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Health Information For Parents
Counselors, therapists, clinical social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists are all experts in mental health. But they have different levels of education and some offer different mental health services.
When looking for mental health care, you may also hear the term “behavioral health.” It refers to everything you’d think of as mental health, such as help for struggles around conditions like depression and anxiety, and challenges like grief and addiction.
The first step to getting help for your child is finding the specialist with the training and experience that fits your needs. But with so many options to choose from, this simple task can feel complicated.
Start with your family doctor. They’re called “primary” care providers for a reason. Unless it’s an emergency, go to your child’s pediatrician or your family doctor first for mental and physical concerns.
Some mental health issues have a physical cause. When they don’t, your family doctor or pediatrician can help you find the right mental health specialist.
Here’s who your doctor may recommend:
For the most part, these two words mean the same thing. They’re both experts who use talk therapy techniques to help their clients. That includes resolving problem beliefs, changing behaviors, improving emotional outlook, and more.
When they treat children, therapists and counselors can work with the whole family or the child alone. They use a variety of ways to help kids express themselves, like drawing, playing, and talking. Older kids and teens may be ready for activities that help them learn needed skills.
Sometimes, it can help parents to see a therapist by themselves to get their own support.
Most states require licensed therapists and counselors to have a master’s degree. So in addition to a 4-year degree, they have education in their specific field.
One way to learn more about a therapist or clinical counselor is to look at the letters that come after their name. These are abbreviations of a license or accreditation that refer to a provider’s education and training. Different types of counselors and therapists include a:
Ask if your child’s mental health counselor or therapist is certified and find out about their education and experience with children.
Social workers can help people live healthier, more productive lives. Clinical social workers focus on diagnosing and treating mental health issues.
Like therapists and counselors, clinical social workers can help work families through challenging experiences like divorce. They can also treat mental health conditions like depression.
Clinical social workers work in many places, including with family doctors, at hospitals, and at nonprofit organizations.
They have at least a master’s degree. Here are a couple of the types of clinical social workers:
Nurses with advanced education provide a wide range of mental health services, including therapy and sometimes medication management. They have typically earned a master’s or doctoral degree, like a PhD or doctorate of nursing practice (DNP). They’re called mental health nurse practitioners or psychiatric nurse practitioners.
These titles sound similar, but they have an important difference.
Like a counselor or therapist, psychologists can make a mental health diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. They have doctoral degrees (like a PhD or PsyD), but are not medical doctors and can’t prescribe medicine.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) who can do everything a psychologist can, plus prescribe medicine.
For kids and teens who benefit from talk therapy alone, either a psychologist or a psychiatrist is a great choice. Those who need medication should see a psychiatrist. It’s often also helpful to get talk therapy along with medicines.
Getting help with emotions or stress is the same as getting help with a medical problem like asthma or diabetes. This article explains how therapy works and how it can help with problems.
What’s it like to go to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist? Find out in this article for kids.
Many children and teens have problems that affect how they feel, act, or learn. Going to therapy helps them cope better, feel better, and do better.
Serious stress can come from dealing with a personal crisis, a disaster, a health crisis, or a mental health condition that feels out of control. Here’s what to do when stress gets really serious.
Anxiety is a natural part of life, and most of us experience it from time to time. But for some people, anxiety can be extreme.
Anxiety is a normal part of growing up, and all kids experience it. But when it becomes extreme, it can interfere with a child’s overall happiness.
Find out what you can do if you think you or a friend has a drug or alcohol addiction – from recognizing the warning signs to suggestions to help you stay clean.
Negative emotions are impossible to avoid and everyone feels them from time to time. They may be difficult, but they don’t have to be stressful. Find out how to deal with stressful feelings.
If you’re dealing with your parents’ divorce, it may seem hard, but it is possible to cope and have a good family life in spite of the changes divorce can bring.
Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S. If you think your child is depressed, you’ll want to learn more about what depression is, what causes it, and what you can do to help.
Depression is very common. For more information about depression and feeling better, check out this article.
Fear is a normal human reaction that protects us by signaling danger and preparing us to deal with it. Get the facts about fears and phobias and what causes them.
If you need mental health care but don’t think you can afford it, you’re not alone. Get tips on finding low-cost or free mental health care in this article for teens.
School counselors know how to listen and can help kids with life’s challenges.
School counselors can give you all sorts of tips and support on solving problems and making good decisions. But how do you meet with a counselor and what is it like? Find out here.
No guide can guarantee a way to steer kids unscathed through a divorce. Every situation – and every family – is different. But these commonsense guidelines might make the adjustment a bit easier.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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