Parenthood can be full of challenges and one of the most difficult ones is firstly discovering that your child needs ‘therapy’ for a problem he or she is experiencing and secondly you need to find a clinician to help you with this issue. It can be daunting when faced with finding a ‘good’ clinician to help your child. Choosing the right clinician can be vital in helping your child develop the skills they require.
It is important to ask “What should I look for in a clinician?”
- A good clinician will take time to find out what problem is and what you are hoping to achieve as an outcome. There will be respect for you as a parent and you will be included in decision-making process.
- A good clinician should consider you to be an integral part of any therapy and an intervention partner. The clinician realises that because the time spent with in a therapy session is limited and because you are so important in your child’s life, parents need to be involved in the intervention and play a major role in every session. You need to be confident in what the clinician is doing to help you and your child so that intervention goes beyond the each treatment session and continues throughout your child’s day. Having said that, working on an intervention should not be a burden that takes away from family life and being a mum or dad.
- The clinician needs to be experienced and knowledgeable. A good clinician should know what kind of treatment is best for your child. In addition, this treatment should be based on research. The clinician should appear to know what they are talking about.
Here are some questions you can ask to help you decide whether or not this clinician is experienced and knowledgeable in the therapy that would be beneficial for your child:
- How much of your caseload is made up of children like mine?
- How much experience do you have in this area?
- What treatment do you recommend and why? What’s the evidence that supports these recommendations?
- The clinician needs to be child-friendly. If your child isn’t comfortable, s/he will not be able to learn. Thus, watch the clinician interacting with your child. Is she on the floor with him? Is she trying to find out what interests him? Does your child seem to be having fun? Does your child seem willing to interact with this clinician? If you can answer yes to these questions, then chances are your child will be ready to learn.
- You need to inquire about the cost and frequency of the therapy sessions. High prices do not mean “better” therapy. Furthermore, you may not need ‘weekly’ therapy, but will need some time to practice the skills learnt within the session and so fortnightly or monthly sessions may be appropriate.
Additional questions may include:
- Can I use claim on Medicare (Chronic Disease Management program)?
- Am I able to use my private health insurance?
- Are you able to provide services under FaHCSIA (Helping Children with Autism or Better Start)?
You may also like to know if the clinician offers home or school/kindergarten visits should this be required.
A good clinician usually exhibits most of these traits:
- Starts the session on time.
- Is prepared and wants you, as the parent, to be a part of the session and participate in the activities. Additionally assists you to develop skills and strategies that can be used every-day with your child
- Uses a variety of techniques to keep your child motivated and engaged in the session. You won’t hear them saying “(your child) just wouldn’t do anything today” but they might say “I need to work on finding better motivators for your child”. They feel the responsibility of how engaged your child was in the session falls on them, not your child.
- Enjoys children and working with your child. Finds positive things about your child to share with you that you can both build on; even after a “tricky” session.
- Is flexible and remembers that their role is to provide you a service.
- Stays up to date on current therapy techniques by seeking out professional learning opportunities.
- Will provide you with home practice activities that you can do with your child until the next therapy session because she knows that one session of therapy every fortnight is not going to “fix” anything without parents practicing skills between sessions. She lets you know at the beginning, the important role you play in your child’s therapy team.
- Explains the “what” but also the “why” of what she is doing and is happy to answer questions.
- She won’t promise outcomes that are unrealistic!
Please remember there are many good clinicians in all professions BUT not all clinicians will be a good “fit” for you and your child. It is important to follow your instincts and don’t be afraid to seek an alternative clinician if you feel the relationship between you, your child and the clinician is not going to be productive.