How do I know if my child needs therapy?
It can be difficult to know whether your child’s behavior is developmentally “normal” or a sign that your child may need extra support. Parents often seek out therapy for their children after they have tried different strategies on their own without success. Therapy can be help children cope with big changes in their lives or after experiencing distressing events. Additionally, if your child is showing difficulties at home, in school, or in various community activities, seeking the support of a therapist can help your child get back on track. I am happy to connect with you about your concerns and offer information about how therapy could be helpful for your child.
How do I talk with my child about therapy?
It is important to begin talking with your child about therapy before the first visit. Parents should be honest and use simple language that is age appropriate. One idea is inviting your child to talk about any problems that are bothering them. Listen and validate what they share. Connect their words to a simple explanation of your concerns. It is also helpful to normalize the experience of going to therapy. For young children, it you can tell them that visiting a therapist is like seeing a “feelings doctor” who will help them talk about times when they feel bad so they can learn ways to feel better. For older children, try asking them about their expectations for therapy. It can be helpful to clarify for them that a therapist is not another adult who will tell them what to do. Instead, the therapist’s job is to understand them, help them clarify their goals, and figure out ways to accomplish them. For both younger and older children, it is important to highlight that therapy is fun, includes talk about what is going well, and is like a new adventure. Ask for their ideas about how to make the experience enjoyable. It is also important for you to be mindful of your own thoughts about therapy: difficulty talking about therapy openly or describing therapy as a punishment could have a negative impact on how your child thinks and feels about therapy and could also add to the stigma of seeking mental health support in the future.
Will you diagnose my child?
Diagnosis is a requirement for insurance billing. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition) (DSM-V) is the authoritative volume on diagnosis in the mental health field. I take a conservative approach to diagnosis and am mindful of the implications of diagnosis for children and adolescents. Mental health diagnosis is not an exact science and most of the diagnostic categories that exist in the DSM-V were not developed for young people. Making a diagnosis involves gathering information about the symptoms the child is experiencing, assessing the impact of those symptoms on the child’s functioning, and assigning the diagnostic label that best fits. Many diagnoses do not mean that your child will have lifelong problems. I use questionnaires to help assess symptoms and functioning. These questionnaires were developed through research with children and are useful for assessing progress in therapy. Many children no longer meet criteria for a mental health diagnosis at the end of successful treatment.
How does confidentiality work?
Confidentiality is a critical part of therapy. All therapists are bound by laws and codes of ethics to maintain the privacy of our clients. However, there are some notable exceptions that we will spend time discussing during our first visit together. In general, I am required to break confidentiality as a mandated reporter when I learn about the actual or suspected harm of a child or a vulnerable adult or in response to (1) threats of serious self-injury or suicide, (2) threats to take the life of another individual, (3) requests by insurance companies for billing purposes, and (4) court order. Although legal guardians are guaranteed access to their child’s protected health information, I encourage parents to allow their children to enjoy a confidential space in therapy where their privacy will be respected. I am happy to discuss any concerns you have about confidentiality during our first visit and throughout our time working together.
How long will it take?
There are many factors that determine the length of therapy. Therefore, I am unable to provide a timeline that will apply to every child and family. As we begin identifying goals for our work together, we will monitor progress together and I will do my best to provide realistic estimates for the course of treatment.
Can I drop my child off for sessions and return at the end?
As a parent, I understand that there are many demands on our time. Any free moment can feel like a precious gift. It is understandable that your child’s time in session may seem like a good chance to run errands, enjoy some alone time, finish work tasks, etc. Your participation is important to your child’s success and I prioritize including parents in the therapy process. In general, I expect an adult caregiver to be present at all of your child’s sessions. That said, I am happy to talk through any concerns you have about this requirement. Exceptions can be made appropriately, especially for older adolescents.
Can you help my child adjust to divorce?
Divorce is a common issue that causes parents to seek out therapy for their children. I have experience supporting children and their caregivers cope with the distress and significant family changes that may be brought on by divorce. However, I do not offer court assessments regarding child custody.