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Searching for Happiness: When Your Child Needs a Therapist

As a working mom, there is only one thing that you dread more than 4:45 a.m. alarm (trust me, this momma LOVES her sleep). You know, that one thing that can totally disrupt your rhythm, the one thing that upsets your apple cart, the one thing that you pray doesn’t come . . . the daycare’s number popping up on the caller ID. Show of hands who has been there, done that.

Most moms would be more concerned with what ailment their little love bug has caught now, or whether or not their toddler took a nap today. Makes sense! I imagine that is the most natural thought process for a mom to have.

Then there are moms like me. Moms that get phone call after phone call because their child is melting down for hours on end. Moms that get called to the director’s office because their child snatched the teacher’s glasses off her face (mid-fit) and snapped them in half. Moms that wished they would only be calling to say, “Please come get your child. She has a fever.” I mean, who in their right mind wishes their kid had a fever? Sadly, this mom did.

This was our life six years ago. I was mom to a first grader, a four year old, and an infant, and worked full time. A mom who had just lost her own mother to ovarian cancer months before. A mom who was doing all she could to stay afloat. And most important, a mom with a preschooler in a downward spiral.

My husband and I are both teachers, so we were well aware that something wasn’t “quite right” with our son. We had consulted his pediatrician numerous times. Given the major changes that had just transpired in his little life (a new baby brother and the loss of his granny), it was hard to pinpoint exactly what the problem was. So, we did what we knew and tried to be patient, consistent, and loving. Before long, it was abundantly clear that he needed more . . . much more.

When therapy was suggested by a friend with a special education degree, we had no choice but to give it a shot. We couldn’t be any worse off then we were right at that moment.

Having no experience with counseling outside of a school setting, I didn’t know what to expect or where to even start, for that matter. So, I started with the most obvious: Dr. Google.

I researched the types of therapies, therapy centers, and the therapists who would take our insurance. I had no idea what questions to ask or where to go, but I didn’t stop until we found what we needed.

So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, a place where your stomach is in knots every time the daycare calls, then you might find that your child needs therapy too. If so, check out a few things that I learned about how to find the right fit for our family.

sad faceWhere to Start?

We started with a visit to our pediatrician to hear her thoughts on it. Of course, she agreed and the hunt for a therapist began. Don’t be surprised if your pediatrician doesn’t have a recommendation for you. This seems to be uncharted water for many people, not just the parents. Start with what you know: your insurance.

Once you have a list of therapists that accept your insurance, do a little research on-line. Most counseling offices will have a website with information of types of therapies offered, the ages they service, and what types of situations they can help with. This will help narrow down your list of places to call.

Location, Location, Location

Another factor that we heavily considered when choosing our therapist was proximity of their office to our busy day to day lives. With three kids and demanding careers, our lives can get pretty hectic. We needed a place that was either close to home, school, or work.

Driving an hour to see a therapist doesn’t seem like a big deal, but trust me. All it took was one day of driving in blinding rain across the metroplex to teach me that.

Call around and inquire about setting up a meeting with the potential therapist. Many places will offer a free 30-minute “Q&A” session. My husband and I used that appointment to get a feel for the therapist’s beliefs and experience. It helped us make decisions in the best interest of our son’s needs.  

Progress Will Take Time

In the beginning, your child’s therapist will probably want to see him weekly. When working with young children, it can take a while to build up a relationship where they feel comfortable. Eventually, as things start to improve you might move from weekly, to every two weeks, and then even monthly.

Don’t expect them to come home from the first session “fixed.” Progress in therapy can take a long time. Just because you aren’t seeing change, doesn’t mean change isn’t occurring.  

But All They Do Is PLAY!

You may find yourself asking, “What am I doing paying for my child to play with Play-Doh?” To you and I, it looks like “play.” A trained therapist is using that play to interact with your child, place them in different scenarios, and teach them ways to cope when things become frustrating to them. It is how they reach young children.

Be Consistent

If your therapist recommends therapy once a week, follow through. Stopping and starting sporadically doesn’t help your child. In our family, therapy is a “must do.” We work it into our schedule and commit to going.

Check-In

After a couple of sessions, the therapist will more than likely want to meet with the parents again. They go over what they hope to accomplish with your child, if they feel like they are going to be able to help your child, and answer any questions you might have.

kid sitting with momAt this point, you will decide whether to continue with the therapist on the recommended plan or move on to another therapist. It will not hurt their feelings if you decide to go with another therapist. It is very important that you find someone who you feel is a good fit for you all.

And most of all, be POSITIVE! Don’t make your child feel like she has to go to therapy because she is “bad.” Encourage them to embrace it as something that he needs in order to be the “best me” he can be.

Here we are six years later, and we are still plugging away with our therapy goals. We have had windows of time where we could take a month or two off because he was stable and things were good. However, it is pretty much a given that therapy will continue to be a big part of our lives, and that is okay with this momma.

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One Response to Searching for Happiness: When Your Child Needs a Therapist

  1. LisaMomOf4 October 6, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

    Thank you for this. It’s really hard hearing everyong else talk about their child being “the smartest and best behaved in their class” when you are just hoping to go thru an entire work day without a call from the school. I fear my phone. Our son is doing better but it’s really hard to find a doctor to return our calls now. I dont know what to do.

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