Finding Mental Health Treatment For Your Child
Disclaimer: Content on this site is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please see below for full disclaimer.
If you have any concerns about safety (your child is talking about suicide or is a threat to the safety of others), please contact your local crisis hotline or call 911 right away.
Imagine this: You feel overwhelmed and ineffective managing your 4-year-old, who seems to be running the show at home, and have realized that, if things continue on their current path, your relationship with your child is headed in a very bad direction.
Or this: Your 13-year-old has become withdrawn and unfocused. You know she is struggling socially and you recently caught a glimpse of several cuts, in various stages of healing, on her thighs. You have decided it is time to get help – for your child, for yourself – but where do you begin? How do you find a therapist or treatment program that you not only feel comfortable with, but can feel confident is well-qualified and able to help?
In my day-job I work to support evidence-based programs. “Evidence-based” has become a trendy term, so it gets thrown around a lot these days and means different things to different people. But, at its basic level, evidence-based means that high quality research has shown a program or treatment is effective for a particular problem. In the medical field, we look to science to tell us which treatment is most likely to work for a condition. We can do the same for mental health. More and more, research is telling us which therapies are most effective for which problems.
Picture all of the different therapies and treatment programs and medications out there along a continuum:
- At one end of the continuum are treatments we know don’t work or are even harmful. Eek! Steer clear of those!
- In the middle are treatments we aren’t sure about, either because they haven’t been enough studied yet or the research findings are mixed.
- And at the other end are treatments that we know, based on research, have a high likelihood of being successful.
Okay, so as a parent, you probably want to find the therapy or treatment that is most likely to help your child and family, right? But just how do you do that?
Ah, good news! There are a number of resources that can help you out. Here are three I found really useful:
- KidsMentalHealthInfo.org – This website was recently created by the Child Health & Development Institute of Connecticut. While some of the information is Connecticut-specific, it is a user-friendly site with a Parents & Caregivers section that addresses many common questions (e.g., “Does my child need help?”) as well as a section on Best Practices.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI created a great resource a few years ago, “Choosing The Right Treatment: What Families Need To Know About Evidence-Based Practices.” Pages 11-13 offer ideas for questions you might want to ask a potential therapist. A chart on p. 15 provides an overview of evidence-based treatments for several common issues, and the following pages explain each of those treatments in more detail.
- Effective Child Therapy – Sponsored by a division of the American Psychological Association, this site offers information about evidence-based treatment and child therapy and has a section for parents and caregivers. If you know your child’s diagnosis, the page “EBP Options for Specific Disorders,” which is under the Professionals & Educators section, may be helpful. (EBP stands for evidence-based program or practice.)
These resources not only share information about effective treatments, but also address questions like “How do I know if my child needs help?” and “What should I ask a potential therapist?” empowering parents to make well-informed decisions as they get their children and families the help they need.
Disclaimer: Nothing found on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional psychological, psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or mental disorder. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided by BonBon Break is solely at your own risk. The inclusion of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or approval of those sites or their contents. This website bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external sites or for that of subsequent links.
ABOUT ELLIE: Ellie is the Editor of the Family Room at BonBon Break and blogs at Musing Momma, where she shares honest and personal stories ranging from reflections on motherhood to tips for raising healthy and (relatively) well-behaved kids, and from research on child development to fun family activities. As wife and mother in a multiracial family, she often writes about the intersection of race and family, and her experience raising two African-American/white sons. Ellie has a Ph.D. in psychology and counseled children and families for several years before changing paths to spend more time with her family. She resides in central Pennsylvania with her husband and their two adorably mischievous boys, ages 4 and 7.
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