Choosing A Child Counselor

Medically reviewed by Brianne Rehac, LMHC
Updated March 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Entrusting your child's mental well-being to a professional can be a beneficial step in supporting their mental health needs. If you're seeking mental health services for your child, you may be unsure where to start. Pediatric counseling can be a great option to consider, as it focuses specifically on the unique needs of children and adolescents and can offer valuable support for their emotional and psychological well-being.

Looking for guidance when it comes to parenting?

A child counselor is specially equipped to help children and adolescents with mental and emotional problems. These mental health professionals often specialize in counseling techniques to address a variety of issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and grief counseling. They can also provide therapies for psychological disorders and other mental illnesses. Many child and adolescent counselors work in their own practices or in settings such as juvenile detention centers, domestic violence shelters, or homeless shelters. It is important to find the right counselor for your child who understands the unique challenges that children face with emotional disorders and child development.

Looking for a mental health professional with whom your child connects and feels comfortable and whose experience treating children aligns with your child's needs can be valuable. Below are a few tips on choosing a suitable fit. 

Reasons for finding a therapist for your adolescent or teen 

There can be several reasons a child may benefit from mental healthcare. For some children, behavioral concerns or educational challenges affect their lives negatively. Others might have been diagnosed with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, or OCD. Children might sometimes have trouble connecting with their peers or separating from their parents in a healthy way.  

Children typically experience emotional ups and downs as they learn to control emotionally. However, if your child shows frequent nervousness, feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, repetitive self-destructive habits, changes in sleep or eating patterns, or excessive negativity, child counseling might benefit them.  

The benefits of a therapist

A child and adolescent mental health professional can identify your child's life challenges, help them understand what they are going through, and implement a treatment plan. Child counseling programs often provide a safe space for children to express feelings and learn new coping skills for their mental health issues. Child counselors work with many children to help them thrive long-term by giving them the tools to stay mentally, physically, and socially healthy. 

Therapists can provide children with various forms of therapy for children to help them with different struggles, from behavioral disorders to difficulties at school. A children’s counselor can also provide parents with resources to help them address their childrens' challenges or cope with newly diagnosed conditions. Child therapists may have their own non-public practices, work out of hospital systems, or be part of a social service organization.

How to explain therapy to your kids

Younger children may be confused about counseling, and older children may be hesitant to speak to a counselor. Try to communicate that the counselor is a friend and a person with whom they can say their feelings. A child therapist may be described to the child as a mentor and teacher for emotions and behaviors. Framing counseling in a positive light could help the child understand that the counselor is not there to cause difficulties for them. 

Choosing a therapist 

Below are some methods for choosing a child counselor. 

Talk to your child's pediatrician about therapy

The first person you may want to consider talking to about your child's behavior is your child's pediatrician. They may confirm whether any underlying health conditions contribute to the concerning behavior based on the child’s age and symptoms. If this is not the case, a child psychologist or therapist may be an option. You can ask your child's doctor for a referral or look for a professional on your own. 

Find an adolescent therapist through school 

You can also find therapists by contacting the guidance counselor at your child's school or by speaking with friends and family to get advice and referrals to child counselors. Depending on the mental health support you’re seeking, the school counselors themselves may be a good fit for your child’s needs. You might also attend sessions, lectures, or workshops in your area to learn more about specific therapists and what they offer. Your child's school may also have mental health resources for families experiencing distress. 

Check therapist credentials

Often, a part of choosing a counselor, especially in a child counselor career, maybe examining their qualifications. The professional may have obtained a graduate-level degree, gained experience in child and adolescent psychology, acquired continuing education credits, and completed additional training specific to child therapy. For example, a clinical child psychologist, where child psychologists work, might have a doctoral degree involving advanced training in child psychology and addressing mental disorders. On the other hand, counselors in social service offices may have different education requirements. 

Meet with the therapist before scheduling therapy sessions

Meeting with a potential therapist can help parents find a proper fit. You might want to learn as much as possible about a provider before you agree to schedule your child's first session. Consider asking questions about their background, their experience addressing your child's specific challenges, and how they treat their clients. You can ask how frequently you can talk with the counselor and how they might update you on progress. 

Consider talking to around two to three child therapists or counselors before choosing one to work with your child. If you only talk to one person, you may not understand how others could offer support. Try to be patient with your meetings and ensure you communicate effectively with each therapist.


Ensure your child's comfort 

After speaking to a provider, ensure your child is also comfortable with them. It may be a positive fit if they can open up to this person about their thoughts and feelings. If they are scared of the provider or refuse to go to sessions, open a conversation about how you can make therapy work more for them. Once you know that the therapist is trained and that your child feels comfortable with them, you may choose to start sessions. 

Different types of child therapy

There are several methods therapists may engage with your child to find out their concerns, symptoms, and needs. Each type of counseling could support children in various ways and may be used in conjunction with another method. 

Play therapy

Play therapy allows your child to play with toys, draw, or creatively express themselves while the therapist observes and talks to them. This expression can give them an outlet for their emotions that other methods may not provide. It's often used for children who are of elementary age or younger.

Group therapy

Children can benefit from group settings where they're put into a situation with other children and teens experiencing similar symptoms. These children may be encouraged to form social skills and create bonds to overcome concerns like shyness or bullying.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)  

CBT is a standard counseling form for all ages that can be effective for children. Cognitive-behavioral therapy might allow your child to recognize thoughts that make them uncomfortable and respond to them with healthy behaviors. 

Family therapy  

Suppose your family is experiencing a significant change, conflict, or concern. In that case, you may opt for a child and family counseling wherein the entire family can participate in the counseling sessions, including the children, to learn more about interacting healthily. Family counseling allows a professional to provide insights into the different ways family dynamics may impact your child’s development.

Looking for guidance when it comes to parenting?

Options for counseling online

Parents looking for mental healthcare for their children or themselves may struggle to find support due to barriers to in-person treatment. For example, many individuals experience financial stress, busy schedules, or an inability to commute to an appointment. In these cases, online therapy may be an option. 

Research shows that online therapy can help parents provide care to their children when they're experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions. In a meta-analysis of 19 studies, researchers found that online interventions can help parents address their children's mood and behavioral concerns. The analysis also highlights the program's ability to help parents connect with professionals.

If you're looking for mental health care to address challenges related to parenting, your child's emotional well-being, or other areas of your life, consider utilizing an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. The platform allows you to connect with a therapist who fits your preferences. You can also find a provider who has openings that fit your schedule. If you're looking for therapy for your teen child from 13 to 19 years of age, you can sign them up for a platform like TeenCounseling, which offers similar benefits. 


Mental health treatment can help children learn to control emotions, understand their behaviors, and make healthy choices. Although it could take time, finding a suitable therapist for your child may be possible. If you'd like support as you work to help your child with their mental health concerns, consider reaching out to a therapist for further guidance and support.
Receive evidence-based counseling
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started