How Do I Know if My Kid Needs a Therapist?
Have you ever wondered if your child need therapy? Us too, and we’re therapists! It’s an especially hard time right now for mental health, and we will let you know some of the signs around sadness, anxiety, and anger that may indicate that calling a therapist is a good idea. We will also remind you that a lot of these hard feelings and behaviors are normal, especially during a pandemic. Trigger warning: we talk about suicide and self-harm in this podcast. Also, this is a reminder that we don’t know your specific situation, so we can’t speak to your child in particular. We hope this is helpful!
Disclaimer: Please remember we are real live therapists, however this is a podcast and is not considered a therapy session. Not only because there is no co-pay but also because we can’t speak to your individual experiences. We are here to help you keep raising healthy kids. And remember, if you are an imperfect parent, we are right there with you. If you or someone you love is in immediate danger, please call your local crisis hotline or go to your nearest emergency room.
Transcript for How Do I Know if My Kid Needs a Therapist?
Sarah 0:00 Welcome to podcast therapists. I am Sarah,
Amanda 0:03 I’m Amanda,
Caroline 0:03 And I’m Caroline.
Sarah 0:05 We are all family therapists at different life stages, and we also happen to be good friends. We’re so happy to have you join us for a little couch time today. Please like and read us wherever you get your podcast. And feel free to follow us on Instagram and Facebook: @podcasttherapists, don’t forget the “S”! We love hearing from you and want to invite you to share any questions or issues you’d like to hear us discuss. We might even do an episode on it because we bet you’re not alone with it. Please email us directly at email@example.com. Thanks for coming to our session.
Amanda 0:40 Hey everyone, we are talking today about how do you know if your kid needs a therapist. We are getting lots of calls right now, and there really is a mental health crisis in America because things are really hard. There’s a health crisis, there’s a political crisis, there’s a cultural crisis. So everyone is really struggling. One of the things we want you to know is that it means you are a kind and empathic person if you are struggling right now. That being said, some folks are having a harder time than we would like and we know that we can help. So we’re going to talk about looking for your kids behavior as any sudden and significant changes from the norm, looking at the duration, intensity and frequency of the behaviors, and then we’re going to talk about specific behaviors related to sadness, anxiety, and anger. We hope this is helpful. Let us know if you have any questions you can let us know at @podcasttherapists on Instagram or Facebook.
Sarah 1:50 Okay, we’re gonna jump right in. We’re going to talk about something that we’re getting a lot of inquiries about, and it’s a great question. And I actually really have this question. So, how do I know if my kid might need a therapist or need to go to therapy?
Amanda 2:07 That is a great question and actually one I asked myself all the time, all the time. Fortunately, I always say the best part of my job is that all of my coworkers are child psychologists. So any question I have, I can just like, pop into their office and be like, so my kid did this; what are your thoughts? So I think it’s a question we all have, all the time.
Sarah 2:28 It is, yeah.
Caroline 2:29 Well my friends ask me, and sometimes I’m like, I don’t know, I don’t know what’s normal at age six.
Sarah 2:35 But, what are some of the things that maybe we need to look at as markers because another thing is, I feel like markers have changed dramatically for kids. So where a teacher might flag something, or we might be seeing something in the after school hours, or we may see a little less motivation at soccer practice, or you know, whatever it is. We just don’t even have those same kinds of structures to look at the markers.
Amanda 3:00 Absolutely, and you don’t have the same opportunity to collaborate with other professionals because they’re only in your home. Right? So if my kid was having a hard time before, it would be really easy for me to call the teacher that’s spending seven hours a day with my kid. When now they’re only spending three hours a day with my kid. But I actually think the teachers know way more than we think they do. I think the teachers are great resources and (italicize “and” in google doc) can pick things up on zoom. However, things are a little different and the markers have changed.
Caroline 3:29 Yeah, well, nothing that we were trained in and none of the research is there to show us like, what is a normal pandemic behavior?
Sarah 3:38 You didn’t take that class?
Caroline 3:40 I didn’t take it. 11 months in, I only went the first six months.
Sarah 3:43 Hahahaha Okay.
Amanda 3:46 So I think we have broken it up as far as markers and behaviors for us, in three categories, just to describe it. So there’s increases in sadness, there’s increases in anxiety, and there’s increases in anger and externalizing behaviors. So we’re going to talk about what are some behaviors under the category of sadness that can be a marker for: hey, you should maybe talk to a therapist.
