12 Things You Must Know Before Finding a Child Psychologist

12 Things You Must Know Before Finding a Child Psychologist

If you are a parent who believes your child might benefit from seeing a child psychologist, first of all, you are not alone. I also know firsthand that the process can be extremely overwhelming. If you have no experience with the process, it can be quite intimidating to think about putting your precious child in the hand of a professional.

As a mother of three girls, I have had several situations where I thought I needed an outside professional opinion. For example, last year, my 10-year-old started hiding sandwiches in her closet and became extremely aware of her physical appearance. I noticed that she had started bringing back most of her lunch home after school and would only eat small quantities at mealtimes. First I told myself to ignore my instincts and just hope that her behavior would subside. However, after finding five sandwiches in her closet and other places, I decided that I should consult a psychologist. Since I suffered from both anorexia and bulimia and was aware of the genetic predisposition, I chose to be extra cautious and make sure there was nothing serious going on with my daughter. I am also fortunate enough to work with colleagues who are experts in eating disorders, so I had easy access to professional who could provide me with the support I needed. I realize, though, that for most parents and other caregivers, the search can be quite daunting and challenging.

If you are seeking a child psychologist, it is most likely because you have either noticed something is not right with your child in terms of behavior or performance, or a professional such as a pediatrician, school psychologist, teacher or a friend has suggested that they see someone for support.

Acknowledging your child needs help can be difficult, but unfortunately, the search can be even more difficult. One of LW Wellness’ child psychologists, Dr. Allison Patterson, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist, compiled a list to equip you with some knowledge before you begin your search.

Searching for a child psychologist could be a daunting task for parents.  Many are not sure how to start and what should even be considered. Here are some ideas of things to consider when searching for a child psychologist to be sure they are a good fit for your child AND your family.

Tip #1

Environment– Upon visiting a potential office, take special note of the environment and atmosphere of the office itself. You first want to be certain the psychologist’s office is child friendly and has developmentally appropriate toys or activities to engage your child.

Tip # 2

Experience– Inquire about the experience the psychologist has with your child’s age. A psychologist who specializes in adolescents may not be appropriate for your preschool aged child. Does the psychologist have experience working with schools and other related service providers? Understanding the school setting would be important since your child spends a significant amount of time in that environment. You want to find someone who has significant knowledge about the specific issues you are looking to address.

Tip #3

Theoretical Orientation– There are various theoretical orientations such as behavioral, cognitive behavioral, psycho-dynamic, or family systems. Some approaches provide more concrete strategies to implement and require interventions from the child’s environment. They may focus on the responses of the adults in your child’s life to enact positive changes. Others may be more long term, require more frequent visits, and may not include parents in the process. It’s important to have a brief understanding of the different orientations and be prepared to work with the psychologist.

Tip #4

Location– Consider the amount of time it would take to travel to and from the office.  The amount of time in transit should not exceed the session time. Some psychologists may even be available to work in your child’s naturalistic environment such as their school. This is sometimes helpful in developing skills in the environment where struggles may occur. For example, working on social skills in the context of the child’s peers may be most effective in enacting change and developing skills. Regardless, if getting to and from the psychologist’s office is a major burden on you and your child, it will become too much of a distraction from the work done in the session.

Tip #5

ScheduleBe certain that the time for the session is manageable for your child and your entire family’s schedule. Young children will be more available to benefit from treatment if they are not exhausted during the session. Also, consider availability for parent sessions.  Are evening hours or early AM appointments necessary for your family and if so, is that an option that is available? Find a time where the appointments aren’t disruptive but also can be made a priority.

Tip #6

FlexibilityTalk with your psychologist about his/her various approaches to helping children with their specific problems. Choosing a psychologist who develops a treatment plan based on your child’s specific needs rather than a set formula is crucial.

