… there really is ‘a feeling’ that you’ll get, it’s true. Just in case, let’s break it down into 4 easy steps to help you make this decision for your family.
Step 1 – They’re good with children
This might sound obvious, but it’s the most important part of helping your child feel comfortable. Once your child is comfortable, feels valued & accepted, they are able to build rapport and trust their stories to the clinician. You can easily check this out by looking at a clinician’s background, trainings, or asking them directly about their approach or methods with children. (A good clue would be that the therapist greets your child before they greet you!)
Step 2 – They’re flexible & prioritize your family’s needs
It can be difficult to schedule appointments with specialists. A clinician working with children and families should offer hours outside of the busy school/work day, allowing you to juggle everything that’s already on your plate. After school, evenings & weekend sessions should be available to support your child’s needs and your ability to take them to sessions. (This may require booking in advance as these hours may be more limited and book up quickly!)
Step 3 – They’re warm, authentic & approachable
If you are going to trust your family, and your children to a ‘stranger’ you want to feel valued and cared for right from the beginning. A clinician working with families, and young children should be open to sharing their own stories and welcoming yours without judgement. This process is a dynamic exchange of energy and wisdom, and your child should be made to feel like the expert of their own feelings. A child-centered clinician will meet your child at his or her starting place, and follow their lead as they begin to trust the process & open up to the experience. (Oh, and there should be toys!!)
Step 4 – They’re knowledgeable, creative and current
Your Child & Family Therapist should be well trained in working with children, families and all of the complex dynamics and struggles that come with parenting and raising children. Your child should have access to several different mediums through which to express and explore their feelings. This can happen through art supplies, puppets, gross motor movement, action figures, games, Lego or the natural world around them like going for a walk, sitting by the water or playing in the sand. You and your family should feel like the clinician is working to meet your needs and support your child’s individuality. You really will, just know.