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How to choose a therapist for your child? Let them decide.

Updated: Nov 1, 2018

As if going to therapy weren't daunting enough, selecting a therapist can feel like a full-time job. Except that you're not getting paid. In fact, you're paying. And, if you're a parent looking for a therapist for your child, the task is further complicated by finding someone with whom both you and your child connect. Dare I mention that there are thousands of therapists in Portland? It's enough to give up before you've even started searching. Where does one even begin?


As a therapist seeing pre-adolescents and adolescents, here are my thoughts on making the cumbersome and annoying act of finding a therapist for your teen less so...


1. Look for specialties. If you're looking for a therapist for your 13 year old son who is struggling with anger, it's worth it to find someone who has worked with many, many teens around issues of anger. Even the most well-regarded therapist might not be a good fit if they don't have experience working with your specific area of concern.


2. Heed your first impression. When you speak with a therapist on the phone for an initial consultation, you'll have a gut reaction. Listen to it. If, at the end of the phone call, you want the conversation to continue, it might be a good sign that you've found a good fit. If you're bored or uncomfortable, keep searching. Of course, this point is eclipsed by point 5.


3. Connection and chemistry matter more than credentials. Where a therapist went to graduate school, what kind of professional accolades they've collected will impact your teen's experience far less than how your child feels in the person's presence.


4. Be picky! Don't enter a therapeutic relationship with anyone with whom you and your child don't feel connected. Sifting through the thousands of therapists in Portland can be hard, but did I mention that we have thousands of therapists? You can be assured that the right fit is out there. Don't settle.


5. The grand finale: Let. Your. Child. Decide. For almost every middle or high school student I've ever met, going to therapy is hard. It's a teensy bit little less hard when they feel like they've been part of the process of selecting a therapist. If your child is willing, let your teen speak with the therapist on the phone for the initial consult. If your child would like, set up meetings with a few therapists so that your teen can interact with a variety of therapists face-to-face and can see the physical space where therapy will happen. There's no one way to include your teen in the process, just so long as they're participants. When selecting a therapist for a pre-adolescent or adolescent, their opinion matters more than yours.


Good luck! Don't give up until you find the right person. Your family is worth it. Your child is worth it.