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How do I find an anxiety specialist for my child?

Anxiety is becoming an epidemic among children, with more and more children and teens reporting interfering anxiety every year. Anxiety among children and teens has a host of negative outcomes, including interference in school, with peers, and with family. How can you help your child if you see them struggling with stress or anxiety? Therapy may help, but how do I know I'm finding the right therapist?

There are a few things to consider: Type of professional; Specialty in anxiety; type of treatment provided; and overall fit. Let's explore them below


Type of Professional

There are different degrees that enable providers to practice mental health. Each degree informs you about the clinician's level of education and in some instances gives some information about their focus and specialty. Here's some examples of acronyms you're probably seeing and what they mean.


-Ph.D. (Doctorate of Philosophy) in psychology. These professionals have a doctorate in psychology, are trained to diagnose and treat psychological problems, and often specialize in a form of treatment or disorder.

-LCSW (licensed clinical social worker). Social workers have a masters degree and are often trained to assist in day-to-day issues such as daily stress and management of daily tasks.

-LPC (Licensed professional counselor). An LPC is often referred to as a "counselor" and received a masters degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field.

-LMFT (licensed marriage and family therapist). MFTs are mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems.

-Psychiatrist, M.D. A psychiatrist has a medical degree. A psychiatrist can prescribe psychotropic medications, and some provider therapy as well.


Specialty in Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common issues that people struggle with today. As such, most counselor and therapists will have some experience working with anxiety. If you or your child is truly struggling with anxiety, it may be helpful to find a specialist who has seen all the manifestations of anxiety and has developed tools to work with all of them. Some professionals, such as myself, identify themselves as such such while others do not. Most professionals will allow for a brief free phone consultation to help patients understand if the therapist has a specialty that can help them.


Type of Treatment Provided

The general consensus in the field of therapy is that the gold standard treatments for anxiety are Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). While the gold standard for OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) which can be done using CBT or ACT principals. When searching for a therapist for your child make sure they not only know of CBT, ACT and/or ERP, but use them frequently


Overall Fit

One of the best indicators of treatment success is the therapeutic relationship, or how much a client and therapist trust each other and work well together. If you find a fantastic, CBT trained anxiety specialist for your child and your child does not trust him or her then their results will suffer! Make sure that you and your child are comfortable with your therapist and treatment directions.


With so many options today and so little direction it can be overwhelming to find a good therapist for your child. When in doubt call and ask to speak with therapists you find, a short phone call can provide a great deal of information and most therapists know of good referral sources if they are not a great fit for your child. If you would like to speak more about finding the right therapist for your child please call or email me today!

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