How To Find Therapy For Your Child

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Parents try to provide their children with the best lives possible by giving them the tools they need to lead happy and successful lives. However, sometimes your child may need support and care from someone with special expertise and skills. When your child is experiencing a mental health-related concern, you may need the services of a licensed therapist experienced in psychology, but how do you find the right therapeutic environment in which to address your child’s mental health challenges? Below, we’re going to cover signs your child may benefit from therapy and how to find the right therapist.     

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Could my child benefit from therapy?

It’s sometimes hard to recognize mental health concerns in young children due to their unique challenges. For example, many children are energetic and have trouble focusing, but not all of them experience attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Still, some symptoms may be noticeable and could help you make the decision to seek the opinion of a mental health professional or medical doctor. Below are the signs of a few mental health conditions that are common in children.

Signs of anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), over 30% of people between the ages of 13 and 18 live with an anxiety disorder. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and panic disorder.

Some signs that your child may have an anxiety disorder include:

  • Nightmares

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep

  • Increased agitation or anger

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Shaking or trembling

  • Avoidance of friends and family

  • Lack of interest in favorite activities

  • Trouble concentrating and remembering things

  • Gastrointestinal problems

Signs of depression

Sadness is a normal emotion for children. However, if you find that your child is experiencing persistent sadness for no obvious reason, this may be a sign that they are living with depression. As with anxiety disorders, there are different types of depressive disorders, including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. 

Some of the signs of depression in children include:

  • A tendency to avoid friends and family

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities

  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions

  • Changes in appetite

  • Weight loss or gain

  • Acts of aggression or agitation for no obvious reason

  • Sadness for longer than two weeks

  • Talking about death or dying*

*If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.

Signs of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Often characterized by trouble focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is considered one of the most common mental health disorders in children and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this common neurodevelopmental disorder affects approximately six million adolescents in the United States.

The following are some of the signs of ADHD:

  • Hyperactivity or restless behavior

  • Difficulty concentrating or paying attention

  • Disruptive behavior

  • Impulsivity

  • Lack of attention to detail

  • Difficulty listening or understanding instructions

  • Poor organization or time management

  • Trouble sitting still

  • A tendency to interrupt conversations

  • Impatience

The benefits of therapy for children

Life can be daunting for children. They are still learning about the world around them, managing challenges at school, and trying to manage their emotions. Child counseling can often help children cope with these challenges, navigate potential mental health concerns, and work through their feelings. Your child does not have to have a mental health condition to reap the benefits of therapy, though. The objectives of therapy could be as simple as giving your child an outlet for their emotions, teaching/helping them practice new skills, helping them find their strengths in life, or building their confidence. 

Finding a therapist for your child

If you’re ready to find a therapist, there are several options available. With the American Psychological Association’s (APA) psychologist locator, you can find a child counselor near you using your zip code or address. You can also utilize an online therapy service that will help match your child with a therapist who can address their specific concerns. You may also go through your child’s school or pediatrician to find a counselor.

Child therapists and treatment methods

Therapists who work with children may have a variety of titles, such as clinical social worker, mental health counselor, professional counselor, or psychologist.

Child therapists use a variety of treatment options to work with different conditions. A therapist can develop a treatment plan that is likely to include one or more of the following options, often integrating elements of play therapy which encourages child interaction in the therapy process:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) often works for children because it teaches them how to replace their negative thoughts with positive ones and how to understand their behaviors and emotions.

  • Social skills therapy may help children who are experiencing difficulty with communication or other social skills. This could include making friends, interacting with adults, making eye contact, or holding a conversation with someone.

  • Trauma-focused therapy is often best for children who have been exposed to a traumatic situation, such as the death of a loved one, abuse, neglect, natural disasters, or a major accident.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

  • Grief counseling primarily involves healing after the loss of a loved one. Children often process loss differently than adults do, so they may need special support during this time.

  • Family therapy often involves treating the entire family as a unit. This may be beneficial for those whose concerns involve the entire family, such as challenges related to a divorce.

  • Group therapy can be helpful for children who are having trouble building social skills and self-esteem. It allows children to interact with others and lets them know that they are not the only ones feeling the way they do while a therapist observes and guides the session.

How you can help

In conjunction with seeking counseling, there are things you can practice to help enhance your child’s mental well-being.

  • Get Involved. The support and love of a parent can be a valuable part of children’s success. Children often feel more confident and stable when they know they can count on the adults in their lives.

  • Get Some Exercise. You might take a walk around the block together. You can use this time to talk about problems and brainstorm ways to overcome them. As a bonus, exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which may improve your child’s mood and reduce your own stress.

Encourage Journaling. For many young people, journaling can be a healthy, productive outlet to express themselves. 
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Online therapy for child and parent

Research shows that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy for mental health concerns in children. For example, in one study, researchers found that online cognitive behavioral therapy effectively treated anxiety in participants, with 78% of children (aged 12 to 18) receiving online CBT no longer meeting the criteria for an anxiety disorder. The study also mentions the availability and reduced time constraints provided by online therapy, compared to face-to-face therapy. 

You can find available comprehensive mental health care for you or your child through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, or its service specifically for children aged 13-18 years old, TeenCounseling. With online therapy, you can chat with a mental health professional outside of traditional working hours, which makes it easy for busy parents and families to schedule appointments. Sessions can be conducted through audio or video chat, so you can participate in therapy from the comfort of your home. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists from parents experiencing similar concerns.

Therapist reviews

“Dr. Torres is amazing with the things she is doing with my 13-year-old daughter. My daughter has recently been bullied which caused her to be angry… She would not go anywhere or do anything. When my daughter spoke with Dr. Torres for the first time, a few days later she picked up herself and started to go out and wanted to do things with me and by herself….I was completely amazed, everyone I spoke to was amazed. I’d also like to add that Dr. Torres is kind, patient, calm and very warm and friendly to me and my daughter. Every time I tell my daughter Dr. Torres is calling, a big smile comes on her face, it’s so wonderful to see that….Please keep up the excellent work.”

“I’ve been using BetterHelp for a while now and have really enjoyed working with Rachel. I’m a mom to a young child and having the ability to message her or schedule live sessions is a game changer. She is very kind and attentive to my feelings and concerns and gives me helpful insight. I have genuinely appreciated her support and benefited greatly from spending time working with her.”

Takeaway

If your child is experiencing anxiety, depression, or other life challenges, seeking the care of a therapist may help them cope with their emotions and better understand themselves through integrated parent-child interaction therapy.  Also, if you’re looking for support as a parent, consider reaching out to a qualified mental health professional online. With the right help, you and your child can continue on a path to improved mental well-being. Take the first step and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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