For many, parenting can be a meaningful and life-changing role. However, challenges can occur, and one in six children in the US has a diagnosed mental health or behavioral disorder. Seeking pediatric counseling can be a way to ensure your child's emotional and mental well-being is prioritized. If your child displays signs of depression, anxiety, ADHD, low self-esteem, unwanted behaviors, eating disorders, or emotional outbursts, you might benefit from seeking psychological support through a therapist.
Why Look For A Child Counselor?
There are many reasons parents make the choice to reach out to a child therapist.
Below are a few common issues that prompt parents to look for child counseling options:
- A mental health condition
- Behavioral changes
- A trauma history or past adverse event
- Grief and loss
- Difficulty adjusting to disabilities or health concerns
- Academic challenges
- Loneliness or social isolation
- A lack of interest in activities, hobbies, or social opportunities
- Frequent crying, mood swings, or emotional outbursts
- Hyperactivity or lack of focus
Child therapists are specifically trained to help children and teens work through distressing symptoms and improve their mental health. They often work with parents to help them make changes at home and create an integrative family plan. You and the child counselor can work together to offer your child the skills to succeed.
There are several areas to consider when looking for a child counselor. For example, the provider should be licensed to practice therapy in your state. To be licensed, a counselor must hold at least a master's degree. If medications are suggested or sought, your counselor can refer your child for an evaluation by a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals who can write psychiatric medication prescriptions in most states. Below are several areas to consider before choosing a provider.
Finding a therapist with experience unique to your child's situation may benefit you. There are over 400 therapy modalities often used in the treatment of adults, and many of these treatment options can be used for children as well. Understanding which modality a professional practices can help you make an informed decision about the type of therapy for kids best suited to your child's needs.
Price can be a factor for many parents and caregivers trying to find a child therapist, with the average cost of therapy sessions in the US at $100 to $200 per session. For many, this cost may only be doable with health insurance, and many health insurance plans partially or fully cover child therapy under medical necessity. You may be responsible for a co-pay in some cases. Shop around in your area to see the average local price.
According to the Affordable Care Act, employer-offered insurance policies must cover mental health services. If you have health insurance, you may have coverage for a counselor. However, many counselors do not accept insurance due to the requirements to apply for insurance panels. If you have insurance, starting with your insurance company's directory may help you find a list of in-network providers. You can call your health insurance company for a referral.
Look for a therapist that is available when you need them. If you are on a waiting list or struggle to receive more than one or two sessions a month, your child may not benefit from therapy as much as they need. Sessions once a week or every other week can be beneficial for many.
When looking for counselors, it can be important that you find someone who communicates well with you and your child. The therapist may discuss some of the techniques used in therapy with the child, and parents might be invited to sessions. Having communication upfront about what sessions and parent involvement will look like can help you prepare for your child's first session.
Where To Find A Child Counselor Near You
When seeking your provider, there are a few ways to connect, including the following.
Ask Your Pediatrician
Your pediatrician can be a practical resource for receiving referrals. If you're seeking counseling, talk to the pediatrician about your concerns and why you think your child might benefit from support. If the pediatrician does not have a direct referral, they may know of community providers that can point you toward care. In some cases, a doctor may be able to refer you to other in-network providers.
Online directories list a vast number of counselors with bios, insurance information, and photos. Prospective clients can scroll through the list and send messages to the therapists listed. Many directories also have review features where you can see feedback from other parents who have used the provider's services for their child. Reading the reviews could give you valuable insight into what to expect in therapy and the techniques different professionals use. If the reviews are negative, consider seeking a different provider.
If you want to search for an in-person children's behavioral therapist and live in a rural area, you may widen your search to a nearby zip code, town, or city. A quick Google search for "teen therapist near me" may help you find results. If you can't find anyone in a directory, widen your search by 25 miles to get more results. Some counselors listed in a directory may offer telehealth counseling through one-on-one practice that accepts insurance in your state if you have a government plan.
Friends And Family
If you want to find a counselor you feel comfortable trusting, ask other parents in your life if they have any recommendations for therapy. Child therapy is increasingly common, and someone in your community may have had a positive experience. If so, find out about their counselor, and decide whether you want to contact them. You can also get referrals from school counselors, religious congregations and leaders, and scout leaders.
Community Mental Health Centers
Many communities have mental health centers where you can get matched with a counselor based on your family's needs. Many centers have sliding fee systems for low-income families. If they do not have a counselor on staff, they might also be able to refer you to other counselors and health centers in the area. These health centers are also found in rural areas where fewer psychologists and psychiatrists are employed.
