Top tips for choosing the right therapist for your children

Science and Health

Once again, a case has made waves about a psychologist abusing a patient, this time a 12-year-old girl. It is infuriating to hear about another therapist who exploits the therapeutic relationship for sexual abuse.

When it comes to a child, one can only imagine the turmoil the parents experience. Beyond frustration, anger, and anxiety, it is likely that they also feel a heavy sense of guilt and helplessness.

Parents who entrusted their loved ones with a psychologist like that find themselves betrayed and have to cope with the fact that they sent their child to someone who sexually abused them.

It is important to remember that abusers do not wear warning signs. A sexual abuser can appear outwardly nice, intelligent, and respectable. In fact, most sexual offenses are committed by someone the victim knows well and trusts.

How will you know that you sent your children to the right therapist? (credit: SHUTTERSTOCK)

So how can you know if you have sent your children to the right therapist?

  1. First and foremost, it is important to explain to the child what their body’s private parts are and emphasize that no one is allowed to touch them or ask them to touch someone else’s private parts. (This is important in general, not just in the context of therapy). It is even more important to tell them that if it does happen, they can tell you, and you promise not to get angry or blame them.
  2. The first meeting with the therapist should only be with the parents. The therapist needs to get to know you and the case. But you also need to get to know them and be impressed by them.
  3. The therapist’s entire focus is for the benefit of the child and the parents. If it doesn’t feel that way to you or the child, something is probably not right.
  4. Any form of sexual contact between a therapist and a patient is prohibited by law and professional ethical code. It doesn’t matter how the therapist explains it. Such relationships always end in severe sexual and emotional damage and trauma to the patients.
  5. As parents, you have the full right to ask the therapist any question about treatment, and it is the therapist’s duty to provide satisfactory answers.
  6. In the first meeting with the parents, I tell them that for the treatment to succeed, it is important that the child feels comfortable talking to me about things that they might not want to talk about with their parents. Therefore, do not ask the child “what did you talk about with Zohar?” However, it is very important to ask the child questions like “how is Zohar, in your opinion? Is he nice? Do you feel comfortable with him?”
  7. The treatment is not a police investigation. The child and you are not required to answer questions that make you uncomfortable.
  8. The therapist is not allowed to demand that children keep things a secret from their parents. The duty of confidentiality lies with the therapist, not the patient.
  9. The child does not have to like the therapist, and the therapist is not allowed to express personal disappointment with the child or express any needs of his own. It is important to remember that the therapist is here for the child and the parents, not the other way around.
  10. Be attentive and sensitive to the changes that the child goes through during treatment, especially mood, functioning, and behavior. Pay special attention before and after meetings.

Abusive therapists are a minority.

It is important to remember that alongside fear and caution, the “therapists” who violate professional values and harm the patients are a minority within a minority. The State of Israel is blessed with tens of thousands of trained, dedicated, and committed therapists for you and your children. 

None of them would dare to harm another person, certainly not a patient. We, the therapists, are disgusted by any such cases and feel betrayed by someone who pretended to be a colleague in the profession. That person is not worthy to be called a therapist, no matter what certificate hangs on their wall.


Zohar Goren Aharon is a clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and specialist in trauma treatment. He is a manager in the Otzmot network – a multidisciplinary psychotherapy network.