Finding a therapist in general can be a huge challenge. Finding a child therapist is near impossible. How do you know if a therapist is qualified to work with children? How do you know if you can trust a therapist with your child? Is it really worth the investment to see a therapist out of network with insurance? All of these questions may have crossed your mind as you've been trying to find a therapist. I'm here to help you navigate all of that and understand what's most important when looking for a child therapist.
How do I know if a therapist is qualified to work with children?
This is tricky. Legally speaking any therapist can work with children if they're licensed to work with adults. However, working with children is complex. Children's brains are still growing. No matter how intelligent your child is or how verbal they are- their brains are not fully developed for higher level abstract thinking that's required for more traditional talk therapy. For this reason, children need movement, play, and art based types of therapy to help them express and process their feelings. Therapists are not taught how to do this type of work in school so it's important that a therapist has further specialized training.
If someone has the credential of being a registered play therapist, it's highly likely they are effective in working with children. Registered play therapists (RPT) have to undertake extensive training and coursework specifically in understanding how to work with children using play therapy. They need to have 150 hours of instructional coursework and 350 hours of direct client contact while under supervision. They receive in depth education on child development, parent/child dynamics, and children's behavior. Registered Play Therapists are also required to keep renewing their credential so they stay up to date on current research.
How do I know if I can trust a therapist with my child?
It can be difficult to know who or who you should not trust. Here are some red flags that a therapist may not be qualified to work with children:
The therapist doesn't offer to schedule time for you to address your concerns without your child present
The therapist only provides "talk therapy"
The therapist doesn't use any form of art, play, or movement
The therapist is not able to explain to you what type of therapy they provide (There are many different types of child therapy)
The therapist doesn't honor your child's needs (the need for you to be present, the need for movement, etc).
They blame you for "bad parenting"
Is it worth the investment to see a therapist out of network with insurance?
Absolutely! Typically, out of network therapists are able to offer more specialized services due to not having any restrictions placed by insurance companies. Out of network therapists tend to have smaller caseloads that allow them to be fully present in sessions. Being out of network is what allows me to invest my time in the following:
Going to advanced trainings on a monthly basis specifically tailored for working with children and parents
Consulting with other experts in the field locally and nationally on a weekly basis
Staying up to date on current research by subscribing and reading professional journals (International Journal of Play Therapy, Journal of Sandplay Therapy, and Journal of EMDR Practice and Research)
Where can I go to find a child therapist?
You can search for a play therapist on the Association for Play Therapy website at https://www.a4pt.org
You can contact your child's school counselor for recommendations
You can contact your child's pediatrician for recommendations
You can use a therapist directory (PsychologyToday, TherapyDen, OpenPathCollective)
You can call your insurance company if you need to stay in-network