Finding the right behavioral health provider for your child

Raising a child with behavioral health issues can be difficult, but finding help can be just as daunting.

Once you’ve made the decision to find a therapist or another provider for your child, how do you find the right one?

Types of providers

Different types of behavioral health providers are available. Finding the right one to fit your child’s needs can depend on several factors.

Some of the providers to consider may be:

  • family laying on ground in park.

    A counselor or therapist. Whether called a counselor, therapist or another name, these professionals typically have a master’s degree in a mental health-related field such as psychology or counseling psychology.

  • A psychologist. A psychologist usually has a higher level of training, earning a PhD in psychology. These professionals can diagnose behavioral health issues and provide therapy.
  • A psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors. Just like primary care physicians or other doctors, they have earned an MD (Doctor of Medicine) or a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), while a psychiatrist receives additional training in psychiatry. In addition to providing behavioral therapy, psychiatrists can also prescribe medications.

Other professionals may also provide certain behavioral health or counseling services. These include nurse practitioners, primary care providers, social workers and religious leaders.

When you meet with any of these professionals for an evaluation, it is completely appropriate to ask about their training, certifications and philosophy of care to determine whether they are the right provider for you and your child.

Finding a provider

Choosing a behavioral health provider can be difficult, and finding a professional who specializes in treating children and adolescents can be particularly challenging.

“There are so many families who get lost,” said Elise Albers, manager of population health for OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

OSF Children’s Hospital created Resource Link to support primary care providers who needed to make referrals to adolescent behavioral health providers. The program was quickly expanded to be a resource to social workers, teachers and parents.

The program includes care coordinators – all with background in social work – who are experts in the services available in their communities. They will start with intake to learn more about the child or teen and their family. Then the care coordinators will connect them with the appropriate behavioral health service.

“A care coordinator is a case worker who is removing barriers along the way,” Elise said. “Resource Link takes the burden off the primary care provider or the parent of having to find a counseling provider who can take their insurance, who’s available during the right time and who’s within a reasonable distance.”

Ask your OSF HealthCare primary care provider about Resource Link. You can also reach Resource Link directly by calling (309) 624-9781 to learn more.

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About Author: Laura Nightengale

Laura Nightengale was a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. 

She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and worked as a reporter at a daily newspaper for five years before joining OSF HealthCare. 

When she’s not working, Laura loves to travel, read, and spend time with her family, including her sweet and ornery dog.

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Categories: Kids & Family