There’s nothing harder for a parent to witness than their child struggling, and if you need a psychiatrist for a child suffering from mental health issues, it can feel overwhelming to select the best professionals to fit your child’s needs. Here are a few tips to help you select a child psychiatrist and what to look for when selecting a doctor or therapist.
Child Psychiatrists Vs. Psychologists
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that can provide mental health care services, which includes prescribing medications to treat issues such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD and much more. A psychologist is also a mental health professional, but not a medical doctor, so they are unable to prescribe any medications.
In most cases, the best option for any patient is to use a combination of a psychiatrist and a psychologist or therapist. Psychiatrists can provide a diagnosis and medication, as well as study the overall physical condition of the patient. In some cases, there could be physical issues causing mental health issues or perhaps exacerbating these issues.
Psychiatrists do not, generally, provide any type of therapy, which is why it’s best to also find a therapist or psychologist. Talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and other types of therapy can yield huge benefits for any patient, providing an emotional outlet as well as helpful tools to help one cope with any mental health issues.
How To Find A Psychiatrist For Child Mental Health Issues
Whether you are searching for a psychiatrist or psychologist, the process is typically the same. For either of these professionals, you will want to look at their credentials. For instance, with a psychiatrist, you will want to look for someone who is board-certified in child and adolescent psychiatry.
You also will want to find a doctor or therapist that specializes in your child’s mental health issues. Of course, at the early stages of diagnosis, you might be uncertain as to your child’s exact issues. In general, most child and adolescent psychiatrists can diagnose a wide range of issues including ADHD, OCD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and more, including autism spectrum disorder and developmental disorders.
Many people will be diagnosed with multiple mental health issues, such as ADHD and anxiety or perhaps depression and anxiety. Co-occurring disorders are very common, so you need to find professionals that are experienced in helping individuals with all of the issues your child is facing.
When researching a doctor or therapist, read a bit about their philosophy and approach to treatment to see if it aligns with your parenting style and your family values. You also can ask for referrals from your child’s medical doctor or perhaps your school’s counselor.
Doctor reviews also can be a helpful tool, but, keep in mind, that negative reviews often come from patients that had unrealistic expectations about the outcome of their treatment. With any treatment option, there is no magic overnight cure.
Medication can be helpful, but it takes time for medications to work and to find the best dosage for an individual patient’s needs. Talk therapy and other types of therapy also take some time to work, as well, and some of the negative reviews you encounter are the result of a patient expecting a very quick resolution for their mental health issues.
For your convenience, I also recommend either finding a psychiatrist and therapist that are either close to your home or your child’s school, if possible. We lead busy lives and having a doctor conveniently close by is helpful. If you cannot find a good match locally, I recommend opting for a virtual psychiatrist.
Telepsychiatry can be a great option to consider for several reasons. It allows you to find the best possible doctor-patient match for your child. Virtual psychiatry also can be handled securely in the privacy of your home, which might feel more comfortable and less stressful for your child.
A virtual psychiatrist or therapist can be reached at any time from anywhere you have an internet connection, which provides you with the highest level of convenience. If your child feels under the weather or you are out of town, you can still meet with your mental health professionals. You also avoid having to drive and deal with traffic, etc., which can save you time and reduce your stress.
How To Help Your Child
Of all the “jobs” in the world, is there a tougher one than being a parent? While parenthood brings numerous joys, it also can be extremely stressful. While finding the best child psychiatrist and therapist for your child can make a huge difference in your family, it’s also important for parents to consider their own emotional and physical needs.
Many parents will blame themselves for their child’s mental health issues, but it’s important to understand that mental illness is not a weakness. It’s simply a medical condition that can be treated. As parents, providing encouragement and support to your child, and seeking support for yourself if needed, can make a huge difference in the quality of life for your entire family.
Parents often can benefit from therapy themselves, and there also might be classes to help one learn strategies to help their child experience as much success as possible. Whether you have a child struggling with ADHD or depression or anxiety or perhaps a combination of issues, it can be a good idea for you to learn all that you can about these issues and how best to help your child.
With any condition, whether it be physical or mental, learning all you can about what your child is facing is important. This can help you understand symptoms and better understand treatment options and possible outcomes. It’s important to help your child stick with their treatment plan and to have realistic expectations.
With a solid treatment plan, you should see much improvement, but there are always challenges and setbacks. These can be discouraging, but with patience and time, your child is sure to make great strides and live a happier, more successful life.
Contact Me At Anytime
If you’ve been searching for a child psychiatrist or teen psychiatrist, I specialize in providing treatment for many mental health issues. I can provide in-person or virtual psychiatry services. Whether you need an ADHD psychiatrist or a psychiatrist for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or another mental health condition, I can provide a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan that helps your child live their best life.
If your child is struggling with mental health issues, finding some type of therapy is a priority. However, choosing a type of therapy or deciding whether to use a child psychiatrist, psychologist or another type of therapist can be confusing. Let’s take a look at the different options you may want to consider.
Child & Family Therapists
A therapist, sometimes called a counselor, is a professional that has completed a master’s degree in a mental health-related specialty, such as family therapy or psychology. With children, a therapist might use talk therapy, play therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy to help with issues such as childhood trauma, anxiety, depression, ADHD, eating disorders or other mental health issues.
