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.
7/28/2021 12:31:26 pm
It is great to know that psychiatrists treat both depression and ADHD in children. My 12-year-old son suffers from ADHD and depression, and I want to find the best treatment for him. I will have to find a reputable and trustworthy child psychiatrist that can treat my son's conditions.
9/9/2021 08:05:54 pm
Thanks for pointing out that psychologists and therapists diagnose mental health issues and provide non-medical treatment and intervention. This is really helpful because our only son has been suffering from depression. I guess we should look for a childhood social disorder plan on Monday that can help our child feel his absolute best with the tools he needs to succeed.
11/1/2021 09:59:21 pm
I noticed that my son has been experiencing some violent mood swings and he has become increasingly reclusive. I appreciate that this post mentioned that when looking for a psychiatrist, it is important to consider their license and qualifications. It makes sense for us to do so as it will ensure that our loved ones are under proper care. I will definitely look at their qualifications before hiring them to treat my son.
11/12/2021 07:54:00 pm
It helped when you mentioned that one of the symptoms of depression is feelings of sadness and hopelessness. A friend of mine mentioned to me last night about having mental health consultation because of depression and asked if I have any idea what is the best option to do. Thanks to this informative article and I'll be sure to tell him that it will be much better if he consults a trusted psychiatrist as they can answer all his inquiries and will provide proper treatment.
2/20/2022 10:46:09 pm
I am grateful that this post shared that when looking for a child psychologist, it is encouraged that we ensure they are certified. It makes sense as in doing so, it ensures that our children will receive the best treatment and guidance. I will definitely keep this information in mind when I look for a psychologist for my daughter to cope with her anxiety.
4/4/2022 02:00:16 pm
It really helped when you talked about child therapists and how they'd help your kids. The other day, my sister said she's worried about her son's lack of friends and social circle. My sister thinks something's off with her child and doesn't know how to help him, so I'll be sure to share your tips with her now. Thank you for the advice on hiring licensed therapists for any mental health condition.
10/17/2022 05:05:05 am
It got me when you discussed that parents should observe their child for any type of mental health issue. My friend thinks her child is struggling mentally. I think it's best for them to consult a specialist when it comes to young children therapy.
12/13/2022 07:22:35 am
My son has been struggling with anxiety, and I'm trying to help him. It makes sense that a child psychiatrist would be a good choice. They would be able to figure out what might be the best treatment for him.
2/22/2023 09:05:53 am
I love this article thank you so much I am currently struggling getting help with my 6 yr old son. And feel like I'm drowning.
Thanks for helping me understand that psychiatrists for kids will be helpful when you need to have medication prescribed for them. I wonder if that is needed for my niece who has been showing signs of mental illness. My sister plans to look for a licensed online psychiatric evaluation service first to get her checked before looking for treatments and medications for her.
Leave a Reply.
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.