Finding Help for Your Teen

You know your teenager is struggling and for whatever reason, you don’t seem to be able to help.  You know you need to find a mental health professional that has the right skills and experience to provide the support and assistance your teen needs.  You know you would do anything to help them find their way through the trials and tribulations of being a teenager.  What you don’t know, is how to get your teen the help he or she needs in order to overcome their obstacles.

There are several factors you need to consider when looking for a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional to work with your child.  In order to develop a short list of people who might be a good fit for your teen, follow these steps.

1.     Know What You Need

If you are looking for someone to help your teen, odds are you will want someone who specializes in or has experience with working with teenagers.  While this isn’t the most important factor in selecting a professional, it is a good starting place to create a list of candidates.  If your child has a very specific need like treatment for an eating disorder or help with a mental illness like bipolar or depression, you may want to target professionals that specialize in helping with that issue.

2.     Consider Comfort Levels

In order to find the best fit for your teen, you need to consider the type of person they are going to be most comfortable working with.  Do you need a male or a female?  Do you need someone older or younger?  Do you need someone who is more authoritarian and commanding or flexible and fluid?  Look at the type of teachers, coaches, and other non-parent adults that your child has a good connection with for clues about what kind of counselor will be a good fit for them.

3.     Ask for Referrals.

Your teen’s medical provider is a good place to start as many family practice providers and pediatricians have experience working with the local mental health professionals and can recommend those they think would be a good fit for your child.  You can also reach out to other parents, friends, and even coworkers for referrals.

4.     Schedule a Session.

Once you have a list, call each person on it to see if you can come in and talk to them and get a feel for whether or not they will be a good fit for what your teenager needs.   Some professionals provide a brief free consultation for this purpose while others charge a fee for this initial visit.  Use this time to find out about their education, certifications, experience, philosophy, and expertise.  You will also want to determine if their services are covered by your health insurance plan.

Following these steps will make it easier to find a mental health professional that is a good fit for your teen.  The most important factors in choosing a mental health professional for your teenager are how comfortable your teen is with the person and how well they can connect with each other.


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