Traumatic therapy experiences are more common than you may suspect, especially for younger patients. Adults make their own choices when seeking mental help, but children go where their parents or caregivers direct them, trusting that the experience won’t harm them. Unfortunately, well-meaning parents don’t always know what to look for in a treatment provider. Traumatic experiences in therapy don’t have to cause long-term damage, however, if you seek out a qualified practitioner to help overcome the bad experience.
How Therapy Goes Wrong for Kids
Often, parents entrust their children to practitioners who aren’t specifically trained or certified to work with children, or who aren’t experienced with handling the child’s specific problem. This might involve a spiritual advisor or referral from a friend. Parents may not understand the true nature of the problem, or how the counselor practices. This can lead to a bad fit between the therapist and child, or to the practitioner not being prepared to help with the problem. Children can sometimes become overwhelmed when confronted by their own strong emotions, especially if a traumatic experience was involved originally. If the therapist is not used to dealing with kids, he or she won’t know how to talk your daughter down.
Finding the Right Therapist the Second Time
Start by asking your pediatrician for a referral. Although there are many types of therapeutic certifications, child psychology is a unique field of practice, distinctly different from adult-oriented modalities. Look for a practitioner who utilizes a scientific approach and who carries proper licensure and board certification. Check with your local medical board for any complaints that may have been filed against the practitioner, and don’t hesitate to ask for references. Although confidentiality laws prevent a therapist from providing patient references, it may be helpful to speak to other medical professionals with whom they have a working relationship and who are familiar with the therapist’s work.
Establish Expectations with the Treatment Provider
Once you have established that the therapist has the right credentials and verified references, visit by yourself first to talk with him or her. Learn about the types of therapy the practitioner uses and ask what the experience will be like for your child. Discuss your expectations and what your family hopes to accomplish through the process. If your daughter is uneasy about seeing another counselor, arrange to go in with her the first time she visits, even if it’s just to facilitate an introduction.
If your daughter has been truly traumatized by an experience with a counselor or therapist, she may require a more immersive course of treatment to help her overcome the trauma. Havenwood Academy offers residential treatment programs for girls who have experienced trauma, especially if the problem is ongoing. Contact them today to discuss your daughter’s traumatic therapy experience.