The mental health conversation is not exactly new - especially when it comes to supporting our kids.
I’ve had many distraught, hopeless & worried parents come through my office and they all share one thing in common. They definitely all want to figure out the best way to help their son or daughter.
Here’s where the roadblocks begin… things can become really frustrating when the first whisper of psychologist involvement happens. Sometimes, the response from the parent is an absolute no. This isn’t even an option. Other times, it’s a resounding yes and how quickly can we get our first appointment? Well, this is where the frustration can start…
You may have guessed it, the long wait for service begins. The incredible men and women who are working in psychology would love to be able to split themselves in two - okay maybe even three. They know the level of need is there and I know most of these professionals feel uneasy about not being able to help more families. We know that access to them is limited - despite their best efforts.
Here are some recurring themes from conversations that I have held with families who are grasping at straws to find professional services for their child:
Community access is impossible where we live.
Nobody is accepting new patients.
The waitlists are 18 months long.
This type of service is very expensive. What will it get me in the long run?
The psychologist in my town or city does not see patients for therapy or counseling sessions. They are only offering to do assessments.
The assessment will eat up all of my covered benefits. What do I do after I have the report or diagnosis? Who will help me then?
The school board can’t help us because our needs aren’t severe enough.
I’m worried that our situation will deteriorate further if we can’t get help or support quickly. Our situation is terrible at the moment.
This stress is impacting my relationship.
These conversations are happening over and over again. Families are frustrated and feeling helpless.
I’d like to make mention of a few different things to consider for parents - as they are navigating their way through this process for their child. Perhaps something here might fit?
1. Is it truly a registered psychologist that is required? Or, is it possible to get support from another trained professional? For example, a social worker, a counselor, a behavior therapist, a behavior specialist, a nutritionist, a naturopath, etc? Yes, sometimes these professionals are hard to find too, but sometimes these folks provide a good alternative. In some cases, working with a registered psychologist will be a family’s only option, such as in cases where autism is suspected or another type of developmental disability is suspected. Furthermore, if the situation is quite serious or extreme, it is possible that the child be referred on to psychiatry - especially if there are suspicions of self-harm or depression. These cases can be quite complex and can result in medications being prescribed. In these types of situations, the best approach is to be seen by psychology or psychiatry.
2. Who is making the recommendation for psychology support or intervention? Is it coming from a parent? The teacher or the school? The daycare? A worthy consideration here… I’m always curious to learn more about why & where the recommendation is coming from and who will it serve? For example, I’ve experienced situations where the classroom teacher recommended psychologist intervention prematurely in working with a child. I have experienced several instances where this recommendation was made out of turn ( and without proper consultation) because the teacher lacked the proper training and / or mindset to support a non-typical student. This is why we have to fully understand who is making the recommendation and why.
3. If you are pursuing a formal assessment, is there likely to be a diagnosis upon completion of the assessment? This will be a requirement if the needs of the child’s needs are severe enough to be considered for a specialized class or special funding. In other cases, the results of the assessment will conclude or reaffirm what was already suspected by the family. A typical example of this is when a child is diagnosed with a learning disability. Often, a child who is diagnosed with a Learning Disability will remain in the regular classroom but will require specific support & interventions.
4. Let’s talk about behavior and this is where I may be of assistance for some families. In many instances, we can make great strides with difficult kids with a few coaching sessions. For some parents, the level of effort & exhaustion that comes with parenting a complex kid can be overwhelming. Families give up or give in. They can struggle to find the right person to help. I have seen examples where moms & dads thought their only option for advice was through a psychologist or a community agency. This is not the case. I encourage you to search using different parameters… try searching for: behavior specialist, behavior analyst, behavior intervention, parent coaching, parenting support, etc… There may be another option available to you that you have not yet considered. Especially now where we’ve come so far with remote options.
5. Consider the type of help you really want. Are you looking for someone to help educate you? Are you looking for someone to support you? Are you looking for someone to come into your home to implement new strategies? Are you wanting to take your child to a specific setting / location to develop new skills? All of these outcomes will require a different type of support professional.
I know it’s daunting to try to find the proper help for your son or daughter. To me, it’s worth considering the possibility that the right help for your family might be available by working with a different type of professional.
Thank you for reading.
That’s all I have for now.