Finding the Right Therapist for your Child

Because the quality of care your child receives is so important in his or her recovery, it’s important to find the right therapist to work with – specifically, one who is trained in conducting Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) with children or teens.

If your pediatrician refers you to a psychiatrist, keep in mind that psychiatrists usually prescribe medication.  But medication alone is not considered the most effective treatment for OCD.

CBT involves the use of two evidence-based techniques: Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP) and Cognitive Therapy (CT).  Because not all professionals are trained and experienced in conducting CBT with children, it’s important to find a cognitive behavior therapist who is.  In many cases, this will be a psychologist with a Ph.D., Psy.D., M.A. or M.S. degree, or a specially trained social worker.  It’s also important to ensure that the therapist is willing to conduct treatment outside the office (e.g., in the school setting or home), via telephone or Skype, if necessary.

If you have difficulty finding a cognitive behavior therapist, you may need to contact your local mental health association to get the names of trained CBT therapists who have experience working with children and adolescents with OCD.  If your city or town doesn’t have a mental health association, you might contact a local hospital and inquire about mental health clinics or staff psychiatrists.  You may also contact the psychiatry department of a local or nearby medical school or university psychology department.  Beyond OCD can also help you find a therapist.

While CBT doesn’t work for every single child, the majority of children gain significant – even dramatic – relief from their OCD symptoms.  Proper diagnosis and prompt, appropriate treatment can significantly improve your child’s chances of learning to manage the disorder and experience a happy and productive childhood.

Interviewing a Prospective Therapist

As you make a decision about choosing the right therapist for your child or teen, it will be extremely important to consider a number of crucial elements, including the person’s training, experience and personality (e.g., ability to establish a rapport with your son or daughter).  CBT will not be easy, so a good “patient-therapist fit” is vital; it’s important that both you and your child feel that the therapist is respectful, empathic, and competent. To that end, you will need to “interview” prospective therapists to be sure they meet the criteria for working with your child or adolescent.

Learn more about what to ask a prospective therapist

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