Finding Qualified Therapists and Effective Therapy

Finding Qualified Therapists and Effective Therapy

Together, the early childhood mental health consultant, Early Head Start and Head Start staff, and the child’s family may decide that a child needs mental health intervention services. When making a referral for a specific child and family, the consultant, staff, and family should look for the following features of qualified providers and effective treatment.

Questions to Ask Early Childhood Mental Health Providers

  1. Does the agency/therapist provide trauma specific or informed therapy, especially focused on young children and families?
  2. Does the individual/agency that provides therapy conduct an age appropriate comprehensive trauma assessment?
    • What specific standardized measures appropriate for young children are given?
    • What does your assessment show about the young child and the family?
    • What are some of the major strengths and/or areas of concern for the child and family?
  3. Is the clinician/agency familiar with evidenced-based treatment models for young children?
  4. Have clinicians had specific training in an evidenced-based model (when, where, by whom, how much)?
  5. Does the individual/agency provide ongoing clinical supervision and consultation to its staff, including how model fidelity is monitored?
  6. Which approach(es) does the clinician/agency use with young children and families?
  7. How are parent support, conjoint therapy, parent training, and/or psychoeducation offered?
  8. Which techniques are used for assisting with the following:
    • Building a strong collaborative and therapeutic relationship with parents or caregivers and the young child
    • Identifying feelings and supporting emotional expression and regulation
    • Identifying strategies to help calm the child when feeling overwhelmed
    • Establishing routines and helping the child feel secure (including at home/and Head Start)
    • Cognitive processing/reframing in language appropriate to the child’s development; linking feelings, thoughts, and memories
    • Construction of a trauma narrative through age appropriate conversation and observing the child’s play and interaction
    • Developmentally appropriate strategies that allow exposure to trauma reminders/memories and feelings in tolerable doses so that they can be mastered and integrated into the child’s experience
    • Assuring safety, encouraging self- control, and allowing age-appropriate choices
    • Supporting developmental progress, building resiliency, and closure
  9. How are cultural competency and special needs issues addressed?
  10. Is the clinician or agency willing to participate in the Early Head Start/Head Start multidisciplinary team meetings for individualized service planning (e.g. Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), Individualized Education Plan (IEP)?

(Adapted from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2008)

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This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.