Child Mental Health

Children can be affected by many of the same mental health challenges as adults, such as anxiety or depression. However, these problems can be difficult to identify in children, who don’t always have the communication skills to tell us how they are feeling.

Untreated mental health concerns can have long-term impacts on the health and wellbeing of children. As a parent, it’s important to know the signs so that you can seek early assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. This can make a huge difference to the rest of the lives of children.

Types of child mental health issues

Many mental health disorders can occur during childhood, including:

Children may experience neurodevelopmental conditions that affect their behavior and emotions, such as:

Prevalence of mental health challenges in children

National survey data suggests that between 14 and 20% of children in America experience a mental health disorder in any given year (1). Some of the most common mental health conditions diagnosed in children are (2):

Signs of mental health challenges in children

It can be hard to know if children are experiencing mental health challenges because they can’t always tell us what they’re feeling. The following symptoms in your child may benefit from a visit with your pediatrician:

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, seek an evaluation from a pediatrician or child therapist. This is of particular importance if the symptoms last longer than two weeks or are interfering with their daily lives at school or home.

Treatment options for children with mental health challenges

If you think your child is experiencing behavioral or emotional challenges, consider one or more of the following options:

Therapy for children

Many effective types of talk or play therapy can help improve the emotional, social, and behavioral wellbeing of children. Some involve the child alone, while others involve the parent or the whole family. Almost all therapy types for children require that parents incorporate learnings from sessions into the home environment, where children spend the most time.

Therapy types to consider include:

What to look for in a child therapist

There are several factors to keep in mind when selecting a child therapist, including:

Specialization: Look for a therapist who has experience and specialized training in working with children as well as the particular challenge your child is experiencing. Therapists for young people often identify themselves as “child and adolescent therapists,” or will have “children”, “adolescents”, or “teenagers” indicated as a clientele type on their website or online profile. If you are seeking medication management for your child, look for a psychiatrist who is board certified in child psychiatry.

Qualifications: With so many different provider types available, it can be difficult to decide which type of mental health professional to see. The most important thing is to look for a currently licensed therapist. That said, if you think medication might be necessary, make sure you see a child psychiatrist, as this particular type of mental health professional is able to prescribe.

Personal fit: The trusting relationship between client and therapist, known as the “therapeutic alliance” can have a huge impact on the efficacy of therapy. As such, it’s important to look for a therapist with whom your child feels comfortable.

The best way to judge how you might feel about a therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. This also allows you to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before deciding on a provider.

Find therapists specializing in child mental health

Find therapists who specialize in working with children on Zencare. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

Sources and references