Psychologists have a bit more education and have completed a doctoral degree. In general, these professionals also provide therapy such as talk therapy, play therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Both psychologists and therapists often diagnose mental health issues and provide non-medical intervention and treatment.
A pediatric psychiatrist or child psychiatrist is another option to consider, and as a child psychiatrist, I often recommend this as a good first step. Psychiatrists are medical doctors and are the only type of therapists that can prescribe medication. However, medication is not the primary reason why I recommend consulting with a psychiatrist as a first step in the treatment of a mental health issue.
As a pediatric psychiatrist, I can provide the perspective of both a medical doctor and mental health professional. It can be smart to take a look at the whole person before deciding on treatment options. In some cases, there may be physical issues that are contributing to mental health issues and opting to meet first with a psychiatrist can be a more balanced approach.
In general, my area of expertise is providing patients with a complete and thorough diagnosis that addresses all issues that are present. Without a proper diagnosis, we can’t create an effective treatment plan. I meet with each patient several times to arrive at a diagnosis and then we discuss treatment options, which may or may not include medication.
While a pediatric psychiatrist can provide you with a thorough diagnosis, prescribe medication and create a treatment plan, they typically don’t provide therapy. You come to us to find out what is wrong, so to speak, and we diagnose, consider if medication is appropriate and discuss different types of therapy that will benefit the patient.
Common Conditions Psychiatrists Treat
There are many conditions that psychiatrists, as well as psychologists and therapists, can treat. These include:
For parents, it can be helpful to watch for signs of these types of mental health disorders. Bipolar disorder, for instance, is rare in young children, but it can occur. Typically, this condition develops during the teenage and young adult years and symptoms might include severe mood swings, aggression, engaging in risky behavior, an exaggerated sense of confidence or worthlessness.
Symptoms of depression include long-term feelings of sadness and hopelessness, changes in appetite, changes in sleep habits (either trouble sleeping or sleep excessively), fatigue, physical issues such as stomachaches or headaches that don’t get better with treatment, inability to concentrate and more. Depression in children can manifest as anger or moodiness, so if your child “acts out,” this could be a sign of depression.
Anxiety disorders have many symptoms, and these can include difficulty with concentration, sleep issues, eating issues, irritability or anger, constant worrying, constant crying, separation anxiety, anxiety about social events or school, constant stomach aches or simply feeling unwell. As you can see, some of these symptoms also are common with depression.
Of course, it’s worth noting that some of the symptoms of disorders such as ADHD also might look like symptoms of bipolar disorder. Symptoms of anxiety also could be an anxiety disorder or a manifestation of ADHD symptoms. In some cases, a person might have multiple mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression or anxiety and ADHD. This is why it is so important to spend much time coming to a correct diagnosis.
The main indicator that your child may have a mental health disorder is not just the presence of one or more symptoms. After all, we all have days where we feel cranky, worried, sad or anxious. When these issues persist for several months and interfere with daily life, then we recognize that steps need to be taken to improve our mental health. Basically, if your child’s issues are affecting their overall happiness, school performance, friendships or family life for several weeks or months, it’s time to get some help.
For some patients, medication may help ease symptoms, although it’s important to note that it can take time to find the best medication and the correct dosage. Medication alone also isn’t the best option. We typically recommend therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help a patient manage and alleviate symptoms.
Choosing The Right Child Psychiatrist, Psychologist & Therapist
To be honest, the hardest parts of any mental health journey are deciding to seek treatment and finding a psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist that is the best fit for your child. Every person is unique and what works with one person might not work with another.
For parents, it can be difficult to admit that your child needs help but look at it this way, parenting is hard, and our children don’t come with instruction manuals. Most parents aren’t mental health professionals, either, so there’s really no way they would know the best way to handle issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and so forth.
One thing that parents do understand is that something is wrong with their child’s wellbeing. If your child or teenager is struggling in school, has unusual dietary changes, has severe mood swings or perhaps is frequently anxious or upset or lacks interest in friendships, grooming or any activities they previously enjoyed, talk to your child’s doctor and then consider seeking further professional help.
A pediatric psychiatrist or child psychiatrist can be the best first step to take for the treatment of mental health issues in children and teenagers. As a licensed child psychiatrist, I can provide a thorough psychiatric consultation and come up with a treatment plan that addresses all of the issues your child or teen may be facing.
While I am a psychiatrist in Thousand Oaks, and many of my clients are from the surrounding area, I do offer telepsychiatry services. These days, as we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, this can be the best and safest option for families. It’s simple and easy, and you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home, which can be a huge relief to my younger patients.
Whether you need a child psychiatrist in Thousand Oaks, a psychiatrist in Westlake Village or anywhere else in Southern California, we can meet online using a desktop, tablet or even a smartphone. Don’t wait another day to find a treatment plan that works for your child, call us now at (805) 374-1120 and let’s set up a consultation and find ways to help your child or teen live their best life.
Dr Jesalva is a psychiatrist. He is in private practice in Thousand Oaks, CA since 1989. He successfully treats very challenging patients with varying co-occurring disorders with medications.