How to interview a new therapist?
Parents may want to consider interviewing a new therapist, as they would if they were hiring any other job applicant and handle the situation accordingly by asking questions. PSN requested advice from our contributing writers and therapists to advise parents on the best questions to ask and how to handle certain situations, below is a collaboration of their advice.
1. Questions parents should ask when interviewing new therapists for their child:
- What is their training/educational background?
- What do they specialize in? Pediatrics or Adult, specific disorders?
- What is their experience? Have they worked in a school setting or a private program?
- How long have they been therapists?
- Who will be treating my child? In large practices, it could be someone with less&experience.
- Do they attend conferences to enhance their skills and keep up to date on new techniques in their profession?
A suggestion from our therapists would be to learn about the amount of experience and/or specialized training the therapist has. This is, not only, in pediatrics, but also, in working with/understanding your child’s specific needs. We are not necessarily referring to “credentials” but also the ability to “tune in” and problem solve the best way to apply his or her skills in progressing toward your child’s optimal level of success. This sounds like a lot of semantics, but, often it’s intuitiveness on the part of the clinician that is the most important quality of all. As a parent, take notice, not only of the therapist’s answers to your questions, but also of the questions he or she asks about your child. Go with your gut—does he or she make you feel confident, trusting, hopeful? Or, wary and worried? Does your first conversation focus on the “problem” or on getting to know your child as a person, your family’s dynamics, YOUR needs regarding scheduling, finances, etc?
2. When your insurance company only allows you to go to a certain therapist, how would you advise making sure that the therapist is right for your child rather than just taking what they give you?
Ask other parents.
Ask the above questions of the therapist.
Speak to the therapist personally or have an intake appointment to determine if this is the right one. If this isn’t the right therapist,
tell your insurance company that they need to let you go out of network. For example, some insurance companies do not have pediatric practices on their list and/or try to send people to therapists who are extremely far away or have no training in the area of the child’s disability.
Sometimes the therapist you want is not in network for your insurance company, and there are lots of reasons why they chose not to go that route. But, they should be able to have you pay up front, give you a paid HCFA form, and by doing so, the opportunity to be reimbursed by your insurance company.
3. When a therapist wants to release your child from therapy and you, as the parent, do not agree, what would you advise doing?
Have formal test results. Ask others how they view your child’s communication – e.g. family members, friends. Take your child to another therapist for a second opinion.
Be advised that sometimes clinicians are forced by guidelines of the company they work for or the payor for your child’s therapy services to release you from therapy. Hopefully, you will have an open enough relationship with the therapist that the rationale should be explained and understood.
4. Can you recommend a way to keep track and measure your child’s goals and progress in therapy?
There should be a treatment plan at the onset with measurable goals. Make sure you retain a copy for your records. Be
involved in the sessions. The treatment plan should be reviewed and updated every six months. If there is no treatment plan, ask for one! Also, ask to see the data or treatment notes. Your participation is vital so that you can increase your skills to successfully parent your child and understand the goals and techniques in his or her program. Knowing the techniques and objectives of your child’s treatment plan will allow you to monitor his or her progress.
5. Do you have any other advice to share with parents who feel a bit “unqualified” because they are not therapists?
Network with other parents. Remember, you know your child better than any therapist. You spend the most time with them. You are the one who should be giving information to the therapist. If she/he is not asking for your input first, RUN! You should also be allowed to watch the therapy (depending on your child’s ability to tolerate this). If you are in the waiting room and get no information, you need to talk with the therapist about being more of a part of the treatment. Establish communication either through a notebook in which each therapist records information after their session with your child, or they give you an update after each session that you record, keep notes, and copies of work. In addition, there should be homework after each session. This need not be written homework,
but some activity to be practiced or used in daily activities and/or
conversation. Be open to alternative approaches.
Therapists need to communicate fully with you so that you know exactly what’s going on at all times. The only way to evaluate whether a treatment plan is working is to analyze the changes your child is making.
YOU are the therapeutic agent!
Thank you to Donna Wexler and Linda
Mitchel for their contributions to this article.
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