Monday, April 29, 2013

Putting Together Your Support Team: Picking A Good Counselor

 by John

Those of us who work with troubled kids, either within the foster care system, or privately, know just how important it is to have a good support team.  Finding a therapist or counselor is vital and, just like finding the right doctor, shopping around to find the right fit is vital.
When looking for a counselor to help you work through issues with your RAD, ADHD, or other behaviorally challenged child, there are a lot of important factors to consider. First, find a certified and qualified therapist or counselor who is (hopefully) experienced or specially trained in the treatment of the issues your child is facing.  Get referrals if possible from other parents from your local support groups.
Once you get that far, it really comes down to a personal response to the counselor and whether or not you can work together. Here are some things to consider from my own experiences working with kids and counselors in the foster care system.

How to Pick a Good Counselor
1.     Find someone you like, not just someone the child likes.
2.     Find someone you can trust.   A good counselor will want to know how you were brought up and some of your personal history; so, they can understand where you are coming from.  In order to do that, you’ll need to trust the counselor and be able to open up on a personal level with them.
3.     Find a counselor who is ready to hear you and the problems you’re having in the home.   A successful working relationship will mean that the child’s counselor will discuss the child’s progress and incidents with you, troubleshoot behaviors and work through the behavioral triggers (actions and reactions) with you for the betterment of the child.
4.     Find counselor who is knowledgeable in the field and who knows the latest techniques and skills that work with children with issues like your child’s. For instance, if your child has an attachment disorder, you’ll want a counselor trained in attachment disorders or RAD, who knows all the latest treatment options and approaches, and has numerous resources and approaches to call upon during sessions.                
5.     Look for an innovator.  Find a counselor who will try to find ways around your child’s problems like RAD or ADHD and challenge your child instead of coddle them or make excuses for their behavior.
 What is a Bad Counselor?
1.      A counselor whom your child likes and you don’t.  Your child will sense that you don’t like the counselor and will use this against you in some way. (Play adults off each other.)  I have had it happen to me many times. 
2.      If the child sees the counselor as someone who has power over their parents, that is not a good thing. Some counselors see themselves like that to. If you get that type of feeling, run as fast as you can, because it is hard to stop a counselor who will try to use their power over you and make all the issues with the child, your problems, not theirs or your child’s.  There should not be a power struggle between the parent and the counselor. It should be viewed by both parties as a partnership that works together toward the agreed upon goals for the child.
3.     If you feel that you cannot trust the counselor in some basic way, be it keeping appointments, being straight with you about goals and discussions with the child etc, the relationship will not work.  Kids can feel that you don’t trust them, so they will not trust them either.
4.     A counselor that has the child come into his or her office and has you wait outside until the session is over is not someone you want to work.  A good counselor will involve the parent in sessions, as the parent is the one who works on issues 24/7 and must show the child that they have 100% trust and collaboration with the parent by involving them in the counseling sessions as well.
5.     If you come to a counselor for advice on an issue, and they simply ask you what you are doing already, and have no other advice to offer… find a new counselor.  They might be good for venting, but if they cannot offer you any information on new techniques or treatments, you are wasting your time and money.

6.     If a counselor gets stuck on a diagnosis and has a “give up” attitude, move on.  They might be able to tell you what is wrong with your child and why you can’t help them because of their diagnosis, but they don’t push to help the child.   Instead, they try to get you to give up on the child and to accept that they can’t get any better.  I found that a diagnosis could change because children can grow and change. If you give them a chance, and try to change them with small steps, there is always hope.

 Most of the time, children surprise me by how successful they are.  God always surprises me on how he works through us, to help kids.  Most of the time, I am looking back at how we were able to help the child be successful and smile, because I know it was not us, but Gods helping hand that guided us. There is a rainbow in every storm, you just have to look for it and you will find what you need to help the child… and that is your pot of gold. Thank you God. 

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