Making the decision to take your child to counseling can be overwhelming. In part 1 of this series, we talked about how and where to find a good therapist. Now, let’s narrow it down to finding a good fit for you, your child, and your family. When starting out on your search one of the first things you might find overwhelming are all of the letters behind names to choose from. Here is a brief overview of what some of the most common letters stand for:
What Do Those Letters Mean?
MFT or LMFT – MFT stands for marriage and family therapist, with the “L” indicating that the individual is licensed. Licensing generally indicates that the individual has completed vigorous post degree training and supervision requirements. MFTs have a master’s degree and have completed training that is specific to working with families and couples in counseling.
PC or LPC– Professional counselors (PCs) have a masters in counseling and have completed training specific to counseling, with the “L” indicating that the individual is licensed.
PhD and PsyD – These letters indicate that the professional has a doctorate degree and can be referred to as a doctor or psychologist. PhDs are sometimes focused on research while PsyDs can be more clinically focused, however, both can provide counseling.
MSW or LCSW – MSW stands for masters in social work (MSW), and with additional training this professional can be a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).
Questions to Ask Your Future Therapist
What kind of training or education have you completed to work with children in mental health?
This question will help you to determine if your potential counselor is qualified to work with children and deal with specific concerns that you would like to focus on.
Do you specialize in working with specific mental health concerns or a specific age group?
If you have very specific challenges you would like to focus on in counseling, there might be a counselor who specializes in that very thing. Some professionals might even specialize in a certain age group. Although these specializations are not necessary to finding a good fit, it can be helpful to ask.
What approach do you use in working with children?
Counselors will vary widely in their approach to counseling and there are many different effective approaches that can lead to client success. Many child therapists will utilize some play therapy which includes toys and can help your child to feel comfortable in counseling.
Will my family be involved in my child’s counseling?
It can be important to know what your future therapist’s expectations are of you in counseling. When working with a child, it can be essential to include family in sessions as this can ensure that your success in counseling continues at home too.
Not every counselor works with children or families and this can be critical to feeling like it’s a good fit. Generally, potential therapists will be happy to offer you a short phone or in-person consultation to answer your questions and learn more about your child and why you are seeking counseling at this time. If your potential therapist is unable or unwilling to answer questions, it might be worth consulting with additional therapists in your area. This can sometimes be an overwhelming process but finding a therapist who is a good fit will pay off in your child’s and family’s counseling success. Congratulations on continuing these steps toward making positive changes!