Sarah 4:14 Yeah, let’s start with sadness.
Caroline 4:16 Yeah, okay. So I think one thing that comes up with sadness is not getting out of bed and really isolating yourself within your own home, right? So like not coming out of your room, or refusing to be in a common area all the time, playing video games in your room all the time, or just lying in your bed watching Netflix all day.
Sarah 4:40 Increased tearfulness, like sustained sad feelings. I think with kids that are verbal, even if they’re not saying I’m sad sometimes. If you share, what you can tell is anything you talk about has a sad take on it. And maybe it’s more with the older kids, but I feel like you know, you might talk about: “Oh, You know, the vaccines are out?” And the answer you might get is: “yes, but nobody’s signing up for them.”
Caroline 5:05 It’s that hopelessness.
Sarah 5:07 Yes, you kind of feel like there’s a sad theme to whatever you’re discussing.
Caroline 5:12 And I also think that right now some of us are just getting into ruts, or into, not the healthiest habits. So we think you can try to set a bar for your child if you’re worried about them, and see if they can meet it. So have a conversation with your kid, if they’re looking really sad and down and not coming out of their room, talk to them about that. And then say something like, “hey, let’s set a goal that you’re going to spend an hour in the living room in the afternoon after school.” And I mean, it can be on your phone, or we can hang out, but challenge them, or give them a goal of “you’re gonna do this thing outside your room, or you’re gonna get dressed every day, even if it’s in different sweatpants.” And if your child can’t meet that expectation, and they’re like, “I just can’t do it.” That might be a sign. Hey, this emotion is really overwhelming me right now.
Amanda 6:11 Yes, especially around hygiene. One of the things that can happen is kids just feel so sad that they’re not going to put the energy into brushing their hair or changing their clothes. Things like “there’s no point, why would I do that? I’m not going to see anybody anyway” And that can kind of be one of the biggest indicators for us, as therapists is kind of how much is that kid struggling? And I think the same thing goes for their level of chaos in their room. If it is totally overwhelmingly disgusting and you have tried many times to help them clean it and figure out how to clean it. I think that that can be an indication. Sarah, what do you think because you have a teenager,
Sarah 6:52 I do, I just had this image in my head of having to rake the floor. I think oftentimes with kids, if they are struggling with things that can be helpful as a parent is to actually just go help a little. Like, I don’t want to have to go in and clean my teenager’s room or the bathroom. And let me repeat the bathroom. I’ve actually taken pictures of the bathroom and sent them out because I feel like it’s a crime scene sometimes. But I think sometimes depending on her mood or where I feel like she might be, if I just have to come in and jump start by helping just the little things: pick some stuff off the floor. Just get it going, that can be helped because initiative is a really hard thing for kids that are feeling really sad or overwhelmed. And the room, like kids eat in their rooms now because there are a lot of them are doing school in their room. And so you have to go find the stuff that got stuffed under the bed, and things like that. So it is just about trying to, sometimes just have to give a little jump start.
Amanda 7:48 And if you’ve addressed it and set expectations, and you can’t have the conversation at all, because it will turn into World War Three every time you try to have that conversation or set basic expectations, that can also be a sign.
Sarah 8:00 Absolutely.
Amanda 8:01 Because essentially what we’re saying, is that kids need to have a bar to meet. And if you give them a little support, and they’re able to meet that bar, great. We know that there’s likely not an issue. If you have to give them so much support to meet a pretty low bar, then you might need to get some help.
Sarah 8:21 And we’re not saying go clean your kid’s room, like don’t. That’s not at all the message.
Caroline 8:25 Hahaha hard no from Amanda.
Sarah 8:27 Yeah, seriously. Just kind of observe that piece. Because in some families, I know it’s a rule to make the bed every day. Not every family’s like that and that’s fine. But just the normal standards that you used to have, if that’s not happening. And like I said it’s tough for some kids, their school is now their bedroom, right? And it’s helpful to kind of, even if they can keep it a little organized that can help them just be a little more focused on school too.