Tip #7

ConsultationIt is important for the psychologist to be able to consult with all the adults who care for the child to ensure consistency. This could include parents, teachers, caretakers, speech pathologists or occupational therapists.  A multidisciplinary approach to treatment with children allows the psychologist to gain a better understanding of the child’s struggles and provide support in various environments.

Tip #8

Parent involvement and educationFind out how much parent involvement is expected and encouraged. If you are looking for tools to carry over in the home environment, be certain the psychologist is willing to meet with families. Is the psychologist available to answer questions, respond to emails or be available for phone calls? Evaluate your own commitment and willingness to attend sessions independent of your child. Consider the amount of time you are willing to invest.

Tip #9

Fee- It is important to consider the fee, insurance reimbursement possibilities and inquire about what is covered in that fee.  Are consultations with teachers, caretakers, phone calls, team meetings included in the price or do they have a different fee scale.  Some therapists rates may be higher but they include some consultation. For example, they may not bill for a 20 minute conversation with the child’s speech therapist.

Tip # 10

Credentials– The term Licensed Psychologist is a regulated term by New York State.  Other professionals can call themselves psychotherapists, counselors, or behaviorists but the term psychologist is a regulated term that only those who went through rigorous training and supervision are entitled to use. Further, insurance companies often provide reimbursement only to those with the License Psychologist credential. One must achieve a doctorate to be considered for licensure but not all doctors have the license.

Tip #11

Background check- For safety, it may be good practice to inquire about a background check prior to allowing a professional to work with your child

Tip #12

Temperament– Many parents choose to have either a phone consultation or meet the psychologist at the office prior to committing to ongoing treatment for their child. In this meeting, you as a parent could also assess if the psychologist would be a good fit for you and your child. Is the therapist’s temperament one that could fit with your own? Trust your instincts — if you don’t feel comfortable chances are it is not a good fit.

The above tips are important to keep in mind when seeking a child psychologist near you. It is also important to familiarize yourself with prominent figures in the child psychology world, which will help empower you as a parent to make smart decisions and to be an educated consumer when looking for a child psychologist. While there are several figures, the three I find most useful for parents seeking a child psychologist are Adler, Erikson and Piaget.

No worries, I will not be giving you too much information, but only information that I believe can empower you as a parent and as a consumer seeking a child psychologist.

Let’s start with my favorite psychiatrist who is also trained in psychotherapy: Alfred Adler. He worked closely with Sigmund Freud, whom I am sure many of you are familiar with, but Adler is best known for his approach of looking at the individual as a whole. Adler believed that when children feel that they are not loved and don’t belong to this world they develop feelings of inferiority (what he called an inferiority complex). According to Adler, what people, particularly children, need most is a kiss and a hug and to be empathetically seen for who they truly are. Only then will they be able to be what they were truly meant to be in this life. Think about this for a moment. Think about yourself as a child or as an adult. How would you feel if your parent or friends saw you for who you are and loved and accepted you unconditionally and supported you throughout your journey? What are your passions? What would you have truly done if you could have choices without the social, parental or other societal constraints that might have pressured you? You don’t have to answer at this moment, but when it comes to our children, it is important to be aware of this. Now, think of this in the context of seeking a child psychologist. Are you seeking a child psychologist because you think your child is performing according to your expectations? Are they realistic? What are they based on? It might be a good idea to write these down and share with the child psychologist you choose. We often project our own anxieties and insecurities onto our children and as a result they develop anxieties and take on some of the parents’ fears, insecurities, etc.   

The next theorist that I think you will appreciate learning about is Erikson, who is best known for his psycho social theory. Erikson developed eight stages of development and a virtue associated with each of these stages. His stages are age appropriate trust vs. mistrust (age 0-18 months, virtue = Hope). Autonomy vs. shame and doubt (18 month- 3 years, virtue = Will), initiative vs. guilt (3-5y years, virtue= Purpose), industry vs. inferiority (5-13 years, Virtue = Competence), Ego identity vs. role confusion (12-18 years, virtue= Fidelity), intimacy vs isolation (18-40 years, virtue = Love), generativity vs. stagnation (40-65 years, virtue= Care), ego integrity vs. despair (65+ years, virtue= Wisdom). He focused on how people’s sense of identity develops and how people develop or fail to develop abilities and beliefs about themselves, which allows them to become productive, satisfied members of society.

