Finding help for your teen can be an overwhelming and confusing undertaking.
Because we've been through it ourselves, we'd like to share what we have learned about all of the options that are available.
WHERE TO START?
You may want to start with your pediatrician. He or she may want to see your child. S/he should have a list of therapists, psychiatrists, neuropsychologists for you.
If your child’s problems seem centered around school, you may want to talk to his/her counselor first. If his/her grades are sliding, ask if you can have your child tested. By law, public schools must test students for free.
If your child is refusing to attend school, the problems may be more complex. Talk to him/her to see if s/he has been a victim of bullying.
The cause could be anxiety due to a learning issue or depression. Adolescents are complex and enlisting a good therapist may be the right move.
If your child is cutting or talking about suicide or self harm, you must take his/her actions seriously. Talk to your pediatrician asap and find a psychiatrist or therapist. Also, be sure to have the Suicide Hotline number easily accessible.
Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
A confidential and anonymous source of information for persons seeking treatment facilities in the United States or U.S. Territories for substance abuse/addiction and/or mental health problems.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline
Free and confidential information in English and Spanish for individuals and family members facing substance abuse and mental health issues. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
CHOOSING A PSYCHIATRIST
When selecting a psychiatrist, look for a doctor who is certified as a child or adolescent psychiatrist (if your child is under age 18.) Be sure to ask what services s/he provides. Many psychiatrists just provide evaluations and medication management/
psychopharmacology. If you want a doctor who will do therapy as well, this may be harder to find.
Many families end up with a psychopharmacologist and a therapist to treat their child. If this is the case, communication between the two mental health professionals is very important. The parent may end up being the go-between.
There are a few practical considerations. Does your child have other regular appointments for therapy, etc.? If so, more appointments may make scheduling difficult. If your child is getting “therapy fatigue”, having two more doctors vs. one may not be a good idea. Then there is cost. In the Bay Area, most psychiatrists who just provide medication management, which is about a 20 minute appointment every few weeks, charge $250 and up. Psychologists and other therapists’ one hour rates start at about $150hr.
Most insurance plans will reimburse greater percentages of psychiatrist charges since they are MD’s. Reimbursement for therapists will vary since most insurance plans have lists of therapists they prefer that you use. If you go “out of network”, you will probably be reimbursed at a lower rate.
In regard to finding child or adolescent psychiatrists, ask your pediatrician for referrals. Also look at the list of psychiatrists provided by your insurance company. Finally, if you have friends who have dealt with a challenging teen, ask him or her for recommendations.