Caroline 8:58 Yeah, I think kids are spending tons of time in their bedrooms with the nature of zoom school. I also think remembering as a parent that your definition of cleanliness, and your teenager’s/child’s definition might look different. So if they’re proud that they have cleaned their room, and in your head, you’re like”hmmm this isn’t what I pictured”. They put the effort and the time in and showed you like, I’m trying to meet that bar. So reward the effort, right? And if you’re like: “Okay, I kind of need to do a second layer sweep through here.” Then that’s okay. But I think also just remembering “I need to have a realistic expectation of what my kid’s room is gonna look like when they’re in it, all day every day.
Sarah 9:44 Yeah, and I think it’s not so much that you want to be able to have surgery in that kid’s room, but I would go for the worst that the health department isn’t gonna come in and condemn it. That should be maybe the line of success. But when a kid can’t, or the kid is really fighting you on it. That’s the sign that maybe getting some help would be helpful.
Amanda 10:03 I also have some kids who’ve gotten their time totally mixed up. And this happened a lot over the summer. But essentially, they would sleep from I don’t know, four in the morning to noon, and then be up from noon until four in the morning. And their whole clock was completely shifted even when they needed it not to be. So sometimes you might need help from a professional getting that clock shifted back to the world that they need to be in.
Sarah 10:32 That’s a huge teen issue.
Amanda 10:35 And if they can’t reset to get to school on time, and then if they’re missing the important things that they need to meet their developmental milestones: that’s time to bring in a therapist.
Sarah 10:45 Yeah, and we can do a podcast on sleep, we probably need to at some point, like how to regulate that. But that is something to watch for. And it’s really common and understandable in some ways, because the kids aren’t leaving their homes very often. So for them, their downtime can sometimes be late at night. But again, that can be very detrimental to their sleep pattern, and can affect mood and coping 100%.
Caroline 11:05 And I think I see it a lot when teenagers are in the mindset of like, “Well, my schedule doesn’t matter”. Right? Like I have nothing to look forward to, like, yes, I’m missing some of these things that I need to be doing. But it doesn’t matter. And that sad, nothing matters feeling is significant.
Amanda 11:24 And I think one of the things that we’re dancing around too, is around the suicidality piece. There’s been a huge increase in emergency room visits for kids and teenagers around mental health concerns. And that usually means suicidality. And for kids 11 to, I think this is right, five to 11, it’s increased 24% from this time last year, so that means that per 100, folks, 24 more are going in for visits to kind of check on their suicidality, most likely. And then for 11 to 18 year olds it increased 31%. So kids are feeling it, and they’re feeling hopeless and helpless, are thinking about hurting themselves. And we take that very seriously.
Caroline 12:11 And that’s the time to get help. Right away.
Sarah 12:13 Yeah, that’s a no, that’s a kind of non negotiable. And little kids talk about, they don’t always talk about killing themselves. Sometimes they’ll talk about disappearing, or wanting to run away. And I mean, sometimes that’s imagination play, and that’s fine. But when it seems to match the mood that maybe is going on, that can be actual conversation about just not wanting to be here anymore, and can be suicidal. And then older kids tend to speak more clearly about it. And again, if you’re the parent of any kid, and especially kid that’s slightly older, may understand the concept of suicide, don’t be afraid to ask. You’re not going to plant something. If a kid is thinking about it, they’re thinking about it already.
Caroline 12:55 You’re opening the door so that it is an okay thing to talk about. And so even if they don’t feel that way in that moment, if it ever came up down the road, you’ve acknowledged that that’s a conversation that can happen.
Sarah 13:07 So here’s what I will share with you. I’ve had this conversation with my kid, I probably started late elementary school. I have gone back to visit this and will probably set it in different terms as she gets older, but I’ve said, there will be a time in your life where you feel completely overwhelmed and really awful. And you may even think the only thing, the only choice you have is to hurt yourself or to kill yourself. And I just want you to know, and please remember this no matter what, there are always other choices. And it’s important to talk to somebody when you feel that way. And so I just always kind of made that just a baseline conversation, introduced it and not in a time where she felt bad, but just a normal conversation. And, not because I am so powerful that I could stop that from possibly happening in my child’s life, but I certainly just wanted her to have that extra information. So don’t be afraid to entertain a discussion around that.
