Who is working with your children? (on Broken Boilers and Brain Surgeons)

In real life, if your boiler is leaking you need a plumber.



If you need brain surgery you don’t call on your dentist.


A recent conversation with some delegates on one of my courses has had me pondering.

Why is it, if in the rest of life when we need specialist help we seek out the appropriate specialist, do we not apply the same logic to our children?

With changes in the way school and local authority budgets are currently run there is now a plethora of independent organisations popping up like corn puffs to help schools with their challenging pupils. This is not necessarily wrong but how do schools and parents know who to choose? What standards or criteria should you be using to help determine a good, safe and ethical choice?

Most people recognise that many children who have been through tough stuff in life are not just ‘badly behaved’ but may well be depressed or have other mild or severe mental health conditions. So who should they work with?

Who would you want to work with?

If you had a mental health condition would you call in the dentist, plumber or brain surgeon? Clearly not. You would surely want to work with someone experienced and qualified – someone who specializes in this field?

This is a serious issue. Why?

Because repeatedly assigning children to ‘interventions’ that are not appropriate for them, or sending them to sessions with someone who is not adequately trained, qualified or experienced to work with them, may tick some temporary boxes, but will most likely:-

  • 1. not ‘work’ so the child is not any better off, infact they are now worse off because it
  • 2. leaves the child with a sense of failing and / or not being good enough and
  • 3. reinforces a child’s belief that they are too hard to help, no one understands them and it’s their fault.
  • 4. teaches the child that 1:1 sessions will not help them, which then makes it harder to build trust if they do get to meet someone who is appropriate to help them in the future.

10 things to consider when choosing people to do therapeutic work with your children...

  1. Ask them for proof (i.e. see the certificates) of their qualifications. They should be from reputable and accredited training organisations. Don’t allow people in training to work with your most damaged children. If they are working ethically they will know this is not appropriate too.
  2. If they are part of a team, then check the credentials of the particular person assigned to actually do the 1:1 work.
  3.  Anyone doing therapy or counselling with children safely and ethically will have regular clinical supervision with a trained, qualified clinical supervisor. This is crucial for the effectiveness of the therapy and as a safeguard to the work, and they won’t mind if you ask who this is and even want to contact the supervisor directly to check.
  4. They will have the obvious CRB and insurance too.
  5. They will be a member of a recognised organisation. You can ask to see their membership card or check their credentials and that their membership is current with that organisation.
  6. They will be working to the ethical framework of their membership organisation. They should be able to tell you about this or even better be able to show it to you.
  7. They will be able to talk to you about the therapeutic model they work with. Not all children benefit from a talking or CBT approach for example.
  8. Remember the skills and approaches needed to work with children aged 4-12 are very different from working with teens. Just because someone has a great track record with young people does not mean they can necessarily work safely with younger ones.
  9. There should be regular reviews of the work and some type of measure of the effectiveness.
  10. They should be listed on the AVR the Accredited Voluntary Register. A government initiative to have a register of credible practitioners.Accredited Voluntary Register logo

boilermanThe practice of treating broken boilers by sending in a plasterer will never help the boiler to mend….and I am grateful to know of several schools, organisations and parents that already understand this and are seeking out the specialist help these children need.