Types Of Mental Health Professionals To Consider
When conducting your research, you may come across various professionals. The psychological language and job titles can be confusing to understand, and reaching out to the wrong professional and paying an appointment fee can be distressing. Consider the following job roles when seeking a child provider.
Child Counselors And Therapists
Child counselors and therapists are licensed mental health providers that use different therapeutic techniques of talk therapy and other modalities to help your child address stressors, mental health concerns, and symptoms. Common types of therapy practiced by these providers include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and play therapy.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the psychological forms of medical care. They attend medical school before getting a doctorate. They have a more scientific and analytic approach to mental health and are typically the only providers able to prescribe mental health medication. They can also perform diagnostic testing and sometimes offer counseling.
Developmental psychologists study the changes in human development over a child's lifespan. They help children partake in skills for healthy development. Though they often work in research or clinical settings, you may see their work in school settings or as a therapist in one-on-one practice.
School psychologists work in school and educational settings to study how children and people learn. They help students improve their learning abilities and processes to succeed. They may also offer school counseling as a short-term support option. They may refer children to community psychiatrists or psychologists if they require further support. These professionals are often included in your child's tuition.
Online counselors are also an option for parents seeking a provider for their child. These counselors are often available through video chat or phone calls. You can contact one-on-one practice therapists from home, who may take insurance. Attending therapy from home may allow your child to receive support from an environment that feels comfortable to them.
However, if you are seeking a more cost-effective option, there are online platforms that offer support exclusively to teens and parents. Through a platform like BetterHelp, parents can receive therapy from home to discuss their parenting concerns. Through a platform like TeenCounseling, teens aged 13 to 19 can meet with a provider with parental permission if they're under 18.
Finding counseling for yourself or a teen child through an online platform can allow you to receive care if you live in a rural area, don't have insurance, or are looking for a cost-effective treatment option. In addition, studies show that internet-based therapy can be as effective as in-person options for many families experiencing long-term stress related to mental health challenges.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When Should A Child See A Licensed Therapy Professional?
Any kid may benefit from counseling. A mental health diagnosis is not a requirement for care. However, here are some warning signs that may indicate an underlying issue:
- Consistently low self-esteem
- Excessive worry about the future
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Significant changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Extreme fear of certain situations, people, objects, or locations
Psychologists are mental health professionals working with adolescents to address behavioral and emotional concerns. Psychologists can have several specialties, and many work with a specific age group. For example, adolescent counselors may know more about teen-related issues like friendships, puberty, bullying, and life planning. Counselors may work with younger clients on behavioral support through emotional control techniques and play.
Your kid can start seeing a mental health professional at any age. Still, waiting until your kid has developed some communication skills and self-awareness may be beneficial so that they can effectively communicate with a counselor. A licensed mental health professional can help your kid cope with trauma, unhealthy relationships, anger, grief, mental health conditions, parental divorce, and stress, among other concerns.
Mental health professionals often use expressive methods like play, art, and music to understand the kid better and encourage them to open up in a way that feels comfortable and sparks their imagination. It can be normal for any client to go at their own pace and talk only when they feel ready. It may help to remind them that counseling is safe and normal, like seeing a doctor.
How Do I Get My Kid Tested For Their Behavior Problems?
If your kid displays ongoing, concerning behaviors, see your family doctor to rule out any medical concerns. If your doctor finds your kid is physically healthy, they may refer you to an adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist for further evaluation. Psychiatrists and psychologists with a doctorate often perform official diagnostic testing.
Is A Psychologist A Doctor?
Psychologists have a doctorate (either a Ph.D. or PsyD). However, they are not a medical doctor (MD) that can practice physical healthcare, prescribe medications, and offer intensive diagnostic testing. Psychiatrists are medical doctors with an MD and can prescribe psychiatric medication. Before prescribing medication, psychiatrists may review families' and individuals' health histories to assess risks and potential side effects. While everyone may benefit from talking to a mental health professional, one study found evidence that suggests medication usage combined with counseling may help reduce depression symptoms in adults. Please note that BetterHelp and TeenCounseling do not offer medication prescriptions, medication, or advice.
While mental health professionals can diagnose mental health conditions, some choose not to or are unable to due to outside restrictions. If you're seeking complete diagnostic testing, a psychologist or psychiatrist in your area may offer tests. Note that some universities offer sliding-scale diagnostic testing for children, teens, and adults through psychological student programs.
- Previous Article
- Next Article