Amanda 14:04 And I will say this, it’s a heavy topic. And sometimes going to a therapist, sometimes you’ll have to go a lot to work through this, and sometimes it can be like two sessions and you’re like “well wow, we got something really important on the table, we solved this one problem together.” And things can really lighten. So that’s a time if suicidality is on the table, come in, and we can help you with that. Usually at least have the conversation.
Sarah 14:32 And with therapy, it’s not a forever thing. You know, there are kids that we may see periodically throughout their lives, hopefully because we’ve had good relationships with them, and things come up and they just want to discuss it with another adult outside their family. But, therapy isn’t meant to be something that you come, and we’re going to eat dinner at your house and just start living with you. Hopefully we will find out how we can help your family or help your child and then we’ll work on those things. And then we’ll back out slowly and you’ll be on your way and then we’re here if you need us. That’s kind of how it works. So what would be another kind of thing to watch for? We’ve got sadness, suicidality. What else?
Amanda 15:12 So anxiety, I would say any sudden shift and increase in anxiety. And this is a hard one right now, because we actually have something to be very worried and anxious about which is contracting COVID. You know, for folks who have OCD, part one of the hallmarks of OCD is kind of being so afraid of germs and washing your hands all the time. And we would consider that a disorder, right, that’s so far out of the norm and so not related to the data that it is a disorder during regular times. During COVID, folks who are washing their hands all the time and are terrified of germs are healthy folks who are paying attention to science. So, anxiety can be a tricky one at this time, because we need to have a healthy dose of anxiety to keep ourselves safe.
Sarah 15:58 And I think the whole world is vibrating a little. I mean there’s a pandemic, so everybody has a similar, anxious kind of feeling. And so it’s pretty widespread. So when we talk about anxiety, we’re talking about anxiety that interrupts the ability to just make it through the day in a healthy way.
Caroline 16:18 I think sometimes with anxiety, there’s that feeling of not being able to turn it off, right? So there’s like the healthy dose of anxiety we’re all feeling, but if I am so focused and preoccupied and obsessed with thinking about the virus, that I can’t do zoom school. Or that I’m constantly checking the numbers multiple times a day, right? Like, the intensity of my anxiety is getting in the way and interfering with my day to day activities. And so then it’s really significant. I think, then you’ve crossed the line from what’s normal anxiety right now and to what’s really struggling.
Sarah 16:57 Anxiety can also look kind of different. So it can be like a strong irritability in someone, and they can just be really irritable. But they can also almost be paralyzed by it. So there’s these different places that anxiety can kind of force someone to go. And kids, like you said, their refusal to do school can be that paralyzing feeling. The irritability can be when it can be difficult to focus on school, or every time you say their name out loud as a parent, they you know, have a strong reaction back just because they’re anxious. Although that can also just be a hallmark of being a teenager by the way, people. But I think, you know, anxiety is something to also talk about and name. And kind of normalize like, it’s okay to be anxious. But if it’s interrupting coping, if it’s interrupting focus, if it’s interrupting relations, of any sort, then it’s something to maybe get some help with.
Amanda 17:47 And so specifically, if your kid is so worried that they can’t sleep that their sleep schedule is getting off. Or they’re so worried, they’re not able to do zoom school at all and to meet their academic demands which usually they could do. If they’re not eating because they’re so anxious. And actually, now that we’re here maybe we should go right into that, is how your kids are eating. There’s also a huge increase in the number of eating disorders that have cropped up through the pandemic. And a lot of us clinicians think that it’s because so much is out of people’s control that the one thing you can control is what you put in your body. And so a lot of teenage girls and teenage boys are really controlling that stuff tightly and they’re developing eating disorders. And it’s gotten scary, actually.
Caroline 18:36 Yeah and I think the other piece of that is our identities have gotten so shrunken. There aren’t as many distractions, there aren’t as many things to keep us healthy and keep our minds from turning inward and being really critical of ourselves. It’s like this recipe for spending so much time in my own head and a lot of times that turns critical. I think that’s a big part of the eating disorder, sort of pandemic that we’re seeing.