Thinking about my three girls (ages 8,10 and 13), I found it helpful to think about their development in the context of Erikson’s stages because it helped me as a parent put things in perspective. For example, my daughter Shiloh, who is 8 years old, for the most part feels a sense of competence. During this stage of her development (Stage # 4 Industry Vs. Inferiority) I encouraged and reinforced her to take initiative and achieve her goals. However, if a child at that age is not encouraged, or restricted, then the child will begin to feel inferior and therefore will not reach full potential.

I also have great respect for Piaget because he was the first psychologist to make a systematic study of cognitive development. He was able to show that young children think considerably different than adults. Here are Piaget’s stages of development:. Sensorimotor (Birth-24 months), Preoperational (2-7 years) Concrete Operational (7-12 years) and Formal Operational (12 years-Adulthood).

Why are these important?

Piaget noted that all children shared certain developmental patterns. This can be helpful for you whether seeking a child psychologist or just curious about child development. They are easily understood. Back to the example of my 8-year-old, Shiloh, who is in the concrete operational stage (Age 7-12). I found it to be extremely helpful to read that Piaget found this to be a MAJOR turning point in the child cognitive development because it marks the beginning of logical or operational thought. This is good news for us parents! Because it means that the child can now work things internally in his head rather than physically try things out in the real world.  

You might think this is going too deep and you don’t need to know all of this, but the truth is, as a parent you have to be an active participant in your child’s therapy, so educating and empowering yourself with the basics of child psychology will help you be an educated consumer, ask the right questions and ultimately help your child succeed!

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

Pediatric Dietitian Advice From The Pros

How YOU Can Help Your Picky Eater By Not Jumping To Conclusions!

 

Whether you have a toddler or a teen, nutrition is extremely important for your child’s physical and mental development. I’m sure you’ve seen the research stating that one in every three children is obese. But what are we supposed to do with this information? As parents, all the information and oftentimes conflicting advice on what constitutes “healthy and nutritious” for your child can be overwhelming. And what if we have a kid who just won’t eat nutritious foods?

As an eating disorder specialist and a mom of three girls, I know the challenges that parents and caregivers go through when raising children and trying to feed them healthy foods, while promoting a positive and healthy body image. For some parents, this is not such a big deal, and they allow their kids to eat whatever it is they want without paying attention to the nutritional value. Other parents end up getting in the way of their children by worrying too much about what they are (or aren’t!) eating. Which end of the spectrum do you fall on? To what extent can you actually help your child? Advice from an expert pediatric clinical dietitian — someone who has seen it all! — may help you realize that you aren’t alone, and that your kid isn’t different! Many children experience difficulty eating, and it’s completely normal. However, as a parent you do play a vital role in guiding your child down a healthy path.

It’s important to recognize that picky eating isn’t your fault, it isn’t your child’s fault, and it is completely manageable. Children are growing creatures who experience new senses every single day in their bodies, and that includes in their taste buds! You wouldn’t expect a child to understand what a word is until they are taught to read it (and even after that it takes some time to recognize it on their own), so why would you expect them to understand their sense of taste immediately? Children are sensitive, and they are constantly learning about the world around them. Remember, it’s brand new for them! Our anxieties only worsen the situation. Read on for some advice from professional pediatricians and specialists on how YOU can help your child overcome the boundaries of picky eating and lead them on a lifelong journey to healthy eating!

