When your child, teenager, or young adult is showing signs of needing mental health help, it’s hard to know who to talk to first. After all, it isn’t always easy to talk to your friends and family about your child’s mental health needs.
But you are not alone. Mental health conditions are far more common in children than you might think. About 1 in 5 children will have a mental health condition at some point. So, there are a lot of other parents going through the same thing you are going through. And there is a network of mental health services and resources to help.
Getting Your Child a Mental Health Diagnosis
Getting a mental health diagnosis for your child might be a complicated process. Sometimes, your child behaves beautifully in the doctor’s or psychologist’s office and only shows the behavior that worries you at home or school. It might take a while for you to find the right therapist or doctor and schedule a visit. And your child will probably have more than one temporary diagnosis that changes as they grow and develop.
But the sooner you make that first call – even if your child is still quite young – the sooner your child and your family can get help.
How to Find a Mental Health Professional
Whether you are looking for a diagnosis or trying to find ongoing therapy or support, here are people, programs, and places that other parents and professionals say are helpful:
Paying for Treatment
- Health insurance programs must cover mental health services. Call your insurance company or visit their website to find providers who take your insurance.
- Medicaid benefits will cover some mental health services.
- If your child already is getting other services through the Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) program, CSHCN might also pay for mental health services. Learn more about CSHCN on our Texas Department of State Health Services page.
- Visit our Supplemental Security Income (SSI) page to learn more about the rules for getting financial help for your child or family.
- Some therapists and mental health clinics work on a sliding scale. This means that they will charge you less if your family has a lower income and no insurance that can help cover the costs.
- See our Funding and Grants page for more ways to get financial help with mental health services.
Working With Providers
Before you go in for an appointment, it’s helpful to write down all of your concerns. These could include your child’s behaviors, emotions, social skills, and more. It might be hard for younger children to describe what’s going on within them, so the doctor or therapist might really rely on you to get information for their diagnosis.
Many times, a mental health professional’s diagnosis will be very general, especially for younger children. They might use a catch-all diagnosis like “adjustment disorder” to allow your child to start therapy. Or, your child might have a more specific diagnosis at first that changes with time as their symptoms change.
If your child has complex needs that are served by more than one state agency, you can search for and call your local Community Resource Coordination Group (CRCG). They can hold a community meeting to help you put a mental health care plan in place for your child, which might include programs from different state agencies, community groups, and mental health providers.
To learn more about mental health and other diagnoses, see the CDC Children's Mental Disorders page.
Places That Provide Mental Health Treatment for Children
Children have all different types of mental health needs. They might be having a mental health crisis and need immediate, intensive care. Or they might need longer-term support. Depending on your situation, here are some places your child might receive treatment:
- A private therapist’s office or a mental health clinic. Your child may have therapy alone, in a group with other children, or with you and other family members.
- At school. There might be an in-school counseling or support group. And if you child has a mental health diagnosis, they may be able to get special education services or 504 accommodations.
- Your Local Mental Health Authority (LMHA) is a public clinic where your child can get therapy or find a mentor. LMHAs also have Certified Family Partners to help your family navigate the mental health system.
- Acute inpatient care. This is a short-term stay in a mental health hospital to help your child through a crisis, usually 2 to 3 days.
- Intensive outpatient care. Your child gets help and support at a mental health hospital or clinic, but still comes home at night.
- Residential treatment center. This is a place where your child might live for a longer time to receive intensive care, usually anywhere from a few weeks to many months.
Professionals You Might Work With
- Your child’s regular doctor knows your child and might have ways to help right away – or can tell you about therapists and other support services.
- A psychologist can do an assessment or tests, give a diagnosis, and may offer therapy.
- A psychiatrist can diagnose and prescribe medication.
- A licensed professional counselor (LPC) can give a diagnosis and provide therapy.
- A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) can give a diagnosis, provide therapy, and might be able to connect your family to other community supports.
- A Certified Family Partner (CFP) is another parent of a child with a mental health condition and has been trained to help other parents navigate the mental health system. Most CFPs work through a Local Mental Health Authority.
- A mentor is an adult who can be a positive role model and guide your child in their mental health discovery.