Childhood Depression: Choosing the Right Therapist

Reviewed Apr 6, 2017

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Summary

  • Discover the different kinds of help a child can receive.
  • Find out how to choose a therapist.
  • Learn what you can do to help.

Questions to ask your doctor

Checking with your child’s doctor is a good first step if you think she may be depressed. Share what you are seeing in your child’s behaviors. Be as specific as you can. Giving examples is very helpful. A doctor can examine your child for other illnesses that may look like depression, and help make a referral to a specialist, if needed. 

Choosing the right therapist

If your child needs to see a therapist to help deal with his depression, you may wish to first check with your insurer to get a referral. It would also be good to find out what is covered first. That is, does it cover medication, one-on-one talk therapy, or family therapy?

Credentials, training, and education

There are a variety of behavioral health care professionals who treat childhood depression. These include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, family therapists, and professional counselors. Most states require professional licenses for all these providers, so make sure this is the case with whomever you choose.

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors that have additional specialized training in the area of human behavior and mental illness. 
  • Clinical psychologists are nonmedical doctors with clinical psychology degrees and special training in diagnosing and treating individuals with mental health issues.
  • Clinical social workers most often have a master’s degree and specialize in the area of mental health.
  • Counselors and family therapists usually have master’s degrees also. They have also taken course work, and have supervised experience, in working with individuals and families.

Just because someone is a licensed professional does not mean she works with children. Be sure to ask first. Ask the provider if he has time for a few questions, such as:

  • How many years have you been in practice?
  • How many children have you worked with that have similar problems to what my child is experiencing?
  • How long can treatment be expected to last?
  • What are the outcomes you generally have with such children?
  • If my child may need medication, how is this handled?
  • What role will you take with working with my child’s school?
  • How involved will I be in my child’s care?
  • Do you have experience with substance use? (if that is suspected)

Types of therapy and services

All child therapists should provide a supportive and nurturing relationship with the child. Sometimes therapists may use play therapy, art therapy, and so forth. Some may prefer to go for a walk around the office building or sit under a tree and talk with the child instead of staying in the office. It might seem more comfortable or natural for the child.

One-on-one talk therapy usually works best when combined with family counseling. This can help you to understand what can be done at home to support what goes on in talk therapy with your child. It is a good idea for other siblings to be involved as well. The therapist will let you know.

A team approach is a good idea, too. This means that all the professionals involved should speak to any others who are involved in the child’s daily life. This can include school personnel and perhaps the child’s doctor or other medical specialist, if there is one.

No health care provider may legally discuss your child’s case without your written permission. Be sure to provide it where needed.

Your involvement

It is important to be involved in and understand what is called the “treatment plan.” This is the plan that identifies what the problems are, how they are to be addressed, how long it may take and who is involved with doing what. Sometimes these are quite formalized and other times, more informal. What is necessary is that everyone is very clear as to what the expectations are of all involved. Also what the goals are, the associated timelines, and the willingness to make changes if things are not going well or if there are unexpected setbacks.

While it is hard to say how long things may take, it is highly probable that your child will do better with quality care and your active involvement.

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Beardslee WR, Gladstone TR. Prevention of childhood depression: recent findings and future prospects. Biol Psychiatry. 2001;49:1101-1110; Bonin L. Depression in adolescents: epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis, www.uptodate.com/contents/depression-in-adolescents-epidemiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis; Carlson GA. The challenge of diagnosing depression in childhood and adolescence. J Affect Disord. December 2000;61(suppl 1):3-8; Castiglia PT. Depression in children. J Pediatr Health Care. March-April 2000;14:73-75; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association, 1999; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1MDD_CHILD.shtml; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Steven T. Batton, DO, Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Division

Summary

  • Discover the different kinds of help a child can receive.
  • Find out how to choose a therapist.
  • Learn what you can do to help.

Questions to ask your doctor

Checking with your child’s doctor is a good first step if you think she may be depressed. Share what you are seeing in your child’s behaviors. Be as specific as you can. Giving examples is very helpful. A doctor can examine your child for other illnesses that may look like depression, and help make a referral to a specialist, if needed. 

Choosing the right therapist

If your child needs to see a therapist to help deal with his depression, you may wish to first check with your insurer to get a referral. It would also be good to find out what is covered first. That is, does it cover medication, one-on-one talk therapy, or family therapy?

Credentials, training, and education

There are a variety of behavioral health care professionals who treat childhood depression. These include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, family therapists, and professional counselors. Most states require professional licenses for all these providers, so make sure this is the case with whomever you choose.

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors that have additional specialized training in the area of human behavior and mental illness. 
  • Clinical psychologists are nonmedical doctors with clinical psychology degrees and special training in diagnosing and treating individuals with mental health issues.
  • Clinical social workers most often have a master’s degree and specialize in the area of mental health.
  • Counselors and family therapists usually have master’s degrees also. They have also taken course work, and have supervised experience, in working with individuals and families.

Just because someone is a licensed professional does not mean she works with children. Be sure to ask first. Ask the provider if he has time for a few questions, such as:

  • How many years have you been in practice?
  • How many children have you worked with that have similar problems to what my child is experiencing?
  • How long can treatment be expected to last?
  • What are the outcomes you generally have with such children?
  • If my child may need medication, how is this handled?
  • What role will you take with working with my child’s school?
  • How involved will I be in my child’s care?
  • Do you have experience with substance use? (if that is suspected)

Types of therapy and services

All child therapists should provide a supportive and nurturing relationship with the child. Sometimes therapists may use play therapy, art therapy, and so forth. Some may prefer to go for a walk around the office building or sit under a tree and talk with the child instead of staying in the office. It might seem more comfortable or natural for the child.

