By Dennis Rozema
Question: My husband and I were divorced about two years ago and my 17 year old daughter is still having a difficult time. She agrees that she would like to have someone to talk to, but I'm not sure how to go about finding a good therapist. What would ne some of the things I should look for, or look out for?
Answer: You're asking an excellent question. Finding the right therapist can be tricky. I've known students that have been to 3 or 4 different people before they find the right person to help them--not because the therapist isn't good. Some people just don't connect, and often clients are not ready to get help. That problem seems to be solved, because your daughter agrees that she wants to see someone.
The first thing that I would suggest is to use the recommendation of someone you trust. A friend or relative that has seen someone in the past can often suggest the person they saw. Different therapists do specialize in different areas and are not good for everyone, so be sure the person she sees is used to working with adolescent females and understands the issues of divorce.
Ask your daughter if it would make a difference to her if she saw a man or a woman. You should also be sure the person is licensed or certified by the state. Another good indication of credentials is that they belong to an accrediting agencv such as the American Psychological Association or the American Mental Health Counselors' association.
A good therapist will work with you to establish therapy goals, and not let you ramble on and on without any direction. A therapist can't tell you what your goals should be or how long therapy should last. They can, however, help you be more specific about defining your goals and give you some idea how long it typically takes to be effective in helping with your type of problem. After your daughter meets with the therapist, ask her if she feels this person will be able to help her establish goals for herself.
A good therapist also makes you feel comfortable to discuss anything with them, as well as making you feel confident that you are capable of solving the problem for yourself. Again, check with your daughter to see if this is how she feels.
Another important issue is confidentiality. Who does the therapist believe is the client? Your or your daughter? In my opinion, your daughter (at 17) is the client and everything except life threatening information should be kept confidential. Even though a family therapist may view the "family" as the client, it is still important to maintain confidentiality when working privately with individual members of the family. Know what your beliefs about confidentiality are, what the therapist's are, and clarify that issue before you enter into a contract for treatment.
If you're having difficulty finding someone, I would urge you to contact your daughter's counselor at school. They often make referrals for their students and families and will hav good resources for you in your area. You may also wish to consult Divorce-Online's directory. Perhaps we have someone in your area that you might want to consider.
Dennis Rozema is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in the State of Michigan. He also, for the past 15 years, has been the Crisis Counselor at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Michigan. Through these position he has gained a great deal of insight into the issues of divorce and its effect on adolescents. If you have any questions or comments, please address them to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 248-828-8129. Leave your name and number on the voice mail, and I will return your call.
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