Normalizing Picky Eating and Learning to Manage Anxiety from your Child’s Fussiness

Below you will find several findings from various pediatricians, eating specialists, and therapists who have either conducted studies on or worked personally with children who are extremely picky eaters. These doctors and therapists have worked closely with stressed and anxious parents who live in fear that their children suffer from eating disorders. The specialists assure these worried parents that excessively picky eating is more normal than you may think in children. Doctors and therapists also stress the importance of remaining calm and not making a huge deal out of a very common childhood trait. They outline the importance of not jumping to conclusions, and not labeling your child’s fussiness. What we as adults may see as being “picky” is often actually just a child experiencing and growing in the world around him or her.

Kristen Lee Campbell, MD is a Pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital & Instructor of Pediatrics. She is also a mom herself and has a picky eater of her own. Findings from her thesis on fussy eating in children is outlined below.

It’s Completely Natural

According to Dr. Kristen Lee Campbell, children are stubborn creatures by nature, and sometimes they simply decide their mind/body doesn’t want something. This is natural, and can be conditioned and worked with without too much cause for alarm. Just because a child is selective with his or her eating habits, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has a disorder. Being an overly picky eater is actually congruent to biology and the natural development of a child’s taste buds and tolerance for certain foods. “It does take time for children to develop the sensory tolerance for certain flavors, spices, textures, and temperatures,” Campbell says. Therefore it is totally natural for a child to be extraordinarily picky and selective with food. You also shouldn’t continually compare your child’s progress with eating habits to others because “the definition of age appropriate foods varies with culture, and a myriad of contexts,” Dr. Campbell explains.

Keep Calm And Keep Cool

Dr. Campbell also encourages parents to keep calm, and keep cool! Children are unbelievably impressionable. Believe it or not, if they sense your anxiety in a situation, they are more likely to experience their own anxiety. It is important to not project your own fears and misconceptions of possible eating disorders onto your child. The last thing that is going to help your little picky eater is a mealtime full of tension, worry, and fear. Children will often do as they see. They are little mimics by nature. Remaining calm, encouraging, and optimistic will only help ease your child’s picky tendencies. They also respond well to visually appealing and fun foods! Dr. Campbell personally knows how difficult this can be for parents, but she urges them to be patient, and remain optimistic.

Dr. Lee Hudson is a Consultant Pediatrician with expertise in feeding and eating disorders. His findings with picky eaters among children are outlined below.

You Are Not Alone

Dr. Lee, first and foremost, points out that parents with picky eaters are not alone! “Picky eating is very common,” he states with confidence. Dr. Lee relays that a study in the Journal Appetite, released in January 2016, evaluated the eating habits of well over 100 children ages 3 to 11. Overall, 39% of children were identified as very picky eaters. It’s common among children, and of course common among parents, to jump to conclusions and begin labeling. However, Dr. Lee stresses the importance of parents remaining calm, and not overanalyzing during a child’s “finicky phase”.

Dr. Faye Powell is a developmental psychologist at the University of Bedfordshire specializing in children’s eating behavior. Dr. Jacqueline Blissett is a reader in childhood eating behavior. Natalie Morris is a lead therapist at Integrated Therapy Solutions’ Feeding Clinic. All three specialists have worked together to study children with picky eating habits, and to assuage anxious parents. Some of their findings and thoughts on picky eaters are below.

Every Child Develops At A Different Pace

Dr. Powell believes that every child is different, and just because your child is not eating as much as his or her sibling or friend did at a certain age, there is no need to jump to the conclusion of an eating disorder. “Child fussiness is largely down to innate differences between kids.” For instance, Dr. Powell mentions that, “Children who have ‘heightened sensory sensitivity’ are much more likely to be fussy eaters. These children are sensitive to different sensory aversions and textures – it can be rather overwhelming. Kids with tactile defensiveness, where they have high oral sensitivity, will be fearful of and not accepting of foods that are different — crunchy, for example.” This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your child, it doesn’t mean your child has an eating disorder. It simply means every child is innately different, and every child will develop his or her eating tendencies at a different pace. As long as your child is not malnourished or severely underweight in any capacity, this fussy phase is normal, and patience and optimism are key!

