What to do to choose the right mental health professional for your child

Your child is depressed. Are you confused about choosing a mental health professional? What are the necessary things you should consider while selecting the therapist? In this article you will find the necessary guidelines which will help you to find out the right one for your child.


According to the prediction of the World Health Organization, depression is going to be the second most triggering factor of diseases all over the world by 2020. Depression is on the rise and children are affected equally due to various reasons. During the formative years, a child goes through various physiological and psychological changes and sometimes unable to cope with the stresses associated with those changes. Factors that lead to depression in children are stress, anxiety, relationship issues, loss of near and dear ones, alcohol and drug abuse, bullying in school and social media, family history, failure in exams, parental disharmony and many more.

As a parent, it is disheartening to see the children suffering from these issues and you must take immediate steps to address the problems. It is regrettable that the alarming rise is mostly because of under reporting of depressive disorders. Only about one third of the sufferers get help of any sort. There is a social stigma attached to mental illnesses and because of this many people feel uncomfortable to consult a mental health professional during crisis period. Your primary responsibility is to consult a mental health professional when you notice any abnormal behavioral change in your child. Follow the guidelines below to know more about how to choose a suitable mental health professional to effectively deal with the problems your child is having.

The signs of depression

A depressed child generally exhibits few emotional characteristics that last for two weeks or more. They are sadness, irritability, crying, inadequacy and withdrawal from others. Along with these the feeling of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness gradually develop. These emotional characteristics are different from normal emotional outbursts or mood fluctuations and stay for a much longer period hampering usual day-to-day affairs. You may also notice a loss of interest in daily activities, reduced concentration, violent behavior, noticeable changes in eating or sleeping habits, suicidal thoughts or extreme mood fluctuations. It is not necessary that all of the above characteristics will be visible in cases of depression, even only a few visible changes are enough to consult a professional.

Whom to go for the first consultation

Your family doctor is the first person to whom you can consult if you are not aware of any mental health professional nearby. Usually your family doctor is not a mental health professional, though having enough experience to diagnose mental health problems and you must consult a trained mental health therapist for proper diagnosis of your child's mental issues. It is very important to accurately assess the disorder. There are many instances where people are not accurately diagnosed which ultimately complicated the disorder and for this very reason correct diagnosis is the fundamental requirement. Your family doctor should have the details of the available mental health professionals in the vicinity and you must apply your mind while making the choice.

Whether to choose a psychiatrist or a psychologist

It depends on the disorder of the child. A psychiatrist is a medical practitioner, having a special training on psychological health who can prescribe medicines for treatment of mental disorders. On the other hand a psychologist has a training to deal with various mental health problems, but cannot prescribe medicines and their line of treatment varies according to the disorder of the patient. It can be cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, play therapy, etc. If the child has a mild depression then antidepressant medications are not used as the first line of treatment, instead it is effectively treated with cognitive behavioral therapy. In cases of moderate to severe depressive disorders antidepressant medications are used. Sometimes a combination of antidepressant medication and behavioral therapy are used to treat severe depressions. Adverse effects are associated with these antidepressant medications and must be administered to children with caution. You must talk to the mental health professional, if he is prescribing any medication, about the possible adverse effects and ways to tackle those undesirable effects.

How to select the right mental health professional

In the present scenario where depression is rising at an alarming rate, many therapists advertise themselves in different ways to prove how effective they are and so it may be difficult to choose the right one for your child. Other than the required training and qualifications there are few other aspects that you must consider while choosing the therapist.

  • Qualification : While you cannot go and ask a therapist to show their certificates, but you can always check their qualifications mentioned in their visiting cards or websites. In India the required qualification to practice as a psychologist is BA/BSc or MA/MSc in Psychology/Applied Psychology where a specific application field is chosen as special paper. For a psychiatrist the required qualification is MBBS, DPM or MD(Psychiatry). Along with the qualifications, experience in the field of work is also important

  • The looks of the therapist : It is one of the important factors while choosing a therapist. Do not look for glamour queens or superheroes. Glamour is not at all important for a mental health professional and a person with soothing looks is all you need. The looks of the therapist evokes an emotional attachment in the patient so if you find somebody glorifying their looks to gain attention it is better to avoid them

  • Area of specialization : There are various application areas of psychology that deals with different disorders. For example some therapists are specially trained to deal with behavioral problems and there are others who look after the problems related to substance abuse. Tell the therapist about the problems of your child and ask whether he deals with them and the methods he applies to deal with those problems. The same method never works for all the disorders and if the therapist says he applies the same method to deal with many problems then he is not the right one for your child

  • Time taken to overcome problems : Avoid looking for dramatic results. It takes time to see considerable improvement in mental health conditions. Ask the therapist about the time it will take for your child's recovery. The coordination between the therapist and the patient is a must and your role as a parent to motivate the child in the process is necessary. If the condition of your child is not improving even after a couple of sessions, you should think of an alternative.