Sarah 19:07 And I think we’ve talked to pediatricians that we work with as well, and I think we’re seeing both sides of the industry. So we’re seeing a lot of limiting or interruption of healthy relationships with food. Some of the kids are overeating and the kids are not eating enough. And again, I think yeah all the things we’re talking about, that strive for perfection, that need to control. Foods a funny thing because we have to have food in our world and our lives and it’s an easier thing to play with unfortunately, when it comes to control. And then other unhealthy habits develop from there. So if you even suspect something around the food piece, I think it’s worth making a phone call. I think oftentimes where we come in, in trying to work with kids that have eating disorders, they’ve been going on for quite a while by the time we get them in our office. And in part because I think it’s a hard thing to catch or see, oftentimes. Or the parent has had this inner dialogue about it for months, I just had a conversation with a parent today. And most parents, by the time they get to our offices are saying, you know, I knew something was going on. So trust that and anytime you want to call and just check in with a therapist, have that discussion when you first notice. It doesn’t mean the therapist is going to be like, “come in here right now”. It might be that the therapist says, “hey, watch for these five things, call me in a month and let’s check in.”
Caroline 20:27 And I think going back to whether it’s sadness, anxiety, anger, disordered eating, it’s a disruption from your child’s norm, right? And so I talk about frequency, intensity, and duration of a symptom. So frequency is like, how often is it happening? Is my kid having a meltdown or spiraling into their anxiety? If it happens one time, okay, that might just be something that happened. If it’s happening two or three times a day every day, that would be concerning. Intensity would be like, on a scale of 1 to 10, how anxious are you? If your kid is at a 10 all the time, we’re saying to the point they’re paralyzed or can’t focus, that’s problematic. And then duration, so if I feel anxious, how long do I feel anxious for? Do I just have that moment, where I’m like, oh, my gosh, it’s right, before I give a presentation at school, my anxiety goes out of control. Then I start talking, and it’s fine, right? The duration is really short, the intensity goes up and it goes down. But if your kid is, you know, chronically feeling really anxious, then that’s the time to get it checked out too. So those are sort of three markers you can think about as a parent.
Sarah 21:41 Those are great and really important. I think that if people could really anchor into those three things, that’s super helpful. And I think too with younger kids oftentimes, you can see them in tantrums. So it’s like the duration of the tantrum is the frequency of the tantrum. It might even be the decibel of the tantrum. I think also, let’s talk a little bit about somatic complaints. So somatization is when the evidence is in the body. So if a kid has stomach aches, headaches, nausea, those can come with anxiety quite often. I find this, I don’t know if you guys find this, but I work with a lot of athletes. A lot of athletes are very in touch with their bodies, and so it actually even comes through like muscle aches sometimes, or certain body parts are hurting more than others and things like that. So I think those are things to also tune into. And I think we’ve talked about this before, but this somatization is real. It doesn’t mean the stomachache doesn’t actually hurt or the nausea isn’t there. It’s really there. The headache is really there. It’s just the feeling or the emotion is finding its way out of the body, rather than it maybe being discussed verbally.
Amanda 22:53 And so I think let’s go on to anger, because you’re talking about the emotion coming out, and that’s another way. So anger is actually related to both sadness on some level and anxiety, and your ability to manage anger is really important. And everyone gets angry, so there’s nothing wrong with being angry or sad or anxious. But it’s just how you manage it that’s really important. So if you have a kid who’s being violent or aggressive, that is at an intensity or duration or frequency that’s way out of the norm of a developmental range, then I would say go see a therapist.
Caroline 23:33 And if you don’t know what is developmentally appropriate for my kid to be doing when they’re angry, google is actually very helpful with that. Right? Like, is it normal for my eight year old to be biting? (No it’s not by the way.) Yeah, but for your three year or old four year old, that would be normal.
Sarah 23:53 Yeah, it’s a preschool issue. Kids get into trouble in preschool for biting.
Amanda 23:58 Yeah, absolutely. And so you can see what was within the normal range. So I think hitting an adult is different than hitting a kid, at a certain age. Hitting a sibling is different than hitting a friend, within certain ages. So googling that stuff can actually be helpful to see what is normal.
Sarah 24:18 Being too rough with animals actually can be kind of an expression of a kid being frustrated or angry, and not knowing where to redirect it.
Caroline 24:28 I also think one other thing is that anger sometimes gets, I mean, it’s still externalized and it’s still acting out, but you turn it on yourself. So if you have a kid that’s getting really angry or overwhelmed to the point that they’re head banging, or self harming in any way.
