How Do I Choose The Best Child Psychologist?

Updated April 9, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Choosing a child psychologist is an important decision.  When it comes to finding a mental health professional for your son or daughter, you want to make sure you find the best around. This article will walk you through the process of choosing the right child psychologist for your kid.

Parenting can be stressful

Talk to their school counselor

It may be worth mentioning that if your child is in school, you can consider talking to the guidance counselor there. These individuals have training in the field, and they may also know professionals in the community who are ready and able to help your child with issues outside of their expertise. School counselors may have many connections, and it’s possible they could help you find a psychologist who might be a good fit.  You may still want to do your own research and vetting, but this could be a good place to start. 

Talk to a friend

If you have a friend who has a child in therapy, it may be a good idea to ask them for a recommendation. These are people you trust and care about, and chances are they have similar reservations about who they trust with their child’s mental health. You may also trust their opinion, so if they tell you that their therapist is great, you can take it to heart.  

Meet them yourself

It may be a good idea to meet with any therapist who could be working with your child. During this initial meeting, you can talk to them about their background, training, methods, and philosophy. You may also want to inquire about any techniques they may use to treat your child’s specific mental health challenges.  If possible, you could also talk with a fellow parent of a child who has been in therapy with the specific provider you’re considering. 

Don’t pick the first one

A child psychologist could have a significant impact on your child’s mental health now and in the future. Since this is an important decision, it could be a good idea to weigh your options. This may require talking to numerous different therapists before choosing the best one. Even if you live in a small town where there are limited options, you may want to talk to at least three providers. These could be psychologists you’ve researched yourself or those you’ve been referred to. Your child’s mental health matters, so you may want to do your due diligence to select the highest quality mental health professional you can find. 

Evaluate their credentials

When considering psychologists, you might want to ask about the providers’ credentials and educational background. You may want someone who has plenty of experience working with children.  A guidance counselor or your child's doctor may be able to help you evaluate different credentials, but there are some basic things to know before you start:

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo
  • Clinical social workers emphasize conflict resolution and problem-solving through practical applications. They tend to use standard counseling, group work, talk therapy, and play therapy to help children navigate difficult situations and resolve problems.
  • Psychiatrists can prescribe medications. If your child is experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, you may want someone who can diagnose these issues and give them medication as needed.  
  • Psychologists can test your child for various mental health conditions. They may also provide talk therapy and make recommendations for any additional assistance your child might need. They can interact with psychiatrists, school officials, and pediatricians as part of your child’s care team.

Learn their therapy preferences

You may also want to take a closer look at what types of therapy a potential provider participates in. Some psychologists may offer only talk therapy, which could be suitable for older children and teens. Others engage in other therapy techniques designed specifically for younger children.  Here are some of the therapeutic models you may come across in your search for a child psychologist: 

  • Play Therapy - This type of therapy can be effective for small children. As the name suggests, play therapy encourages children to play with toys while the therapist observes. 
  • Group Therapy - Older children might do well in group therapy. This type of therapy allows them to work with other children their age or those who may be going through similar situations. 
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)- This is a type of talk therapy that's focused on helping your child make positive changes to their behavior. With CBT, the therapist may give them homework to help them balance their mood and improve their behavior.
  • Family Therapy – In some cases, it could be a good idea to get the whole family involved in your child’s therapy. This type of therapy focuses not only on the mental health challenges of the child but also on family interactions and functionality.

Talk to your child

Parenting can be stressful

Depending on your child’s age, it could be important for you to talk with them about their therapy preferences. Older children and teens may need to have a say since they will be interacting with the therapist the most. You want them to feel comfortable because if they don't, they're not likely to open up to their therapist, which could impede effective therapy.

Evaluate over time

Once you decide on a specific therapist, it doesn't necessarily mean you're stuck with them forever. If you aren’t satisfied with the treatment or your child doesn’t respond well to them, you can change your mind and switch providers. It may be a good idea to keep evaluating how your child is progressing (or regressing). You may also want to keep the lines of communication open and talk to the therapist about any concerns you have. There may be another reason you’re not seeing results.  

As you’re going through the process of finding a psychologist for your child, it may be a good idea to keep an eye on your own mental health as well. The stress of such a decision can take a toll. If left untreated, it could begin having negative effects on your physical health, career, or relationships. Consider making a therapy appointment for yourself as well. 

Between juggling the responsibilities of parenthood and your own wellbeing, you may find that your schedule is tighter than ever. This could make it difficult to schedule an in-person session with a counselor. In your case, online therapy may be the better option. This form of remote counseling can save you time since you can skip the commute and attend sessions from home. It could also prove more convenient with appointment times available around the clock. 

Consider the legitimacy of online therapy as one less thing to worry over. Researchers have proven its effectiveness time and time again. A comprehensive meta-analysis of studies confirmed similar results for individuals who attended therapy sessions online and those who saw their therapist in person. The study probed nearly 10,000 cases with various mental health challenges and conditions. 

Counselor reviews

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Choosing the best therapist for your child may be a process, and it could even be a stressful one. Perhaps the best thing you can do for your child as you navigate this process is to take care of yourself. The better you feel, the more you’ll be able to help them with their mental health challenges. If you find you need additional support or guidance along the way, the compassionate counselors at Regain are here to help. Just answer a few brief questions to get started today.  

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