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5 Signs It Might Be Time to Find Your Child a New Counselor

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Back in 2010 when my daughter was really struggling in school, my husband and I were encouraged to seek out a counselor to learn how to better parent her unique needs. We were blessed because the very first counselor we saw was a perfect fit for our family. She counseled my child and really our whole family for almost five years. But last January, this beloved and trusted family therapist moved her practice out of the area. We probably could have followed her if we wanted to drive a minimum of two hours for our weekly visits, but that wasn’t realistic.

When I first started looking for a new licensed marriage and family therapist in February, I ran into road block after road block. The best therapists were either out of our price range, did not accept our insurance or did not have any current openings. The rest never even returned my phone calls.

Upon the advice of my daughter’s home/school district appointed counselor, we decided to take a break from the search since we already had so many supports in place at school. Additionally, my daughter was doing so well that she did not appear to need a family therapist yet.

Then in late July/early August my husband and I started to notice our girl was sliding into instability. At this time, I began my search with renewed vigor and urgency. One of the therapists who was kind enough to return my call told me she was booked, but gave me some names of female counselors who saw children. We had two visits with one of these counselors. We courted her, if you will.

But eventually, I had to tell this counselor that while we were thankful for her services, we’d be looking for another professional who met our needs better.

Finding a therapist who is right for your child is not unlike finding a mate you plan on spending your life with. After all, a good therapist could become a part of your family for a long time.

As my husband and I were courting this therapist, there were five red flags that told us we had not found the perfect match for our family:

1. They make judgments about your child’s behavior.

She compared our child’s behavior to that of a 2-year-old’s. Aside from being an insult, a judgement like this wasn’t helpful — and did not curb that behavior.

2. They give advice that didn’t meet your child’s needs. 

Upon our therapist’s advice, we increased the amount of money my daughter had to pay back when she took change that did not belong to her. But this made our child even more non-compliant. I gave this advice a good “college try,” but this philosophy did not work for our situation.

3. They have little or no experience working with children who have the same diagnosis as your child. 

While giving us an intake survey, this therapist asked if my daughter was awake for three to four days at a time (a common symptom for adults with bipolar disorder). I responded that we had never witnessed this with our daughter. Then I told her that my daughter, like many children with early-onset bipolar disorder, was a rapid cycler; she gave me a look that told me was a novel concept to her.

4. Your friends tell you they see one or more red flags.  

Like many parents I have friends that I confide in. Some of these are parents of special needs children. Others are parents whose judgment I trust. I always ask their opinion on things when I’m not sure myself. Often in the midst of a crisis, we think the professionals know best — but this isn’t always the case. In this instance, no less than three friends told me that they did not agree with the therapist’s strategy.

5. Your gut tells you this is not the therapist for you.  

If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. I often tell parents not to stick it out and hope things will get better. In my experience, they don’t usually improve. It is best cut your losses and move on. This will save a lot of heartache on the child’s part because they won’t have a chance to form a strong bond with the new therapist, and it will be easier to transition to a new one. I decided I needed to take my own advice here.

Fortunately, I have another therapist that we will start courting beginning on Saturday. I am hopeful this will be a better fit since this particular professional specializes in applied behavioral therapy, a technique that my daughter’s school has used successfully with her. If not, I’ll start my search again soon. My daughter is counting on me to find her a therapist that can help her be the best she can be.

Follow this journey on Raising a Drama Queen.

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Originally published: April 11, 2016
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