Does My Child Need Pediatric Counseling?
By: Jessica Saxena
Updated June 30, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Tanya Harell
Have you started to notice your child withdrawing or losing interest in the things that they once loved? Maybe you've noticed your child constantly seems sad or that they have begun to act more aggressively. Does your child have trouble focusing or concentrating in school? No matter the age, growing up can be challenging, and many children and families end up struggling throughout the process. If your efforts at home seem to be falling flat, it may be time to get an outside perspective. Working with a licensed child therapist can help you and your child work through the mental issues they are facing.
Children and teens are not immune to stress or other triggers that can lead to mental issues. In fact, the CDC has found that one in six US children adolescents had been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Getting treatment for children adolescents struggling with these disorders can make a huge difference in their lives. If your child is suffering, it is not a reflection on you or your parenting skills, nor is it a reflection on your child. It is simply a challenge that they need to develop the skills to cope with. But both children and families can make it through this difficult time together.
Children and teens who get help for mental issues when they are young often go on to lead healthy and productive lives. This is largely due in part to the coping skills they can learn with pediatric counseling. Therapists are trained in child development to help children and teens push through their life issues.
What You Need To About Pediatric Counseling
Pediatric counselors are specially trained and licensed for working with children adolescents who are facing a variety of issues in order to help them cope with and overcome them. This will allow them to achieve their full potential at home, at school, and in relationships. After all, children aren't shielded from stress, anxiety, and other issues that many adults need professional help with. Licensed child counselors work with children of all ages with different problems, such as difficulty coping with a past traumatic event, adjusting to divorced parents, feeling excluded, or unwanted by peers, among others.
Typically, child psychologists tailor their treatment to each specific child, taking into account their age, level of development, personality, behavioral issues, and more to make sure that their treatment plan gives them the best chance of success. Then they'll set specific treatment goals to ensure that their strategy is truly helping the child. Depending on your child's needs, their counselor may use one or more of the following techniques: talk therapy, play therapy, or group therapy. Each can be effective, but most often, they will start with some form of talk therapy so child adolescent counselors can form a connection with the child and ensure they fully understand how they're feeling.
If you are unsure if your child could benefit from pediatric counseling, this list of potential risk factors or warning signs to watch out for may help.
- Increased desire to spend time alone or lack of desire to spend time with family or friends
- Sudden decline in school performance
- Difficulty concentrating at school or on other tasks
- Persistent sadness, sullenness, lack of energy, or hopelessness
- Excessive anxiety or stress
- A loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed
- Extreme dependency on habitual acts, such as hand washing or making sure doors are locked
- Excessive anger or agitation that leads to lashing out
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Difficulty connecting with peers
- Acting withdrawn from life or an unwillingness to open up
This list isn't all-inclusive and doesn't necessarily mean you need to start a search for a pediatric counselor immediately. However, if your child is exhibiting multiple risk factors or has been experiencing some for an extended period, it may be helpful to consider reaching out to a professional counselor. Therapy helps children in a number of ways.
Start Pediatric and Adolescent Counseling Now for a More Promising Tomorrow
Many of us face struggles at some point in life. Children are susceptible to similar emotional health issues that plague adults. There are prevalent attitudes that young kids will "grow out" of their problems. However, many adults with a psychiatric disorder first match criteria for diagnosis during childhood. A diagnosis related to oppositionality, ADHD, and impulsivity can remain stable throughout the school years, and children may not grow out of these issues. Even preschoolers can meet the diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders. Children at age 3 who meet criteria for diagnosis are likely to meet criteria for a diagnosis at age 6.
Instead of waiting for them to grow out of their symptoms, seeking treatment for children with mental health problems and even screening preschool-aged kids for emotional and behavioral problems can help physicians coordinate critical interventions necessary for their mental health needs. Start working now with the right specialists to address issues when your child's brain is highly responsive to change and treatment.
Stigmatization in Pediatric Counseling
Are you concerned that diagnosing your child will stigmatize them? Your assigned child and adolescent mental health counselor can use diagnostic tools such as the Preschool Age Psychiatric Assessment (PAPA), which is designed to give a DSM diagnosis for preschool-aged children. However, there are many debates as to whether it is appropriate to give children so young a mental health diagnosis. Utilizing assessment tools such as the PAPA can help recognize your young child's struggles now so that they have a good chance of overcoming their symptoms and developing into a healthier child and teenager.
