How to Choose a Psychologist for your Child?

If you notice your child struggling with their mental health, it is good to be proactive about seeking professional help. For a start, you may reach out to your child’s paediatrician or GP as they may be able to outline what are the areas of help your child needs. You may also approach your child’s school guidance counsellors or other parents who have children with similar problems.

Once you have shortlisted a few psychologists, it is good to speak with them directly to see if they are a good fit for your child. These are some helpful questions to ask:

  • What is your qualification and background in working with children with this issue?
  • What is your approach to helping children?
  • What happens during your sessions with my child?
  • How long does it usually take for children to work with you before improvement can be seen?
  • As a parent, should I attend sessions with my child? How do I participate in the sessions?
  • What is the cost?

These are some advice for selecting a psychologist:

  1. Ensure the psychologist has proper training and is registered with the various regulating bodies in Singapore (e.g., Singapore Psychological Society or Singapore Association for Counselling). On their websites, you may locate lists of directories for registered psychologists.
  2. Enquire about the types of treatments provided.
  3. A psychologist should be able to discuss the treatment plan with you and what to expect during sessions.
  4. It is helpful to know about different types of therapy available for children, e.g., child-centred play therapy, family therapy, behavioural therapy etc.
  5. A psychologist who is a good fit with your child should be able to speak the same language as your child and help your child to feel safe. Ask yourself: Do I feel comfortable with this psychologist? Does he/she exude warmth and empathy? Does he/she listen well?

Sometimes your child may be reluctant to see a psychologist. An experienced paediatric psychologist will possess the strategies to overcome this. Some ways that parents may help is by not forcing their child to attend the session, and being assuring and understanding towards their child’s initial difficulties, as he/she may feel embarrassed about sharing his/her problems. You may start by checking in with your child, saying, “I notice you seem to get annoyed with me more often.” If the problems persist, you may suggest, “I don’t always have the answers to your problems. It may be helpful to talk to someone who is trained to help children in these areas.”

Even when therapy has started, it is good for parents to continue to be a part of the treatment process. Have a conversation with the psychologist about how you may continue to support your child daily.