Sarah 24:48 It’s something to pay attention to. Cutting is what we see a lot with middle school, high school kids. I think everybody has a slightly shorter fuse across the board. And I think that’s really okay and normal right now. But if you hear your kid yelling, you know, bad words from their bedroom or whatever, repeatedly, then something’s going on. Like, if it’s more than just the normal, passive kind of something being said. But if everything feels like it’s creating this eruption, then the kid is feeling a little more anger underneath.
Amanda 25:28 And I think self harm can look two different ways. So one is kind of the frustration, and being overwhelmed with emotion. And it’s kind of hitting your head, hitting yourself, maybe scratching quickly, it’s kind of a difficulty knowing what to do with your body that you get so overwhelmed. A lack of regulation, and it seems to be frantic. And then the other way is the I’m so upset, I’m so sad. It might be anxiety as well, but the cutting or burning. And in both of those instances, I would say come in to a therapist, either way, we can sometimes work through that stuff very quickly, sometimes we can’t. However, we have a way of talking to kids about it that can be pretty straightforward. And I really have had kids come in for maybe two sessions to come up with another strategy and then it’s over.
Sarah 26:28 I know when I talk to teens about it, one of the things I’ll say right away is, are your parents freaking out about your self harm? You know, whatever it is. And they’re like, oh my god, yeah. And I’m like, well yeah, of course they are, here’s why they’re freaking out. Because I’m the therapist and it’s not my kid, I don’t have the same emotional stuff behind it. So I can just have a conversation about it. And they’re not reading anything from me more than I’m just having a conversation with them.
Amanda 26:53 I’m thinking about that, but it’s not your baby’s body.
Sarah 26:56 Yeah, no, it’s awful for the parent. It’s really scary.
Amanda 27:01 And that is why having a therapist in that moment can be so helpful. Because even just thinking about that, the baby that you’ve raised, we can do that without that layer.
Sarah 27:10 Yeah, we basically just join your village. I mean, we’re part of that, and just helping.
Caroline 27:16 I also think if something really scary is going on with your child, we’re talking about joining with you. So it’s an amazing support to have as the parent too, right? To say like, I’m terrified, is my child going to be okay? And to have a Sarah or an Amanda, be able to say, you know, this is what this means and this is how we work on it. Like, I totally hear and understand your concerns. Because I think, if not, you’re going down the internet rabbit hole, or you’re just spinning out as a parent in your own head. And then that’s tough on everyone.
Sarah 27:54 Yeah, I mean, I have reached out to both of you at different times and not with horrendously emergent situations, but just like, hey what do you think about this? I mean, you guys are my friends and luckily, you guys are really well trained friends. But I mean, it’s so helpful. And sometimes you just reach out to a friend. I think I told you guys, for my daughter. So like her best friends when she was younger, were the youngest in their family. I had this great advantage of having my friends have older kids, and so they could tell me all sorts of things, like the craft sticks which I mentioned before, but other important things too. Like behavioral markers or things like that. Things I know as a clinician, and as a mom I still feel a little lost sometimes. And I don’t know about you guys, Caroline you’re gonna have this experience and you know Amanda and I are here for you when you’re ready. But, I know when my daughter was sick when she was little, I was happy to pay the copay in the pediatric office for the pediatrician to tell me it was going to be okay. And we’re basically doing the same thing for you guys, just on the emotional and mental health front.
Amanda 28:59 Absolutely. So what do you all think about if someone says, mom or dad or grandmother, I really want a therapist.
Caroline 29:11 I think if you are able to honor that, it’s really important that you do. I understand there are a lot of barriers to therapy, whether financial or time or transportation or otherwise. And wait lists are also a thing, but I think it’s really important to at least show that child that you’re listening. So like, hey I am going to look into therapists or I understand you want a therapist and I think the first step is talking to your guidance counselor/talking to your pediatrician. And ultimately, if that kid is really advocating for it and there is a need, and those other people (for example, the pediatrician or the guidance counselor) are also echoing that there is a need. Then I think that’s a really important time to access therapy if it’s possible. I also realized that it’s a really hard thing to access in certain communities, particularly right now.
