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. (That I don't get. To me good customer service requires that you treat everyone with the same respect that you would want.)
Upon the advice of my daughter's home/school district appointed counselor, we decided to take a break from the search for a private therapist since we already had so many supports in place at school. Additionally, Princess 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 that 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 that 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. Today I called 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 very 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:
- They tell your child that one of their behaviors is something that a two year old would do. Aside from being an insult, this did not help my child curb that behavior.
- They give you advice that doesn'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. Instead of agreeing to this, we now have a child who is refusing to pay it back and is even more non-compliant. I gave this advice a good "college try", but this philosophy did not work for our situation.
- 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 3-4 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 Princess, 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.
- Your friends tell you that 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 am not sure myself. Often when we are in the midst of a crisis, think the professionals know best. This is not always the case. In this instance, no less than three friends told me that they did not agree with the therapist's strategy.
- Your gut tell 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 will not have formed a strong bond with the new therapist. 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 (ABA), 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 is able to help her be the best that she can be.
I asked myself this question many times over the past two weeks.