parent and therapist partnership

Parent and therapist partnership: How to work well with your child’s therapist or psychiatrist

You’ve decided to get help for your child in the form of therapy, and have reached out to a therapist, psychologist, and psychiatrist. Good job! But how to navigate the parent and therapist partnership? You will need to work as a team with mutual respect, support, and guidance. Here’s what you need to know:

Trust in the process.

The first step for any parent and therapist partnership is finding the right professional. This can take time! Before my son found a therapist he connected with (and whom I trusted), we went through three others. This process can feel like a waste of valuable time, but it isn’t! During this process, you and your child learn what you don’t want in a mental health professional, which is key. Help your child identify what they do like by asking direct questions…not necessarily about the details of the session (if you have an older child who sees a professional solo), but about the therapist’s style and process. What types of questions or activities compelled your child to open up? What types shut her down?

Remember that you are the expert…on your child.

The therapist or psychiatrist is the expert in their field, but YOU are the expert on your child. In the parent and therapist partnership, both types of expertise are important. The professional only sees your child for brief moments of time, whereas you can observe behavior spanning the entire 24 hour period. Keep notes on patterns in behavior or symptoms you see in your child. Older kids and teens can usually do a daily ‘check in’ with parents, rating their symptoms or experiences during the day. We keep a daily tally of the day’s ‘score’ (a range of 0-100), so we can see dips and peaks over time. Share this type of information with your child’s therapist so they get a fuller picture.

Do your research, then trust your therapist.

You have to be an advocate for your child. So if you think something is off, that your child’s therapist has missed a diagnosis or symptom, or that he or she is overlooking a solution, bring it up! I tend to research online and with books, but I don’t present my research to my child’s therapist as ‘gospel fact’. I simply say that I was reading about a treatment or medication, and wanted to know her thoughts. This starts a dialogue that can only aid in the parent and therapist partnership.

Don’t be afraid to part ways.

Telling a mental health professional that you and your child need to move on, need other things he or she cannot offer, or simply aren’t feeling the fit is OKAY. Remember, it’s a process! Just because it’s time to say goodbye doesn’t mean the time was wasted or that the partnership wasn’t a success. It’s about mutual respect!

Ask for what you need.

This tip extends beyond the parent and therapist partnership to the school and parent partnership, as well as to other professionals in your child’s life. Be candid and transparent about what you’re looking for and what you think your child needs, and then be open to suggestions. You might be surprised!

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