Parenting a child or teen with anxiety can often feel overwhelming. You want to help your child find relief, but what’s the first step? Who can you turn to? What resources are available?
Remember, experiencing one or more anxiety disorders is relatively common during childhood and adolescence. The problem arises when these issues go untreated, as they can turn into chronic conditions that linger into adulthood—and may even lead to serious depression, alcohol abuse or other destructive behaviors. Unfortunately, due to a lack of awareness about anxiety disorders or a perceived stigma around recognizing them, up to 80 percent of children are not getting the necessary treatment.1
Getting your child or teen the appropriate professional help is one of the most important steps you can take in helping him or her find relief. Read on for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions when searching for a psychologist.
How will I know if my child needs professional help?
Getting your child or teen the appropriate professional help is one of the most important steps you can take in helping him or her find relief.
Anxiety is a common emotion among all people, young and old, which can make it hard to deduce if your child or teen has a true anxiety disorder or is simply experiencing everyday worries. But, typically, if he or she is experiencing intense worries or fears that impact everyday interactions or responsibilities, it may be time to seek professional help. This guide to the six major types of anxiety disorders can also be helpful in determining if your child or teen may benefit from professional help.
When should I seek professional help?
As mentioned above, if the anxiety persists for six months or more, your child or teen is likely experiencing anxiety that isn’t going to resolve on its own. Keep in mind, however, that the six-month timeline is meant to serve as general guidance. If your child is experiencing debilitating anxiety that is causing you alarm, it’s not necessary to wait to seek help. Debilitating anxiety is generally defined as anxiety that interferes with your child’s basic daily functioning. If your child can’t participate in afterschool activities, won’t go to school, or is suffering from extreme insomnia, for example, these are all issues that you’d want to seek help for immediately.
Where can I find a therapist for my child?
The right therapist can play a central role in helping your child or teen get better. It’s important to find one that you both feel comfortable with. You may start by asking your child’s teacher or school counselor if they have any local recommendations. These trusted adults in your child’s life will likely be familiar with his or her issues, and might have experience with helping other students find the right therapist. Your family pediatrician can be another good resource, as are recommendations from trusted friends. The American Psychological Association also coordinates psychologists through its Psychologist Locator tool. This resource ensures that you’re finding licensed and vetted professionals. The tool allows you to search by geographic location, as well as look up areas of expertise (dealing with specific anxiety disorders in children and teens, for example).
What questions should I ask a therapist before making an appointment?
You’ll want to do some research before meeting with a psychologist in person and introducing him or her to your child or teen. A few basic questions to ask in a phone call include2:
- Are you a licensed psychologist? How many years have you been practicing?
- Do you have experience with anxiety disorders? Give some background on the issues you are attempting to address in therapy, and ask if they have expertise in these specific topics (and particularly with children or teens).
- What kinds of treatments do you use? There are multiple types of treatment, such as cognitive or behavioral therapy, or a combo of several types. All should be evidenced-based. You may also want to ask a potential therapist about his or her philosophy on using medications in conjunction with therapy.
- Do you accept my insurance? Find out if the therapist accepts insurance or how else they handle payment.
Remember, it’s a good idea to reach out to more than one therapist, and it’s okay to have an initial in-person meeting with more than one before deciding on the best fit for your child or teen.
How do I introduce therapy to my child?
If you have a young child, you may want to do much of your initial research before talking with your child about an upcoming therapy appointment. If you have a teenager, it can be helpful to make him or her part of the process earlier. This will provide a feeling of control and help your teen get more comfortable with the idea of therapy. Whatever the age of your child, introducing therapy and discussing anxiety can be an intimidating conversation. These guides will help you discuss with your child or teen and ready them for an initial meeting with a therapist.
Remember, helping your child or teen find a therapist is an important first step in getting relief from anxiety. Working with a therapist should be an ongoing process that involves open, honest, and confidential communication as all parties work together as a team to help your child feel better.
1 Source: 2015 Child Mid Institute Children’s Mental Health Report (https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children and https://childmind.org/2015-childrens-mental-health-report/)
2 Adapted from How to Choose a Psychologist at https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/choose-therapist.aspx
Related Books from Magination Press
How to Find Mental Health Care for Your Child
In How to Find Mental Health Care for Your Child, seasoned child psychologist and author Ellen B. Braaten offers clear and expert guidance to help anxious parents navigate the complexities of mental health care.
Divided into three thorough and well-organized parts, the book first provides an overview of the issues involved in diagnosing and treating children. It then gives detailed information on the most common childhood disorders and addresses key symptoms, possible causes, and treatment options. In the final chapters, Dr. Braaten discusses the primary treatment approaches in more depth, such as their typical course, what disorders they are used to treat, and how to determine their effectiveness.
Parents seeking the best mental health care for their child will learn what other parents did in real situations when confronted with similar problems and will be reassured, supported, and empowered throughout their journey.
My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic
Can you spare 30 minutes to feel less anxious?
Go ahead. Think about how your life would be different if you were less anxious. What would change? Would you try out for the basketball team? Ask someone out on a date? Would you sleep better and feel less tense? Would you feel calmer and happier?
My Anxious Mind outlines a simple and proven plan to help you understand and deal with your anxiety and panic. It is chock full of simple-to-use tools and strategies that easily fit into any teen’s busy routine. (ages 12-18)
Some Bunny to Talk To: A Story About Going to Therapy
Little Bunny has a problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. Sometimes things in a little bunny’s life can feel so hard. So Big Bunny has an idea.
“I have an idea. I’d like you to talk to Some Bunny. Some Bunny is a therapist.”
Some Bunny To Talk To presents therapy in a way that is simple, direct, and easy for young children to understand. Children will hear about what to expect from therapy and how therapists are very good at helping kids to solve problems. They will learn about the ins and outs of therapy and that therapy can be a positive and helpful experience!
Included is a Note to Parents and Caregivers that outlines how best to support children in therapy and what to do to pave the way for a positive therapy experience. (picture book, ages 4-8)
Someone To Talk To: Getting Good at Feeling Better
Therapy can be intimidating for anyone, and even more so for children. Someone To Talk To is a straightforward and interactive guide to help children through the therapy process. It is an invaluable therapy accompaniment that covers what to expect, how to prepare, and tips for wrapping up.
The pages are full of helpful activities to use before, after, and in conjunction with therapy, as well as useful everyday tools and coping strategies.
Also included are separate introductions for parents and caregivers and for children, with more information about therapy, and how and why to use this book and its activities.
Authors Paola Conte, PhD, Cheryl Sterling, PhD, and Larissa Labay, PsyD, are pediatric psychologists in private practice who specialize in providing cognitive–behavioral therapy to children, adolescents, and adults. (picture book, ages 6-11)