Sarah 30:13 Absolutely. Sometimes when I’ve talked to parents they are like, my kid just wants to go to therapy because her best friend is in therapy. You know, okay, that might be true. And as a therapist, if a kid comes to see me and doesn’t have any issues, then I am happy to say, you know, this has to be our only visit and you can call me some other time if stuff is going on. But as a therapist, we’ll figure that out pretty quickly with you and for you. But usually, that’s not the case. Usually, if a kid is curious about having a therapist or wants to see a therapist, there’s something. And like you said, just honoring that effort is huge, because it shows you’re listening. Sometimes when they want to see a therapist, it’s not that something horrible is happening. Sometimes they’re being really protective of their parents and they don’t want to upset them. So they literally use us as a sounding board first, and then they turn around and tell you or we help them tell you whatever is going on that they’re concerned about. But again, sometimes they’re just doing a test run with another adult, that’s not their parent.
Amanda 31:12 I frequently do intake calls for Virginia Family Therapy, and one of the things that is hard is that there are people who have called 40 different people looking for a therapist right now. It can be really devastating and heartbreaking. So one of the things we try to do is at least put people in at lower price points, because some people are saying the only way I can get a therapist is if I pay $150. That’s impossible and there’s parental guilt. Very few people can afford a therapist at $150 a session, and the people who can are very fortunate. So one of the things I’ve been working with folks on is just saying: hey I hear you, this is really important. You said you want a therapist, I’m looking for one for you. I’m actively engaged because those feelings are important, and while I’m looking for one, let’s see if we can get you set up talking to your pastor, or is there another woman or another mom, we could get you kind of 30 minutes with once a week to really focus on this stuff, because I think people are coming to therapists because it’s a safe relationship. And there are ways to look for that in our community if we can be creative.
Caroline 32:30 Totally. And something you were talking about recently Amanda, was that school guidance counselors want to help.
Amanda 32:36 Yes.
Caroline 32:36 Right? So that can also be a huge resource for your child, and it might feel separated enough from your teacher and your parent to be that outlet that your child needs.
Amanda 32:50 Absolutely. So y’all, I think these are the reasons in general, we just went over them. Anger, increased anger, increased anxiety, increased sadness, any sharp change in their behavior from before, a major life transition, which is the pandemic and it doesn’t seem like they’re having the usual coping resources. And also, everyone is having a hard time right now. That actually means you’re in touch with the world, we’re just trying to give you some ideas for if your kid is really having a hard time.
Sarah 33:25 No I think just overall, you know, as a parent if you’ve never been in therapy yourself, if you don’t know any therapists, like, don’t be afraid to reach out and just talk to somebody. Or if you call, like when you call our practice you actually talk to a therapist. Which is not always the case of course, but lucky. But also, the other thing that I’ll say just to add to that, and I think we all say this to the kids and families we see: so if I’m going to pick a surgeon, I want that surgeon to be the best surgeon in the world. I don’t care about the bedside manner so much truthfully, but therapy is different. So you could have the best, most skilled therapist in the world, which we are all obviously and we work with them. But if the relationship is not working, if there’s not a connection, then those skills can’t be accessed. So I always say to teens and even some of the younger kids, you know, we’re going to meet three times and if this isn’t working, I’m going to find your therapist that matches for you really well. But let’s give it a shot. So again, when you’re talking to a therapist, trust or even ask that question of the therapist that you call and just say, you know, can we review this in a couple sessions. Just to make sure, because a lot of people just want to make sure they get the right match. And at our practice, that’s what we make sure too. But as a therapist, I want that connection. So I’d be the first one to say: this isn’t really working or if I’m not the right therapist for your kid or if I don’t have the right skill set. I will make sure I tell you that. So don’t be afraid that you’re gonna release some of your expertise. You’re the parent, you’re in charge, you know your kid better than anyone. And as therapists, we need that.
Amanda 35:10 Okay y’all, we’ll come back soon with something around how to find a therapist and things to do if you’re waiting for a therapist.
Sarah 35:18 Excellent.
Amanda 35:18 Thanks so much y’all.
Sarah 35:20 Thanks for hanging out with us.
Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. Please remember, we are real life therapists. However, this is a podcast and is not considered a therapy session. Not only because there’s no copay, but also because we can’t speak to your individual experiences.
Amanda 35:36 We’re here to help you keep raising healthy kids. And remember, if you’re an imperfect parent, we’re right there with you.
Caroline 35:42 If you or someone you love is in immediate danger, please call your local crisis hotline or go to your nearest emergency room.