How to Find a Good Child Therapist

You feel over your head. You’ve hemmed and hawed, but last night’s behavior solidified it – you need to find a child therapist. Your child needs help. Your family needs help. But, where do you start?

You've finally decided. Yes, you need a child therapist. But, where to start? Here are some inside tips from a child therapist.

You thought the decision to pursue therapy was hard, but finding a child therapist seems even harder! Where do you find one? What makes a good child therapist?


Relax, I’ve got you covered. As a child therapist, I will shed some light on what to look for and what to ask.


Let’s get started:




Finding a child therapist doesn’t have to be difficult. Many people feel more comfortable with a referral from someone they know and trust. Talk to friends and family – you’d be surprised at how many people have seen a child therapist.


Also, a good child therapist will have connections with people in your community. Ask your pediatrician’s office if they have a referral for a child therapist. Many offices will have a referral list. The school is another great resource. If your child’s school has a counselor or social worker – ask them who they typically recommend.


Another easy place to start is on the Internet. Most child therapists have a website. If you do a search for a child therapist in your city – chances are some websites are going to pop up. This will give you a chance to weed out your options.


Therapists commonly join therapy directories. You can find psychcentral’s therapy directory here. Other popular directories include, and




Okay, you have gathered a pretty hefty list of names and numbers – but what are all those letters after everyone’s names? LMFT, LCSW, LPC, MD, PhD, Psy.D. – I am pretty convinced that mental health professionals have more letters than any other profession. For help making heads and tails of this alphabet soup click here to read this helpful article.




I always meet with parents alone the first session, but not all child therapists do this. I think it is helpful for parents to get an opportunity to connect with the therapist without their child present. This gives you and the child therapist the freedom to ask questions, without worrying about how this would affect your child.


If the child therapist usually meets with the child the initial session, ask if it would be okay if you have a parent-only session first. A good child therapist will be flexible.




At the parent-only session ask yourself these questions:


Did we connect?


Is the child therapist warm and engaging? If you are not connecting with the child therapist, chances are your child won’t either. Child therapists are human and just like people in the real world – you will connect with some and not with others.


How did I feel after the session?


Did you leave feeling uplifted and hopeful or overwhelmed and doubtful? How the child therapist made you feel is an indication of how they will make your child feel. When I hear parents tell me, “I feel so much better just talking about it” or “I feel better about everything already” – I know it was a successful parent session.


Do they work with kids?


Okay – you might think that is a dumb question. Of course they work with kids – they are a child therapist. But, some therapist work with everyone. They may have put on their website or profile that they work with kids – but that doesn’t mean they specialize in children.


I am a big believer that you can’t be an expert in everything. I don’t work with couples – because I know next to nothing about couples counseling. Having said that, not everyone understands how to work with children. You may know how to treat anxiety – but treating anxiety in kids is a whole different ball game.


Some therapists have lots of experience working with teens, but may be lost with a toddler. Ask the therapist if they are comfortable working with your child’s age range and primary issue.


Having to switch to a new therapist mid-stream can cause major setbacks. Avoid the hassle and ask these questions before you start.


What did the room look like?


No, I am not being an office décor snob. What the office looks like is a key component to child therapy. You might be able to overlook a small, unwelcoming space – but kids can’t. Kids don’t just sit on a couch and talk in child therapy. If that is the expectation – keep looking. Kids talk the most when they are engaged, distracted and having fun. I get more from a child who is doing an art project or playing mini-basketball, than I ever would get from a child just sitting on my couch.




So you are all set. You found the perfect child therapist and you are ready to start therapy. Here are some tips as you progress through therapy:


Try to avoid giving updates in front of your child


Try to be aware of what you say in front of your child. You want therapy to be a positive experience. If you have updates for the therapist – leave a voice message or use email if you feel comfortable.


Meet with the therapist alone every few sessions


I always meet with parents alone every three sessions. I think it is nice to be able to have a whole session to discuss my clinical impressions, what goals I am working on and what parental approaches might work. If your child therapist doesn’t routinely meet with you alone – ask them if they can.


Schedule a few sessions ahead


A good child therapist is a busy child therapist. Therapy is more fruitful when you have regular and consistent sessions. If your child therapist doesn’t offer regular time slots – be sure to schedule two or three sessions at a time.


Do not grill your child after each session


The worst thing a parent can do is grill their child after each session. This behavior has the risk of shutting your child down. Ask your child, “How did it go?” and leave it at that. If they want to talk about it – they will.


When you meet alone with the child therapist, you should hopefully get a clear picture of how therapy is going and what types of goals they are working on. If you don’t – ask.


A child therapist can be a wealth of support. They can help you and your child cope with basic issues like communication to more serious issues with clinical diagnoses. Once you find a good child therapist they can be an ongoing resource whenever you need some extra help.


Do you have any tips or experiences of your own to share? Parents would love to hear your experiences and tips too! Leave a comment below.


Know someone who is looking for a child therapist? Share this article with them!


Want another interesting read? Read a Family Psychologist’s Top 20 Most Common Parenting Mistakes.

Do you know an anxious teen? Give them the only self-help book teens are likely to read:

Finally a teen anxiety book that teens will want to read!