Your child's disorder is not their personality type. We need to be able to separate their symptoms from a child's character and give them the help they need. Assessment tools such as the PAPA help to isolate and focus on the symptoms that your child is presenting. This provides an objective and separate look at your child from their illness.
Assessment Tools are also valuable in recording, monitoring, and treating their mental health issues. Such tools used throughout the therapeutic process assess whether your child will benefit from seeking mental health treatment, provide information for diagnosing the issues presented, and increase your understanding, and influence the development of measurable goals to be used during your child's progress.
If your child is given a DSM-V diagnosis, please remember that your child's psychiatric disorder is not because of bad parenting. Certainly, a home environment and parental relationship can affect a psychiatric disorder, but that doesn't mean they cause the disorder. Disorders such as anxiety, depression, and autism have biological roots, as well.
A mental health disorder does not signify that you or your child are weak, and they are not based on willpower to manage these conditions. ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other disorders cause serious dysfunctions and can affect all areas of your child's life. Managing their psychiatric disorder greatly benefits from the right clinician, an appropriate treatment plan which includes your input as a parent to have their health and wellness restored. You, as a parent, are not to blame and in fact, play a pivotal role in giving support and care such as mental health care that is critical to your child's recovery.
Treatment in Pediatric Counseling
These first few years in your child's life are so important when you start to see symptoms. Treatment interventions, even when children adolescents are very young, can be successful. Pediatric counselors will utilize different forms of counseling to help treat different types of mental health issues. One type of treatment that is evidenced based is called cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT.
Children adolescents younger than 7 years old do not have the level of cognitive skills for reasoning, verbal expression, autobiographical memory, or self-reflection. However, cognitive-behavioral therapy for children has been shown and tested for its effectiveness in children as young as 3-6 years old. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy focuses on changing beliefs that contribute to mental health. A skilled therapist who is working with a young child who has never been asked by an adult to do therapy work will be able to engage the young child in cognitive therapy tasks. They will be able to focus on changing the child's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are causing serious issues.
There are many concerns regarding the use of medications and pediatric treatment of childhood mental health disorders. It is important to note that a good psychiatrist will take care of deciding how and when to start a child on medication. Psychiatric illnesses and medication should be taken just as seriously as a child with diabetes or any other chronic health condition.
For instance, a child adolescent struggling with a psychiatric disorder may never receive clinical care because their issues may be deemed less obvious than a child who has lost their hair due to chemotherapy. Kids rely on their parents to help give them access to services such as counseling. The potential to make changes in their way of thinking may be higher now than any other age.
Ways to Help Your Child When They Are Struggling
It's never easy to watch your child struggle, especially when it's something that you can't fix. If you have considered pediatric counseling and are still not sure if that is the help your child needs, there are some simple things you can do at home to help them cope with their problems. These suggestions won't solve the issue at hand, but they can help make life a bit easier for your child.
Make Time to Talk
Take the time to sit down to talk with your child and really be present with an understanding of the struggles they are currently facing. This can help your child feel heard and can also help them sort through their own thoughts and figure out a solution to their problem.
Healthy Sleeping Habits
Numerous studies have linked sleep issues with mental health issues in children adolescents. Make sure that you are encouraging your child to have healthy sleeping habits such as a bedtime routine, getting enough sleep, etc.
Experts have found that regular exercise can help children adolescents cope with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and other mental health issues. Encourage your child to exercise daily, whether it is through organized sports or simply taking a family walk.
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Your Child Depends On You
As a parent, helping your child learn the coping mechanisms and skills that they need to overcome the mental challenges that life presents to them should be a top priority. However, you don't have to do it alone. Start speaking with a BetterHelp counselor who is trained in working with children today who can give you the tools to help them through their challenges, give you the necessary resources to work together with a pediatric counselor, or even help you get your teen help with the licensed counselors at Teen Counseling directly. No matter what you're experiencing, there are tools available to help both you and your child be the healthiest you can be.
FAQs on Pediatric Counseling and Anxiety in Children
What is pediatric counseling? Also known as adolescent counseling, youth counseling, or simply child therapy, pediatric counseling focuses on treating children and teens who are struggling with mental health disorders. Child therapists are trained to teach children and teens effective coping techniques so they can better understand their issues.