It May Just Be How The Food Looks!

r. Powell & Dr. Blissett also say that innately, children are fussier about foods because of how the food may look, such as toast being burned. “As they grow older, food fussiness may be because they are associating that food with something they find ‘disgusting’,” Dr. Blissett says. “If they see worms in the mud, they may associate them looking like spaghetti.” Therefore, it is actually  more normal than you think for a child’s fussy eating habits to develop past the age of 5 or 6. Believe it or not, this shows positive cognitive development, and cognitive function. It just so happens that if your child is a picky eater, their cognitive development is influencing their food fussiness.

Repeated Exposure

Dr. Powell, just like Dr. Lee, stresses the importance of remaining calm throughout your child’s picky eating days. “The key thing to bear in mind when encouraging your child to eat something is to not put any pressure on them,” Dr. Powell says. And that includes the pressure of a hypothesized eating disorder. “All research into food behavior points to putting pressure (including the projection of eating disorders and your own anxiety) on children to eat having a negative impact,” Dr Powell says. “For children who are fussy, ‘repeated exposure’, where you offer the food repeatedly without the pressure to eat it, is really important. Over time, that child will typically begin to accept the food.” The key is remembering that this is something that will happen over time.

Model Behavior

Moreover, Dr. Powell and Dr. Blissett discuss how impressionable children are. They talk about the importance of modeling while coping with your child’s picky eating. “Watching other people and learning through modeling other people’s behavior is so important,” Dr. Blisset says. “In all of our studies, we’ve shown if your child is fussy, the most effective way of getting them to try something new is if you’re eating the same thing and modeling it enthusiastically.”

Be Patient

Most importantly, Dr. Powell and Dr. Blissett encourage parents of picky eaters to be patient. Excessive fussy eating is more normal than many parents believe it to be, and widely affects children up to the age of 11. Even science explains a child’s fussy eating, and how it will eventually begin to cease, as Dr. Powell explains that, “With age, we lose sensory capacity and foods will be tasted less intensively. This is one factor reducing a child’s pickiness.” Therefore it is naturally common for young children to be exceedingly picky. It makes complete sense for a child to be very picky when it comes to foods because of their heightened sense of taste, so don’t stress!

Dr. Blisset and Dr. Powell also relay several cases of parents believing their child’s fussy eating days would never end. However, with patience and a calm demeanor, these parents overcame their fears and anxieties of their children’s projected conditions.

Don’t Project Your Anxiety

Natalie Morris, lead therapist at Integrated Therapy Solutions’ Feeding Clinic, is yet another therapist to stress the importance of parents remaining calm and optimistic throughout a child’s (very natural) journey with picky eating. Natalie explains how she has seen parents get worked up and anxious thinking their child has an eating disorder, and in turn the parents’ anxiety may be hindering a child’s appetite.  Natalie states: ”Feelings of fear and the need to control are significant. When the brain is in this heightened state of anxiety, adrenaline is released and this suppresses the appetite, making the child even less likely to eat.” When these feelings of fear are projected from parent to child, a child’s appetite can be suppressed even further.

Dr. Powell, Dr. Blissett, and Dr. Morris all assure parents with picky eaters that they are not alone, and that, despite their hardships with fussy eating, what they are experiencing is actually a very normal and natural phase for numerous children. They encourage parents to try as best they can to eliminate anxieties and simply “take each day as it comes.”

How Can I Find a Great Pediatric Dietitian Near Me?

A pediatric registered dietitian can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look. Let us help you in your search to help your child! After thorough research and interviews, we match clients with the perfect fit for their needs, whether it is a registered dietitian pediatric specialist, a nutritionist, a coach, or something else entirely. We have a fantastic base of specialists, including, of course, professionals who work in clinical dietitian pediatric nutrition! Check out our website to view our many professional specialists, or email or call us to chat about connecting you to someone who can help change your and your child’s life for the better.