Get Your Teen Magazine in your inbox! Sign Up
Logo
Get Print Edition

Finding the Right Therapist for Your Teenager: Where To Start

When it comes to our teenagers, we spend hours researching the safest car and months choosing the best college, so why not shop around when it comes to therapists? Research has shown that the one of the most powerful predictors of therapeutic progress is patient-therapist match. So parents must be informed consumers when looking for a therapist for their adolescent son or daughter. Keep these questions and tips in mind when embarking on your search:

Understand The Different Kinds of Therapists

Scrolling through therapist listings, you will quickly notice the various degrees and certifications following each name.

PhDs

These psychologists have completed five to seven years of education and training, including both psychological research and clinical rotations.

PsyDs

also psychologists, these practitioners have completed five to seven years of education and training; the key difference here is that PsyD programs do not have as many statistics and research requirements as PhD programs. Both PsyD and PhD psychologists are licensed professionals who are equally qualified to provide therapy, although neither can prescribe medication. Only MDs, including psychiatrists, can prescribe medication.

LCSWs

Licensed clinical social workers have completed a two-year program in clinical social work and have passed a licensing exam to provide therapy.

LMHCs

Licensed mental health counselors have completed a two-year program and have passed a licensing exam to provide therapy.

So what’s the take-away? PsyDs and PhDs typically have more training than LCSWs and LMHCs, and there are cost differences between them.

Before Setting Up the First Appointment

Before you even schedule your first appointment, there are a couple of questions to ask the potential therapist, ideally during your free phone/Skype consultation. The answers to these questions will save you time and money.

1. Do you treat adolescents?

You want to make sure that they have training in adolescent treatment; some clinicians have training strictly in adult treatment.

2. What are your areas of specialization?

Different symptoms call for different specialists; you want to make sure that the potential therapist has knowledge and expertise required to treat your teenager’s presenting symptoms.

3. Would you feel comfortable treating a case like my son’s/daughter’s?

Some clinicians do not feel comfortable taking on certain cases if they do not feel the presenting issue is within their prior training, experience, or specialization.

After the First Appointment

As mentioned earlier, the one of the strongest predictors of therapeutic success is the match between patient and clinician. So following the first appointment, talk to your teenager about it. For example, some teenagers have preferences regarding male versus female. Of course, it is completely normal to be slightly anxious in the first appointment, but you want to make sure that there is a certain level of comfort and understanding. Some parents schedule intake appointments with two or three different therapists, determine the best fit, and then commit to therapeutic treatment. Remember, you are allowed to shop around.

Cost Considerations

Remember those credentials we talked about earlier? They influence pricing as well; MDs usually have the highest fees, followed by PhDs and PsyDs, with LCSWs and LMHCs being the most affordable.

Many clinicians offer a free (yes, free) phone or Skype consultation. All you have to do is ask! This is an easy way to make initial contact with the therapist, tell them a bit about your teenager, and learn more about their therapeutic style and treatment approach.

Another financial issue to consider is insurance coverage. In-network care will always be more affordable; however, the vast majority of mental health referrals are made by word of mouth. What to do if a clinician comes with a stellar recommendation from a friend, family member, or your child’s primary care physician, but is out-of-network? Ask about sliding scales, which is variable range of fees based on your ability to pay. Not all clinicians offer sliding scales, but this will save you money at every visit.

Meredith Bonacci, PhD

Meredith Bonacci is a licensed psychologist practicing in New York City who specializes in adolescents and young adults. Get in touch with Dr. Bonacci at rennickeassociates.com.