Natasha Daniels is also the author of How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler. She offers a video course on How to Parent Your Anxious Kids – for all ages.


These are the best parenting lessons I have seen! Great quick videos on how to parent an anxious child.


Visit Anxious Toddlers’s profile on Pinterest.

26 responses to “How to Find a Good Child Therapist”

  1. Natasha, it does seem like it would be really difficult to find a good psychologist. So, I like that you pointed out that it might be easier and more comfortable to ask your friends and family for referrals. That way you know that the person is effective and is trustworthy.

  2. Kyler Brown says:

    I actually really appreciated some of these tips. It makes a lot of sense to ask if it would be okay if you have a parent-only session first when taking a child to counseling. I can see how a good therapist would be flexible. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Sarah Smith says:

    My daughter has been having terrible nightmares and we’re thinking about taking her to a psychologist for help. Thanks for the advice about how you should do a session with the therapist to make sure that they will do well with your child. Now I just need to find someone that will get along with my daughter.

  4. I’ll have to ask my friends if they know any good therapists. My little brother has been acting very strange lately so I figured counseling would be good for him. Hopefully, it can work for him.

  5. Abélia says:

    My son has so much energy and emotion and I don’t quite know how to deal with it. I think a therapist would be a good outlet for him. Although, I wonder if there is some kind of online therapist available that I could just ask for advice. Any thoughts on this. Thanks you for your article on how to find a good child therapist. I agree that it’s important that the parent and the psychologist meet to connect and feel good about the situation before hiring anyone.

  6. Sarah Smith says:

    My daughter has issues with depression and I’m trying to find her a psychologist. Thanks for the advice about how during the parent-therapist session you should connect. Another thing to consider is finding a psychologist that has lots of experience.

  7. Alice Gaunt says:

    Hi Natasha!!
    wonderful article…I really appreciated some of these tips. I agree with you that it makes a lot of sense to ask if it would be okay if you have a parent-only session first when taking a child to counselling. i also think that another thing which should be consider is finding a psychologist that has lots of experience.Your information will help a lot in finding a good child counsellor .Keep sharing more information.
    Alice Gaunt
    Alice Gaunt recently posted…New ImageMy Profile

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Thanks Alice. I am glad you found it helpful. Yes, finding someone with many years of experience is key.

  8. I think a great way to make sure you aren’t hurting the experience for your child is to put yourself in their shoes. You wouldn’t want someone grilling you for answers or telling the therapist things you don’t want them to. Your child needs some semblance of independence to make therapy effective for them.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      I agree Jack. The quickest way to make therapy completely ineffective is to grill them after each session. Thanks for your comment.

  9. I would have never considered not asking too many questions after my child’s session. The more questions you ask the more intimidated they will get like you mentioned, so it makes sense to only ask how it went. Giving the child a journal may be a good way to help the express their feelings about the session in a safe place.
    Kendall Everett recently posted…How Can I Help?My Profile

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      I agree Kendall – a journal where children can write or draw their feelings is a perfect supplement to therapy. I also think it is very important to encourage communication at home. The hope is kids can ultimately explore their feelings and process their issues at home.

      I always meet with parents alone every three sessions to give them insight into what is happening in therapy and to also give them the tools to help their kids directly.

  10. Rachel says:

    Thank you for sharing the tips. It can be overwhelming when you realize that your child might need a therapist, because there are so many different options out there.

  11. Silas Knight says:

    Finding a good child therapist is super important. I think those questions that you have for after the parent-only meeting are great. Just going off the feeling you have after the session is a good indicator for whether or not your children will enjoy it. I will remember this for my son.

  12. This is wonderful advice, thank you for sharing. I will be sure to share it with my husband as we are looking for a therapist for our child. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Braden Bills says:

    I’m trying to come up with a good way to help my child. He’s been having a lot of trouble with things lately. I’ll have to give a therapist a try! It makes sense that I would want to avoid talking about his progress in front of him, so I’ll be sure to avoid that. Thanks for sharing!

  14. I loved your tip to schedule multiple sessions in advance. Having consistency makes a difference to the child so planning ahead is a good way to ensure that. Scheduling in advance also helps with your schedule as the parent since you’ll be in more control.

  15. The parent-only appointment is what kind of stresses me out about this. It is difficult to trust another person with your child in this way, and I want to get it right. Keeping these different questions in mind should help me to successfully evaluate each therapist and feel confident about what I decide. Thank you so much!

  16. Kristin says:

    Great post Natasha! I agree that there are so many factors to consider and consequences if you don’t find the right therapist.

  17. Jalu Sakti says:

    I like how you talked about not giving updates about your child’s anxiety in front of them. Children are actually much more sensitive than most adults believe, and you don’t want them feeling like they are handicapped; that might prolong the counseling process. My nephew has anxiety, and he is only 7 years old. I’ll have to pass on this post to my sister to help her deal with his situation. Hopefully, this will help her be more sensitive to his situation, as well.

  18. Brian says:

    I think how the office feels is extremely important if the therapist will be a good fit or not. If you cannot be comfortable there, the the therapy may not be as effective. Thank you for highlighting this!

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