Monday, September 21, 2020

When to seek mental health help for your child: Questions to ask before therapy/hospitalization (Part 3 of 3)



Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of

life’s longing for itself.

They come through you, but not from you.

And though they are with you,  they belong not to you...

you are the bow from which your children as living

arrows are sent forth.

from Kahlil Gibran,  The Prophet

Previously I’ve shared work from one of the UNR faculty, Tom Lavin, MFT, LADC. He recently wrote a piece for parents about when to seek help if they think their child is struggling.

While all of us are facing increased stress due to COVID-19, children are especially vulnerable. In addition to the worry about their health and the health of their loved ones, there is the disruption to their schedules, having to adjust to a new type of schooling/education, isolation from peers, and more. They are also surrounded by reminders about the fragility of life.

In a three-part series I am sharing Lavin’s advice* on when to seek help. Part one covered when to seek help for children and part two focused on teens. The series concludes with this post, adapted from Lavin’s work and the AACAP website, which focuses on some helpful questions to ask when considering outside help. 

If you are considering therapy for your child on an outpatient basis (i.e. not in a hospital setting), parents are encouraged to ask the following questions:

  • If someone else is suggesting that your child start therapy, why is it being recommended?
  • What type of therapy will my child receive?
  • What are some expected results?
  • How long will therapy last?
  • Will the family also receive therapy?
  • How will the family be included?
  • How will the family be informed about our child’s progress?
  • How can the family be most helpful and supportive?

If inpatient hospitalization is being recommended, the AACAP recommend that parents ask the following questions:   

  • Why is psychiatric inpatient treatment being recommended for our child, and how will it help our child?
  • What are the other treatment alternatives to hospital treatment, and how do they compare?
  • Is a child and adolescent psychiatrist admitting our child to the hospital?
  • What does the inpatient treatment include, and how will our child be able to keep up with schoolwork?
  • What are the responsibilities of the child and adolescent psychiatrist and other people on the treatment team?
  • How long will our child be in the hospital, how much will it cost, and how do we pay for these services?
  • What will happen if we can no longer afford to keep our child in this hospital or if the insurance company denies coverage and inpatient treatment is still necessary?
  • Will our child be on a unit specifically designed for the treatment of children and adolescents and is this hospital accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) as a treatment facility for youngsters of our child's age?
  • How will we as parents be involved in our child's hospital treatment, including the decision for discharge and after-care treatment?
  • How will the decision be made to discharge our child from the hospital?
  • Once our child is discharged, what are the plans for continuing or follow-up treatment?

 The AACAP web site contains much more information and is a reliable and trusted place to learn more. Click HERE for a list of Family Resources.


*The following resources were cited by Lavin: 

"Understanding Teen Depression” by Empfield and Bakalar  

“Overcoming Teen Depression: A Guide for Parents” by Miriam Kaufman, M.D.

  American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:


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