Parenting Tips, Info, & Advice
The Right Fit Matters: 5 Things To Know Before Hiring a Counselor for Your Kid
So many families over the last 2.5 years (and earlier) have found themselves in need of mental health support—for them as parents, or for their children.
My family is no exception.
Middle school is BRUTAL and starting middle school at a new school away from elementary friends in the middle of a pandemic takes that to a whole new level.
And as awesome as my husband and I like to think we are as parents, I think part of what makes us great parents is knowing when our kiddo needs outside support.
So, like many, many families we were recently on the hunt for a mental health counselor for our older daughter.
We knew that counselors had been in high demand before the pandemic, and even more so now, so we were not optimistic that we would find one quickly. But I reached out to my networks, and lo and behold about a week later we had found someone who could see us.
Perhaps that should have been red flag number one, but we saw it as a huge stroke of luck.
The problem was, we were so relieved to have found someone, we didn’t stop to listen to our gut or ask the questions we should have asked.
And as a result, we found ourselves working with a woman who was a terrible fit for our daughter and our family, but whom, for a period, we were too afraid to leave lest we not be able to find someone else.
She was, to put it mildly, everything you would never want in a counselor—she was unprofessional, awkward, not warm at all, and would say one thing one when speaking with me and the exact opposite while speaking with my husband. As parents, our interactions with her were disconcerting and unsettling, but we hung in there in the hope and belief that she was proving helpful to our child.
When things finally came to a head and my husband and I listened to our hearts, a few quick questions revealed that our daughter wasn’t connecting with her either but had been worried there were not other counselors available. Her discomfort sealed the deal, and I promptly notified this practitioner that we would not be returning to her office. The sense of relief I felt was palpable. I could sense it in my husband and daughter as well.
As we looked for another therapist to provide some support to our tween, we recognized the importance of both trusting ourselves (something I frequently advocate in my coaching) and asking some detailed questions.
Here’s what we learned:
- The RIGHT support is more important (absent an acute crisis) than RAPID support.
- A counselor you are considering should not only give you plenty of time to ask them questions, they should be able to easily explain their therapeutic approach and how they intend to work with you and/or your child.
- Any counselor should speak favorably and empathetically about the age-group they serve—if they work with teens, for example, they should show a genuine interest in, commitment to, and curiosity about teens.
- While they should be willing and able to respectfully challenge their clients on disruptive thinking patterns, they should, above all else, unquestionably be on your team.
- Connection, validation, flexibility, and heartful listening should be foundational tools in their toolbox.
Our story ends well…we were able to find support for our kiddo that we all feel so much better about. Our new provider is warm, communicative, engaging, and most of all, she listens.
We all deserve someone like that, right? In our personal lives, and when seeking professional help.
Any provider who isn’t giving that to you or your child is not only not worth your time, energy, or money, they may do more harm than good.
So in honor of Mental Health Awareness month, know that we are all deserving of support.
But not just support, the RIGHT support for YOU.
That’s a gift that is worth every penny.
Need more information on how to tell if your therapist or counselor is a good fit? This article from Healthline is a good one.
Looking for support for yourself and/or your t(w)een? In many circumstances, coaching, or a combination of coaching and counseling, can be the right fit for a family. Did you know that The Heartful Parent partners with Sherra Grasser of MePowerment to provide simultaneous coaching to teens and parents? Want more information? Schedule a time to talk with me!
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Christy Keating is a certified parent coach, positive discipline educator, and motivational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of The Heartful Parent Collective, which includes Heartful Parent Coaching, Savvy Parents Safe Kids, and Heartful Parent Academy.
The mother of two amazing daughters, Christy strives to build a happier, healthier world - one child, one parent, and one family at a time.