Choosing a child therapist

Children, therapy, child therapist, choosing a child's therapist

Questions to ask when choosing a therapist for your child.

Choosing a  therapist for a child's  behavior or emotional or school or friendship problems can be confusing.

There are many different mental health professionals who offer services to children, including counselors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and pediatric physicians. 

There are no right answers to the questions below. However, the process of asking useful questions and hearing them answered can give you a good sense about the professional you are planning to employ.

How were you trained to work with children?

            Work with children is specialized.  In choosing a therapist for a child you want someone with solid, specialized training. 

How many years have you worked with children?

            Invite the therapist to tell you about the settings in which he/she has worked and the kinds of situations and problems with which he/she is familiar. 

Please tell me about the usual methods you use in your practice.

(Working with children often involves ìplayî activities that allow the child space and time to feel safe and open up. A professional who works with play techniques can describe how and what play activities he or she finds useful.) 

Will you meet with the child alone, or will you interview the parent(s) first?

The process of beginning therapy with a child is dependent upon the childís age, the presenting problem and the family situation. 

What is your attitude about medications for children?

 Medicating children for emotional and behavioral problems is a controversial topic, asking this question will allow you to understand something about the therapistís point of view.

 In what ways will the family be involved in this treatment, what will I/we be allowed to know about what happens during the childís sessions?

Again, the answers to this question will vary widely depending on your childís age and the circumstances for which therapy is sought, but the answers should help you be comfortable with the therapist.

About the author: Dr. Dunlap is a clinical psychologist in practice in Portland, Oregon. She works with adults and families, but not with children. 

You can find child therapists at the Therapist Locator on