The relation between the therapist and your child is the most important thing and if your child doesn't like to go to the therapist then never force him. The intimate feelings of the patient are shared with the therapist and if the intimacy is not there between the child and the therapist, the treatment plan will never work. In that case you must look for another therapist. As a parent, you have a major role to play to help out your child. You need to be compassionate and spend quality time with your child. By following the guidelines mentioned here, choose the appropriate therapist and with an effective treatment plan your child will be able to manage depression in a meaningful way.

Article by Sankalan Bhattacharya
Sankalan "Life is easier when you enjoy what you do"

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Author: Reena Upadhya28 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 7

Mental health professionals are the individuals who diagnose and treat mental conditions. They all specialize in different areas such as therapy for the entire family, treatment of substance misuse and treatment of depression. One can find them working in various settings such as hospitals, private clinics, working with NGO's and other agencies.

Psychologists offer to counsel the patients. They usually do not prescribe drugs. They need to be licensed to do so. They may be working along with other doctors who are licensed to prescribe drugs.

One who specializes in the area of mental health is known as a psychiatrist. They offer counseling which is known as psychotherapy. They are also licensed to prescribe drugs.

There are also other mental health professionals such as licensed clinical social worker, psychiatric-mental health nurse, licensed professional counselor, and physician assistant.

Many of these mental health professionals are able to treat various mental conditions. Thus, always go for a specialized one. Mild symptoms and not so complex diagnosis can be treated by any one of them. If the child's symptoms are severe and diagnosis has become complex, need is to go for an expert. Some of them are not eligible to prescribe drugs. Before going to them focus whether the child needs only counseling or both counseling and drugs. Choose them as per the concern and needs.

Author: Umesh30 Sep 2018 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

A very useful article by the author. Depression is becoming a very challenging problem in our times and even for expert Psychiatrists, it is an uphill task to bring the sufferer back to the normal stream.

If the child gets the symptom of depression then we have to look up to the possible causes behind it. Sometimes there are fears in the mind of the child and he starts to seclude from the normal activities on one pretext or other.

The mind of a child is very tender and delicate and he can be hurt by a small gesture. Psychologists know these things in details and will suggest behavioral solutions to tackle them. The family members have a bigger responsibility in the matter as most of the times child is surrounded by them. Collective efforts by the family members under guidance from a clinical Psychiatrist only can bring positive results in the matter.

Author: Sanjeev Gupta30 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 1

There is a difference in psychiatrists and psychologists. The former are trained doctors who treat patients with medicines whereas the later ones treat patients through counseling and behavioral study. These days more and more people are suffering from mental illness and so the need for such specialists are increasing day by day.

Nice tips for selecting a doctor has been mentioned by the author.

Author: Sheo Shankar Jha30 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

With the competitive age, the mental disease, too, has begun to surface. Their manifestations at the initial stage are not noticeable owing to minor symptoms such as irritability, forgetfulness, not responsive to different activities including an aversion to the studies, insomnia etc. However, the symptoms are noticeable with a closer look by the parents. Some of the mental ailments can be addressed by the parents with the proper deliberations with their kids with a gentle touch of affection for their kids. They should take equal interests with all the activities of the kids with which the kids are involved - be it school or otherwise.

However, such talks with the parents may not be fruitful. A consultation with the psychologist may improve the situation of the child if the psychologist is known to the child as well. With a prudent approach, the gravity of the situation can be reversed and that too any medicine. A psychologist analyses the entire mental history of the parents and then he follows the counselling - session of a fixed tenure for the reversal of the mental trauma. The role of psychiatrist would be somewhat different in the sense that he will prescribe some medication depending upon the severity of the ailment. Even sedative drugs may be prescribed if the situation so warrants. Here also the expertise of the therapist would help in the normalisation of the patients.

The author has indicated several parameters such as consumption of time, the qualification of the specialists etc for the easy traceability of such specialist making it worth reading.

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