At HopeNation, we understand that navigating mental health services for your child or teen can be scary. It’s difficult enough to realize your child may need the support of a professional counselor but adding finding the right counselor to your list can be downright overwhelming. The first step is to ask important questions before hiring a counselor.
Finding the right counselor for your child or teen is essential. Experiencing a positive, productive relationship with their therapist is essential for your child to get the support and help they need. Having the right counselor provides a safe, non-judgmental environment where your child can openly discuss their concerns and express their feelings without fear of being judged or labeled.
Before you shell out time and money, we suggest interviewing counselors for the important job of helping your child heal and thrive.
Here are 9 questions to ask before hiring a counselor:
1. Are you specially trained to treat children, teens, and young adults? How much experience do you have?
A counselor that is experienced working with your child’s age group and understands their unique needs will be better equipped to provide the right guidance and support. Specializing counselors have a deeper knowledge of the treatments and interventions that are most effective.
2. Does the practice have a way for my child to get to know you before investing time and money?
Meeting with a potential counselor is an important way for you and your child to determine if the therapist is a good fit for your family. Your child’s comfort level with the therapist is important to ensure that the therapeutic relationship is successful. Meeting with a potential counselor allows you and your child to get a better sense of whether or not your child will connect with the therapist.
3. Do you have experience in the telehealth setting? What best practices do you follow?
In a telehealth setting, counselors should strive to provide the best quality care possible and stay informed of any relevant changes in practice related to telehealth. Telehealth best practices include using a secure communication platform, verifying patient identity and informed consent, protecting patient privacy, and following state and federal laws related to telehealth.
4. How do you adapt your approach to therapy based on how the child best responds?
Different counselors have different ways of interacting with their clients. It is important to align on the relationship you want and expect from your counselor. For instance, do you want the counselor to be hyper-structured in sessions with your child, or do you prefer the dialog to casually unfold? Do you want homework assigned? Do you want the counselor to take the lead, or do you prefer a more laid-back approach with your child or teen?
Some of these decisions are going to depend on what the child AND/OR the parent needs. If the child is non-compliant and oppositional then often having a rigid? therapy approach will backfire as it generates more resistance to creating change.
5. Do you involve the parents/family in the treatment process?
It is very important to involve the parents and family when a counselor is treating your child or teen. Family is often seen as the central source of support for a child or teen’s emotional well-being. When the counselor works with the family, it helps to create a strong support system. The family can help in providing the child with positive reinforcement and can be a source of comfort and support. Families that communicate with the counselor can provide important insight into the child or teen’s home environment. They help identify family dynamics that could be impacting their child’s mental health. Involving the family early helps ensure therapy gains happen faster and last longer when treatment has been completed.
6. If we need to contact you outside therapy sessions, will we be charged?
Some counselors charge for communication outside of sessions and some don’t. Fees can vary depending on the type of therapy and the individual therapist. Since life happens outside of therapy, it’s important to ask if there are additional fees for communication outside scheduled sessions.
7. How will I know if my child is making progress?
Your child’s counselor should provide you with regular reports and updates on your child’s progress during therapy. Many counselors routinely administer assessments so you have a data-driven way to see our child’s outcomes. These assessments measure a number of factors that relate directly to your child’s healing process. In addition, your therapist should work with you to discuss goals, identify strategies for improvement, and provide resources to support you and your child.
8. How flexible and attentive are you?
A counselor should be especially flexible and attentive when working with children and teenagers. The counselor should be willing to adjust their approach and/or treatment plan to best meet the individual needs of your child and shepherd sessions to ensure that the focus stays on the child, giving them space to express themselves and feel listened to. A counselor’s level of mindfulness and details the child brings up can ensure any resources or interventions are tailored to the child’s individual needs.
9. Does your practice offer complementary services that we might need to address other needs, like family counseling or school issues like assessments and IEP support?
Oftentimes a child needs support beyond mental well-being. This may include family interventions, school-related assistance, etc. If you believe you need additional support for your child, it is important to determine if your therapist provides these services to minimize the coordination of several different people and organizations in your child’s healing journey.
Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions. Choosing the right counselor for your child or teen is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Asking questions before hiring a counselor is a step in the right direction.
Download our convenient counselor interview checklist and let us know if we can answer further questions.