Finding Your Perfect Match: Learn How to Choose a Behavioral Health Partner

As a parent, identifying a behavioral health partner who fits your family’s needs can be challenging. But, with help from trusted resources, you can find qualified professionals with the experience, skills and knowledge needed to set your child and family up for long-term success.

Ask for Provider Recommendations

Before your child begins any type of therapy, it’s a good idea to talk with their pediatrician about the different treatment options available. They can also provide you with referrals to providers who specialize in treating individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other conditions.

Another helpful source of information is your health insurance company. If you haven’t done so already, ask them to send you a list of behavioral health providers and the services they cover. You may even be able to find a list of providers by searching the directory on your insurer’s website.

If you have family or friends who have been through this process, consider talking to them about their experiences with behavioral health providers. Just keep in mind that no two children are the same, so their journey with one provider could be different from yours.

Since public schools are required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to provide accommodations to children with disabilities, you may want to reach out to your local school district for a list of recommended therapists, as well. If your child is younger than three years old, they may qualify for early intervention (EI) services. Contact information for EI programs in all 50 states is available on the CDC website.

Last, non-profit organizations such as Easterseals, and Autism Society are other great resources that can help you locate the services and support you need.

Make Sure Providers Have the Right Qualifications

Children with ASD and other developmental disabilities often receive treatment from a multi-disciplinary team of behavioral health professionals. This includes Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), who will create your child’s treatment plan and monitor their progress. BCBAs are also responsible for supervising the day-to-day work of Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs) and paraprofessionals.

Unlike BCBAs, who have a master’s degree and applied behavior analysis (ABA) training, or BCaBAs, who have a bachelor’s degree, paraprofessionals only need a high school diploma and 40 hours of training. However, most paraprofessionals earn certifications as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), Applied Behavioral Analysis Technician (ABAT) or a Board Certified Autism Technician (BCAT).

In addition to having the right qualifications, make sure the provider that you choose actively participates in ongoing training, has real-world experience that relates to your child and treats you as an equal partner in making decisions about your child’s care. It’s also important to confirm that they have a license to practice, which is required in most states.

Ask Key Questions

Another way to determine if a provider is a good match for your child and family is by asking them the following questions:

  1. What is your approach to treatment?
  2. Can you provide me with evidence-based research or information about this approach?
  3. How will you tailor this approach to my child?
  4. How many hours a week of treatment do you recommend?
  5. How will you track and measure my child’s progress?

During your conversation with the provider, talk to them about the skills that are a top priority for your family and how they would adjust the treatment plan if needed. Plus, find out how you can participate in your child’s intervention.

Get the Most Out of Your Child’s Treatment

By keeping the lines of communication open with your child’s care team, you can ensure that everyone remains focused on the same goals and priorities. And by getting trained on intervention strategies yourself, you can help your child improve their learning and development outside of scheduled sessions.