About Preteens / Tweens Therapy

The perfect provider

 

It can take work to find the right therapist for your child, but it’s well worth the effort, says child psychologist Katie McLaughlin. “Many parents can feel overwhelmed by the numerous options available, or [they] feel unsure about how to start the search process,” she says. “Therapists vary widely in the types of training they have received, the strategies they use to treat emotional and behavioral problems in children, and their interpersonal style.”

 

An important first step, McLaughlin notes, is to determine what kinds of treatment have been found effective (are “evidence-based”) for the types of problems your child is experiencing. Speak to your pediatrician or consult reputable online resources.

Once you have a basic idea of what type of treatment your child needs, search for providers you may feel comfortable with and place that first call.

 

The final step is determining whether a therapist is a good fit for your child. Request a brief consultation or phone interview (not all therapists have time to do this, and many charge a fee). You may need to speak to a few providers before settling on one both you and your child like. “Try not to be discouraged if the first therapist you meet does not seem to be a good fit, and do not be afraid to shop around,” McLaughlin says. “You know your child best.”

 

The effort can really pay off, she explains. “The right therapist can have an enormously positive impact on your child’s development.”

 

When you find the right therapist, it makes all the difference in the world.

Big events such as family traumas can be clear indicators for therapy, but sometimes kids struggle in ongoing, less obvious ways. It’s not always easy to know when it’s time to seek help for your child, but chances are if you’re asking yourself the question, it’s worth exploring.

 

“Most parents will have noticed their child struggling with intense emotions, difficult thoughts or behaviors, or problems in their relationships for several months or longer when they begin to contemplate finding their child a therapist,” says Katie McLaughlin, Ph.D., a licensed child clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington.

 

If you’re wondering about therapy for your child, McLaughlin suggests you consider the following:

 

  • Are the emotional and behavioral patterns in question developmentally appropriate? Most children experience challenging emotions and behaviors at certain points in development. Talk to teachers, child-care professionals and fellow parents about whether your child’s behaviors seem consistent with those of other kids the same age.
  •  

    Are the patterns consistent and stable? Most kids feel distressing emotions, such as fear, sadness and anger, or have problems regulating their behavior in certain situations, with certain people or for short periods of time (especially during important transitions — a new school, a new sibling, etc.). These transient or context-specific patterns are probably not significant enough to warrant therapy. But if the patterns stay relatively stable over time and appear in multiple contexts, therapy may be important to consider.

  • Are the patterns causing your child significant distress? Are they interfering with important domains of life, such as school or relationships with friends and family? If the answer is yes, then finding your child a therapist might be the right step.

How Can Parents Help?

 

You can do things to help your child get the most from therapy. Here are some of them:

 

Find a therapist you and your child feel comfortable with. Your child's health care team can help you find someone.

 

Take your child to all the appointments. Change takes time. It takes many therapy visits for your child to learn new skills and keep them up.

 

Meet with your child's therapist. Ask what to do when your child shows problems at home. Ask how to help your child do well.

 

Spend time with your child. Play, cook, read, or laugh together. Do this every day, even if it's only for a few minutes.

 

Parent with patience and warmth. Use kind words, even when you need to correct your child. Show love. Give praise when your child is doing well or trying hard.

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