One-on-one talk therapy usually works best when combined with family counseling. This can help you to understand what can be done at home to support what goes on in talk therapy with your child. It is a good idea for other siblings to be involved as well. The therapist will let you know.

A team approach is a good idea, too. This means that all the professionals involved should speak to any others who are involved in the child’s daily life. This can include school personnel and perhaps the child’s doctor or other medical specialist, if there is one.

No health care provider may legally discuss your child’s case without your written permission. Be sure to provide it where needed.

Your involvement

It is important to be involved in and understand what is called the “treatment plan.” This is the plan that identifies what the problems are, how they are to be addressed, how long it may take and who is involved with doing what. Sometimes these are quite formalized and other times, more informal. What is necessary is that everyone is very clear as to what the expectations are of all involved. Also what the goals are, the associated timelines, and the willingness to make changes if things are not going well or if there are unexpected setbacks.

While it is hard to say how long things may take, it is highly probable that your child will do better with quality care and your active involvement.

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Beardslee WR, Gladstone TR. Prevention of childhood depression: recent findings and future prospects. Biol Psychiatry. 2001;49:1101-1110; Bonin L. Depression in adolescents: epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis, www.uptodate.com/contents/depression-in-adolescents-epidemiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis; Carlson GA. The challenge of diagnosing depression in childhood and adolescence. J Affect Disord. December 2000;61(suppl 1):3-8; Castiglia PT. Depression in children. J Pediatr Health Care. March-April 2000;14:73-75; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association, 1999; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1MDD_CHILD.shtml; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Steven T. Batton, DO, Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Division

Summary

  • Discover the different kinds of help a child can receive.
  • Find out how to choose a therapist.
  • Learn what you can do to help.

Questions to ask your doctor

Checking with your child’s doctor is a good first step if you think she may be depressed. Share what you are seeing in your child’s behaviors. Be as specific as you can. Giving examples is very helpful. A doctor can examine your child for other illnesses that may look like depression, and help make a referral to a specialist, if needed. 

Choosing the right therapist

If your child needs to see a therapist to help deal with his depression, you may wish to first check with your insurer to get a referral. It would also be good to find out what is covered first. That is, does it cover medication, one-on-one talk therapy, or family therapy?

Credentials, training, and education

There are a variety of behavioral health care professionals who treat childhood depression. These include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, family therapists, and professional counselors. Most states require professional licenses for all these providers, so make sure this is the case with whomever you choose.

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors that have additional specialized training in the area of human behavior and mental illness. 
  • Clinical psychologists are nonmedical doctors with clinical psychology degrees and special training in diagnosing and treating individuals with mental health issues.
  • Clinical social workers most often have a master’s degree and specialize in the area of mental health.
  • Counselors and family therapists usually have master’s degrees also. They have also taken course work, and have supervised experience, in working with individuals and families.

Just because someone is a licensed professional does not mean she works with children. Be sure to ask first. Ask the provider if he has time for a few questions, such as:

  • How many years have you been in practice?
  • How many children have you worked with that have similar problems to what my child is experiencing?
  • How long can treatment be expected to last?
  • What are the outcomes you generally have with such children?
  • If my child may need medication, how is this handled?
  • What role will you take with working with my child’s school?
  • How involved will I be in my child’s care?
  • Do you have experience with substance use? (if that is suspected)

Types of therapy and services

All child therapists should provide a supportive and nurturing relationship with the child. Sometimes therapists may use play therapy, art therapy, and so forth. Some may prefer to go for a walk around the office building or sit under a tree and talk with the child instead of staying in the office. It might seem more comfortable or natural for the child.

One-on-one talk therapy usually works best when combined with family counseling. This can help you to understand what can be done at home to support what goes on in talk therapy with your child. It is a good idea for other siblings to be involved as well. The therapist will let you know.

A team approach is a good idea, too. This means that all the professionals involved should speak to any others who are involved in the child’s daily life. This can include school personnel and perhaps the child’s doctor or other medical specialist, if there is one.

No health care provider may legally discuss your child’s case without your written permission. Be sure to provide it where needed.

Your involvement

It is important to be involved in and understand what is called the “treatment plan.” This is the plan that identifies what the problems are, how they are to be addressed, how long it may take and who is involved with doing what. Sometimes these are quite formalized and other times, more informal. What is necessary is that everyone is very clear as to what the expectations are of all involved. Also what the goals are, the associated timelines, and the willingness to make changes if things are not going well or if there are unexpected setbacks.

While it is hard to say how long things may take, it is highly probable that your child will do better with quality care and your active involvement.

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Beardslee WR, Gladstone TR. Prevention of childhood depression: recent findings and future prospects. Biol Psychiatry. 2001;49:1101-1110; Bonin L. Depression in adolescents: epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis, www.uptodate.com/contents/depression-in-adolescents-epidemiology-clinical-manifestations-and-diagnosis; Carlson GA. The challenge of diagnosing depression in childhood and adolescence. J Affect Disord. December 2000;61(suppl 1):3-8; Castiglia PT. Depression in children. J Pediatr Health Care. March-April 2000;14:73-75; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association, 1999; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1MDD_CHILD.shtml; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD, LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Steven T. Batton, DO, Medical Director, ValueOptions Federal Division

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