What age can a child start counseling? Patients should start child therapy as soon as they are diagnosed with a mental health disorder. If you have a toddler who is exhibiting disruptive behavior, you may also consider enrolling them in therapy. Children up to the age of 7 tend to be the most responsive to therapy designed to change their behavior.
How do I find a counselor for my child? Children and families looking for a counselor can often receive a referral from their primary care physician. Your school’s guidance counselor should also have a list of therapists that specialize in working with children.
How much do pediatric counselors make? Pediatric counselors who offer child therapy typically receive an annual average salary of $47,240. Their salaries may vary depending on their location as well as the number of years they have experience working with children.
What causes child anxiety? Stressful events such as the loss of a loved one or suffering from abuse can cause children adolescents to develop anxiety. The fear of being away from their parents can also induce anxiety in children. But when these feelings of anxiety begin to disrupt your child’s everyday functioning, they may have developed an anxiety disorder. Child therapy can help your child manage their anxiety disorder.
How do I know if my child needs a behavioral therapist? If your child has exhibited the same behavioral problems for at least 6 months, they might need a behavioral therapist. Behavioral therapists who are experienced in working with children can examine your child’s symptoms and create a treatment plan for them.
Does my child need to enroll in play therapy? Play therapy can be great for families looking to help their younger members learn how to cope with their emotions. Sometimes, children have trouble expressing their feelings or confronting their problems in a healthy manner. Children adolescents can participate in play therapy at school or in a hospital. Professionals who are experienced in working with children can teach them proper relationship building skills and more with play therapy.
How do you know if a child has anxiety? Signs of anxiety in children include nail-biting, picking at their skin, experiencing trouble falling asleep, and startling easily. If your child has anxiety, enrolling them in child therapy may be beneficial for their mental health.
Is counseling good for kids? Children adolescents and adults can benefit from counseling. Mental health professionals who specialize in working with children can help kids who are struggling with anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and any other personal situations that might be occurring at home.
Should my family enroll in family counseling? Sometimes, children and families need group counseling sessions to help address their issues. If your family struggles with communicating their feelings with each other, withdrawing from each other, or even acting violently toward each other it might be best to enroll in family counseling.
Does my child have trouble with a mental disorder because of their environment? Environmental factors such as poverty or abuse can increase a child’s risk of developing a mental disorder. However, genetic factors can also play a role in causing someone to experience a mental disorder.
Will marriage counseling help my child? Many couples who seek out a marriage counselor do so in order to create a healthier environment for their children to grow up in. If you and your partner are going through a rough patch, marriage counseling can help you learn how to cope with your problems and effectively communicate with each other.
Should I enroll my child in career counseling? Many children and teenagers have no idea what they want to do when they are older. Even some college students have trouble figuring out what they want to major in or what field they want to work in after they graduate. If you have a teenager who is interested in exploring their career options, consider enrolling them in career counseling can help set them on the right path.
What services do child therapists offer? Child therapists can treat a number of social or emotional issues that your child is currently dealing with. Some of the most common services include treating anxiety, trauma, divorce, and grief.
How are counseling services for children adolescents different than ones designed for adults? Counselors who specialize in working with children will typically use play therapy such as toys or art to help children learn how to talk about their feelings.
BetterHelp Can Help You Take A Proactive Approach
If your child is struggling, taking a proactive approach is often the best option, rather than hoping their struggles go away. One way to do this is to get them the help that they need. This is where child therapy comes into play. At this juncture, it may be beneficial for all children adolescents and adults involved to enroll in counseling. Getting counseling as a parent can help you help with the various issues that affect the family when your child is struggling. BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that can give you the help you need. They can be a great resource for learning more about how to help your child and finding a pediatric counselor. Online counseling is both convenient and confidential. With BetterHelp, you can talk with your licensed counselor via messaging, chat, phone, or video - whatever is easiest for you.
If your child is in their teens, they can also get help with BetterHelp's Teen Counseling. This is an online counseling platform designed specifically for children adolescents ages 13 to 19. The counselors are licensed and can help your child work through anxiety, stress, self-esteem, bullying, anger, and other mental challenges. This method of counseling is comfortable for teens, given its online nature. They can communicate with their counselor by exchanging messages, chatting live, speaking on the phone, or even by video. Check out what other parents have to say about their experience with BetterHelp counselors below.