After a year like no other, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of teens and young adults experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. When a young person is struggling, parents and caregivers generally know that some kind of therapeutic intervention will likely help.
Often, however, their question is:
How to choose a therapist for your adolecent or young adult
It’s important to remember that adolescents and teens are not just junior adults. Their needs for working with a mental health professional are different and require different expertise.
The approach I have found most effective with young people is to develop a trusting and positive partnership. As a counselor, I see my role as helping them understand and explore so they are able to choose the best path forward. We work together to discover how the disappointments, conflicts and setbacks the individual has experienced can become opportunities for them to make positive change.
Based on my experience with clients, I recommend that parents look for an accepting and positive adult to work with their child who will collaborate and guide, rather than insist on a specific treatment approach. A mutually respectful partnership goes a long way to building all-important trust with young people.
Qualities to look for when choosing an adolescent mental health professional
- Do your research and get referrals. Go online to find out all you can about the mental health professionals who specialize in treating adolescents and teens in your area. Talk to other parents about experiences with a therapist. Often, it is those personal referrals that tell you the most.
- Look for experience and competence. Research shows, capable therapists produce good results for most problems if the therapist feels competent to handle the issue and has enough experience to carry out the treatment. There are numerous treatment approaches that are effective when performed by a well-trained provider.
- Watch how your child and the mental health professional click. As much as 85 percent of positive change during therapy can be attributed to the relationship formed between the therapist and the child or parent, according to one study. If your teen isn’t forming a bond with their therapist, for whatever reason, or doesn’t trust the therapist, I recommend looking for another person to work with.
- Find a therapist who shows commitment to really knowing your child. A good therapist separates the problem from the child and knows that beyond their mental health challenges, this adolescent or teen is a wonderful person with unlimited potential.
- Consider your relationship with the mental health professional. The therapist should also be your ally and partner. They should understand that their role is temporary and appreciate that the parent or caregiver needs to be engaged in the healing process in a positive way that will endure beyond the therapy sessions.
- Ask yourself what specific qualities your teen may need in a therapist. Are they likely to respond best to someone who is direct and to the point, or to someone more nurturing and supportive? Is there a preference for a male or female therapist? Is age a factor for your teen? Will they work better with someone young and energetic or benefit from a relationship with someone older?
Finally, the mental health professional you end up choosing needs to be passionate about helping your child. The first therapist you meet with may not be the therapist you end up with. Just know, when you find a good fit, the benefits for your child may be life-changing.
You can always contact me at (303) 542-0180 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how I work with adolescents and young people as you consider therapy for your child.