qualifications to help your child? How do you figure out if they offer the type of treatment that is most likely to help with your situation? Read on for our top 4 tips for finding the right therapist for your child.
1. Learn which treatments are most effective.
An important first step is to find out which approaches stand the best chance at reducing your child’s symptoms and improving your child’s (and family’s) quality of life. Evidence-based treatments (EBTs) are those with the strongest scientific evidence behind them. They have been carefully studied by scientists and have been found to be helpful in numerous different studies. There are scientifically-validated treatments for common childhood psychological concerns, specific mental health disorders, and physical health concerns.
2. Find a therapist who offers relevant evidence-based treatment.
Look for a professional with specific training, experience, and expertise in the particular treatment(s) scientifically shown to be most helpful for your child’s particular concerns. Perhaps your family doctor, pediatrician, or child psychiatrist can recommend a professional with a proven track-record helping children and families facing your specific concerns. If not, it will be up to you to become a savvy consumer of mental health services. You can learn a lot from looking at therapist websites, CVs, and resumes.
Look for a therapist with the following:
- Graduation from a relevant graduate program (e.g., Ph.D. in clinical psychology) that is accredited by a nationally- or internationally-recognized body (e.g., Canadian Psychological Association [CPA] or American Psychological Association (APA)
- Graduate-level training in topics such as child development, psychological assessment, and evidence-based intervention
- Completion of several supervised practicum placements in evidence-based treatment for children, youth, and families
- Minimum one year full-time supervised child clinical or pediatric psychology internship or residency accredited by a reputable organization (e.g., CPA, APA)
- Certification with the Canadian Association of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapies
- Someone who continues to develop their skills by taking advanced or intensive training in specific evidence-based treatments for the particular challenges that your child and family are facing
3. Make sure the therapist is a registered or licensed mental health professional.
In British Columbia, anyone can call themselves a therapist or counsellor, regardless of their training, experience, or qualifications. Many professions have few – if any – formal guidelines or processes in place to protect the public from potential harm. In BC, the strongest public protections are in place for professions covered by the Health Professions Act (HPA). The HPA protects public safety by ensuring that professions maintain appropriate standards and processes to protect members of the public. These include requirements for specific education, skill, and knowledge to join the profession; formal guidelines governing ethical practice; and formal processes for addressing consumer complaints. At this time, the only mental health professions that are regulated under the HPA are psychiatrists (medical doctors), psychiatric nurses, and psychologists. Stay tuned for a future blog post explaining some of the differences among various professions offering therapy.
4. Meet the therapist yourself.
Be sure to have an in-person meeting to check out the therapist for yourself. An initial parent-only meeting (especially when children are younger) is often helpful. This will give you an opportunity to see whether you feel comfortable enough with the therapist to trust them to work with your child. It also gives you a chance to think about whether the therapist is likely to be a good fit for your child and family. We recommend taking a list of questions to your appointment to help you gather key information about the therapist and learn more about their approach (a great list of questions is available here).
If you have further questions or would like to discuss what Cornerstone can offer your family, feel free to reach out to us.