You know what you want for your child -- the best therapist possible, right? When looking for an OT, PT or speech therapist, you're of course going to want to find someone who knows how to make a difference. But there are other criteria to consider when picking the person you'll visit on such a recurring basis. Your time, your pocketbook, your physical comfort, your child's personality and your need to be an effective advocate are all important, too. Incorporate those things into your therapist search by weighing these five factors carefully:
LocationEnsuring your child has the best therapist with lots of good references may seem worth driving a long distance for, but if you're going to be making that lengthy trip multiple times each week, ask yourself whether the benefits of therapy might be negated by the endless car time. Balance your need for a "top therapist" with your need to have a normal family life and down time. If therapists are few and far between in your area, you may not have much of a choice -- but if you do, don't discount the trials of travel when making your selection.
Insurance SavvyIt can be difficult to get insurance coverage for some types of therapy ... but not impossible, if the therapist's billing department knows the ins and outs of diagnostic codes. Some larger therapy practices, particularly those associated with hospitals, may have ways to get their services paid for that smaller outfits or more exclusive offices don't know or care about. It's worth asking, when you're therapist-shopping, whether there's any way to get coverage. You may be surprised at what you can get if you know what to ask for.
ExperienceGetting a therapist with extensive experience in your child's particular area of need can be a big help; but if it means the therapist is extra-expensive, booked so solid you can never make up missed sessions, or completely uninterested in hearing your opinion, it can have its drawbacks, too. Depending on the extremity of your child's problems, it might be worth considering a younger, less experienced therapist who's more excited about working with your child, more open to trying different techniques, and more willing to collaborate with you. You may get a bargain to boot.
FacilityDoes the therapist have a large well-equipped office or a small cramped space? Is there a comfortable place for your child to wait before appointments or will he or she use up all patience in a boring uncomfortable holding area? A talented therapist can work magic in even the least promising environment, but all things being equal, a nice space and sufficient equipment are of value as well. Include in your examination the place where you will be expected to wait during the appointment. Niceties like a two-way mirror for child-observation are great; at minimum, you'll want a comfy chair.
PersonalityMuch of the effectiveness of therapy will depend on the rapport between therapist and child. You will have observed what sorts of adults your child is most comfortable with. Maybe he prefers older, more motherly teachers; maybe she responds best to young, big-sister types. The need for qualities like warmth, humor, strictness, flexibility and resourcefulness will vary from child to child. Try to keep your child's personal preferences in mind when seeking someone who will be working with him or her, one on one. If something about the therapist makes you or your child uncomfortable, keep looking.