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Mental Illness Awareness Week: What I Wish I’d Known About Therapy

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The United States Congress established National Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in 1990, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) facilitates MIAW the first week of October each year. This year’s theme, “What I Wish I Had Known,” focuses on the power of lived experience and addresses a different topic each day. Rather than publishing a newsletter this week, we share thoughts about each topic daily.

Today’s topic is therapy, and we answer some questions that families often ask about therapy.

Is therapy the only thing that will help my child? No. Therapy is often the first thing recommended because it is well-known, but other things can be helpful as well. Simply being listened to can help, as can understanding your and your child’s options and rights in the different systems that work with your child. Families as Allies is always happy to listen and advocate with you for what you want for your child. We understand because we are parents too. You can call us at 601-355-0915. We are committed to bringing families and all partners together at the system level to address ongoing barriers that families and children face.

Parent-peer support can make a tremendous difference when one parent who has been through challenges with their child uses their experience to help another parent. Making a Plan (MAP) teams in local communities help families find resources when children are at risk for out-of-home placement. Care coordination through medical homes for all children and through wraparound for children with the most significant needs brings together formal and informal resources to support families and children. Mental health consultation helps people working with our children, such as medical providers, teachers and childcare providers, understand our children’s needs.

 How Do I Know if My Child Might Benefit from Therapy? According to the Centers for Disease Control, children may be experiencing mental health challenges if, compared to most children their age:

  •  They are not reaching developmental and emotional milestones.
  •  They are having trouble learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems.
  • They do not have a positive quality of life.
  • They cannot function well at home, in school, and in their communities.

These are online resources to find out more if your child’s behavior is typical:
Young Children:
Zero to Three “What to Expect” Chart (birth to 3)
CDC Birth to 5 Milestones (birth to 5)
Older Children:
Child Mind Institute Warning Signs and Symptom Checker (ages 4 and up)
National Alliance on Mental Illness Know the Warning Signs (adults and adolescents with a separate list for children)

How Do I find a Therapist for My Child? We encourage you to seek out a licensed therapist. Licensure boards can help protect people receiving services from harm and typically provide a way to register complaints. At the same time, just being licensed doesn’t mean a particular therapist is a match for your child. Other families may have suggestions about licensed therapists they have used. Your child’s medical provider, your faith leader or your child’s school may also have recommendations.

Psychology Today maintains a list of licensed therapists in Mississippi. You can check with licensing groups for different mental health professionals as well:
National Association of Social Workers – Mississippi Chapter 800-742-4089
Mississippi Board of Psychology 1-888-693-1416
Mississippi Psychological Association Facebook page
Mississippi Psychiatric Association Facebook page 601-898-9662
Mississippi State Board of Examiners for Licensed Professional Counselors 601- 359-1010
Mississippi State Board for Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists 601-987-6806

You can also check with your local Community Mental Health Center about their services and refer to this list of Certified Providers through the Department of Mental Health.

What Should I Expect from My Childs’s Therapy?
The therapist should work with your child and you (parents may be less involved as children get older) to develop an individualized practical plan to respond to the situation that brought your child to therapy. There should be agreed-upon goals and ways to tell whether or not they’ve been met. You and your child should feel respected and comfortable sharing your input and asking questions.

There are some mental health conditions for which specific treatment approaches have been shown effective. This is called “evidence-based” treatment. Just because a treatment is evidence-based doesn’t mean it will help every child, but asking therapists about the evidence-based treatments they offer and what types of training they have to provide these treatments can be helpful.

[Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash]

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