My Child Needs Help. Where Do I Start?

Parents are expressing concerns for their children right now.  Their children are struggling in a host of different ways. 

  • isolating 
  • having angry outbursts 
  • uncontrollable crying
  • inability to stay focused 
  • heightened anxiety 
  • fear of returning to the world
  • …… the list goes on

 

I am here to tell you that the challenges they are facing are not normal. It’s completely understandable why they are struggling.  Everything has changed and continues to change.  Kids don’t know if they are going to school, staying home and doing it remotely, wearing masks, not wearing masks.  Our children are learning no sense of normalcy or stability.  This has major effects on their emotional state.  

When you notice any of the behaviors above or any new behavior that doesn’t seem to be positive, what should you as a parent do about it? 

First, and foremost, you should LISTEN to what your child is telling you about how they are feeling and how they are interpreting those feelings. The best way to do that is to use active listening skills.

If your child is unwilling/unable to communicate those thoughts and feelings to you, or the behaviors seem extreme, then you will need to seek professional help.  I understand the mental health arena isn't an easy industry to navigate, so here are a few of my thoughts that may guide you along the way. 

 In my professional experience, the best place to start is with a psychotherapist, rather than a psychiatrist or psychologist. As I mentioned in my previous article, these two professionals don’t typically provide psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is the least invasive way to deal with emotional challenges, which makes it a good starting point These therapists are also trained to assess the situation and recommend additional services that may be needed, such as psychiatry, testing, or a specialty area in therapy or coaching.     

 

Things to consider: 

 Do I want my child to receive a mental health diagnosis? 

Even though the stigma of acknowledging and getting mental health help has been reduced, there are still some issues with getting a “mental illness” diagnosis. That diagnosis will remain with them and could affect their ability to get into the military or other government jobs. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, but just something to consider.

If you want to avoid a diagnosis, you will most likely have to pay out-of-pocket rather than going through your insurance. There are many therapists that do not bill insurance. They can provide you with the documentation needed to submit, along with your claim to your insurance on your own. You would need to contact your insurance company to verify the correct forms, the information needed, and the particulars of their claims process. Many will reimburse you at their out-of-network rates.

If you decide to use insurance to pay for the visits, they will need to see someone that is in your network or that can bill out-of-network. 

  

In what area(s) is my child struggling? Determine to the best of your abilities (and by knowing your child), what seems to the   Examples are:

  1. Issues in sports, you would see a Licensed Professional Counselor with a specialty or background in that area.
  2. Addictions to electronics, or substances, there are specialists in most areas. 
  3. Trauma, you would want to see a trauma specialist or someone that works in that area. 
  4. Gender issues would see a gender specialist.  

 

Once you have identified a specialty area, refer to Psychology Today to find a therapist in your area that meets your needs.  It is a great resource because of the many filters you can apply to your search such as gender, issue, location, age, type of therapy, etc. 

 

Finding a Psychotherapist 

 Finding the right therapist is not a “one and done” situation. One of the most important aspects of the therapeutic process is the rapport between your child and the therapist. It’s likely you and your child will need to meet with several before deciding. 

Ask people you trust for a referral.  This is a great place to start, but don't feel like you have to stick with a therapist just because your neighbor had great success. It's more important that your child feels comfortable and their personality styles match.

Use online resources. Research and narrow the choices down to 5-6 that you like from the information from their profiles. Then talk with your child about what a therapist is and what they do and how they can help with the challenges that they are struggling with.  

Engage your child in the process of finding someone that would be a good fit.  Have them read their profiles and decide which ones might be a good fit. Schedule a consultation to meet with them for a 20 min interview to see if they are a good fit. 

 Bring a list of questions you and your child may have. This is the opportunity to interview the therapist to see what their therapeutic process looks like, the type of therapy they may be using, their personality, and how they engage with your child.  

After meeting with your top picks, you should come away with a pretty good idea of which one would be the best fit. If not, continue your search. 

Once you have found the therapist, what should your role be during the therapeutic process? My next article will address this topic.  

In the meantime.  Listen, to your children.  They most likely want to talk to you without being judged or fixed or told they are wrong.  They just need to be heard and unconditionally loved.    

Thanks for reading!

Jeff Miner, CEO and "Head" Coach

 

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