Foundation for a Good Child-Client and Mental Health Therapist Relationship

The content on this page is provided for informational purposes only.
This information is NOT medical advice. Be sure to consult your mental health care provider, as well as your physician, with questions about mental health treatment options.

Finding a good mental health provider to work with your child is much like shopping for any type of service. As the consumer, you have the right, as well as the need, to ask good questions, both before and during your first appointment.

Finding a pool of potential therapists usually starts with a call to your insurance company. Most insurance carriers can search their list of participating providers and give you a set of options within a certain mile radius of your home. You can also ask them to refine the list by the type of therapy the counselor is trained to provide.

Before making your 1st appointment, take the time for a short telephone interview with each potential counselor. Your questions should probe five areas that make the foundation for a positive and productive client-therapist relationship.

  1. Respect
    Before a person can truly open up and talk, they want to know that they won’t be judged for their problems. Counselors aren’t required to agree with everything a client says, but they should be able to respect the client’s basic value as a human being who makes mistakes. Ethically, all counselors should be prepared to work with any type of client without judgment. But, the reality is that some will be more sensitive to the experience of the gifted child while others may wind up being passive-aggressive in their own insecurities.

2. Empathy
A counselor does not need to have lived a similar life to the client in order to understand what it must be like to deal with certain issues. However, deep listening and concern allows therapists to develop an understanding and appreciation for a client’s feelings and motivations. When clients feel heard in this fashion, they feel safe in continuing to open up. Some kids build empathy more easily with a therapist whose gender matches their own. For others, gender doesn’t matter.

3. Honesty
Kids, gifted ones in particular, easily see through another person’s bluff, especially when it attempts to mask a condescending or hypercritical tone. Therapists who try to hide certain opinions or beliefs may come off as judgmental or, worse, lacking integrity.

4. Understanding the Problem
Not all kids have the insight to know what their underlying issues may be that have brought them to therapy. However, it’s important that the counselor and the client agree what problems they should focus on and what they’re trying to achieve in treatment.

5. Collaboration
While the counselor has extensive training in therapeutic techniques, the client has to buy into the process. Not all methods will work for all clients. Listening to client concerns and adapting methods is important to successful therapy.

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