By: Dr. Cheri Shapiro, Director
When children, youth, or families are struggling, finding a provider who can offer scientifically supported methods of support or treatment is only a part of the solution. We need to find providers that we respect, that we are comfortable with, and that we have confidence in. As a wise colleague has said, “It’s all about the relationship.”
Seeking treatment for a child or adolescent mental health or substance use problem is hard. Taking the first step can involve asking people we know for recommendations, searching the internet for providers, calling local treatment providers, or talking to those who have had similar challenges. The next step can be even harder — making that first visit. What should you look for then?
Changing behaviors is hard work, and it may take a few tries to find the right treatment provider. Many providers offer the opportunity for a short first visit, just to make sure that they can offer the type of service that you might need. In some cases, you may be able to speak with the provider over the phone. In other cases, you may need to schedule a first appointment and meet the provider at that time.
So what are you looking for during these first visits? Someone that you feel comfortable with, that you can imagine working with over a period of weeks or possibly months. You want someone that you feel is supportive, because there will be times when treatment is hard to do. It’s important to find someone who listens well, and communicates clearly about what kind of treatment will be provided, why this approach may work, and what other approaches are available. Also, the practitioner should be someone who can talk about how you will know if treatment is working or not. As a parent or caregiver, we want to trust that the provider can help us and believe that change is possible, knowing that it will take work on our part.
Finally, try not to wait until the problem is so big that it seems overwhelming. Reach out sooner rather than later and look for the right match.