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
- Does the agency/therapist provide trauma specific or informed therapy, especially focused on young children and families?
- Does the individual/agency that provides therapy conduct an age appropriate comprehensive trauma assessment?
Is the clinician/agency familiar with evidenced-based treatment models for young children?
Have clinicians had specific training in an evidenced-based model (when, where, by whom, how much)?
Does the individual/agency provide ongoing clinical supervision and consultation to its staff, including how model fidelity is monitored?
Which approach(es) does the clinician/agency use with young children and families?
How are parent support, conjoint therapy, parent training, and/or psychoeducation offered?
Which techniques are used for assisting with the following:
- 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?
How are cultural competency and special needs issues addressed?
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)?
- 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
(Adapted from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2008)