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Choosing the Right Psychologist For Your Family

Choosing the Right Psychologist For Your Family

Here's what to look for in terms of finding a professional and when to seek help.

Every child experiences challenges at school or home at some point during their development. A difficult question for most parents is, “When do I seek the help of a psychologist?” In order to help their children, parents often reach out to friends or family members, or make changes in the family’s routine, before seeking help. Many parents report fear and concern about seeking help from a psychologist because of a stigma and a concern that their child may be “labeled.” There is no shame in asking for help, and it most certainly does not mean you are a “bad” parent.  In my experience as a psychologist, parents tend to seek a psychological evaluation or therapy after they can no longer compensate for their child’s challenges on their own and/or when the challenge interferes with their child’s success at school, home, or in the community. 
 

Check-in With Her Teachers

My recommendation to parents is that when you initially notice that your child is struggling with learning, making or maintaining friends, expressing and regulating their emotions, hyperactivity, inattention, reading, etc., check-in with the school.  Ask if your child’s teacher is noticing the same concerns. Sometimes, a child may only have difficulty at home or school, and not both settings. In that case, you may want to consult with a psychologist about what could be contributing to the challenge in one context and not another. 
 

Don't Wait Too Long

If you are concerned for a month or two, you may consider seeking support from a psychologist.  Reaching out for help or seeking information when you initially develop a concern is the first step. I believe the role of a psychologist is to work with the family as a teammate, providing information and support. So, when your concern lingers for 4-6 weeks or you can no longer compensate on your own, add another teammate! The psychologist will help you determine what’s going on and help you develop strategies to support your child. Once you decide to seek support, the next question is, how do you find a psychologist?
 

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Finding a Psychologist

There are many avenues to locating a psychologist.  You may ask for a referral from your pediatrician, or you can search the internet. Some helpful search engines are psychologytoday.com and apa.org. It is important to read the reviews of the psychologists, look at their credentials, and look at what orientation they ascribe to. You may call the psychologist(s) you are interested in and ask questions such as:

  • Are you licensed?
  • What level of education do you have?
  • What is your area of specialty?
  • What kinds of therapies do you practice?
  • If you do not know what the orientation or style of therapy is, ask what it means.
     

Schedule a Consultation Meeting

In this meeting, you will express your concerns and your goals. The psychologist may ask you questions about your child, your child’s school, about your family, and what you hope to gain from the evaluation or therapy. This information helps the psychologist understand what is important to your family. The psychologist should work with you, your child, and the family unit to develop a plan for the evaluation and/or therapy. After the consultation meeting, you may determine if you wish to continue to work with this psychologist.
 

Finding a Good Fit For Your Family

It is important that there is a match between the psychologist’s style and your family’s style. It is not enough to just find a psychologist, you want to find a psychologist that fits your family. And, if you find a psychologist and decide that person is not the right fit, that’s ok—don’t give up! Reach out to another psychologist. You want to have confidence in the psychologist’s knowledge base, you want to feel understood, you want to see that that person clicks with your child and your family, and you want to feel that you can trust your psychologist.