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When Do I Start Therapy for My Child Struggling With Mental Health?


When did you know it was time for Sam to see a therapist? I get this question a lot. If you read Sam’s Story, my first step was to ask his pediatrician and get a recommendation. Lack of care options and provider availability can be an issue, but that’s a topic for another day!

Starting Sam in therapy was never a difficult topic for me. I realize it is for some. I have been seeing a therapist on and off since I was 16 years old and know the benefits. What I didn’t know was how old a child had to be to start with a therapist, what it looked like, what to expect or where to find someone.

I want to provide a couple of thoughts and ideas for starting your child in therapy. As with everything else, there is no right or wrong answer, only what works for you!

What to expect:

If your child starts early (between the ages of 3-5) they will most likely see a play therapist. This person is trained in the therapeutic power of play to communicate with and treat clients. This can seem odd at first. How is someone playing with my child helping them?

For my family, we learned how to observe Sam’s behavior during play and we worked with the therapist to adjust our parenting based on what Sam was “telling” us through play.

You might not like your child’s therapist. It is OK to switch, explore other options or ask questions to help understand what he/she is trying to accomplish. Remember you and your child are the customer!

Sam has seen at least four of five different therapists based on what he has needed at the time. Not everyone has been a good fit, but everyone has had the best intentions and has helped us determine who or what might be more effective. Be gracefully honest and open with your child’s therapist. This is when you see true results.

Be consistent, keep trying and don’t give up. Therapy doesn’t work in a day, week, month or even a year. But it does work. Find the right fit for your family and do it for your child. Don’t let the stigma of getting treatment for mental health get in your way.

Are your children in therapy? Is it working? I would love to hear your success stories and challenges!

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Getty image by KatarzynaBialasiewicz