We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
JAMA Pediatrics Patient Page |

When Your Child Is Referred to a Therapist FREE

Megan A. Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH1
[+] Author Affiliations
1Seattle Children's Hospital, Seattle, Washington
JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(8):816. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.0978.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Mental health professionals can include therapists, licensed counselors, psychologists, and social workers.

Therapy can help children and teenagers develop problem-solving skills and deal with stress. It can be beneficial for children or teenagers who are dealing with personal issues, such as bullying, or family issues such as divorce, as well as for problems at school such as a sudden drop in grades, learning, or attention problems (such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Therapy is often an important part of treatment for teenagers with certain medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders and can be a helpful part of a treatment team for children or teenagers dealing with the stress of an ongoing or chronic illness. A mental health therapist can be a valuable partner in your child or adolescent’s health care team. In some cases, your pediatrician may recommend working with a therapist. In other cases, you as a parent may choose to seek a therapist to help your child.


There are several factors to consider in finding a therapist for your child. These include whether the therapist accepts your insurance, whether the office location is convenient for you, and whether the therapist has experience or expertise in working with your child’s age group or for your child’s condition.

A first step is to contact your insurance and ask for a list of mental health therapists in your insurance network. This step will help you avoid calling therapists who are not able to see your child for insurance reasons. If you have medical coupons or state insurance, you may be given a telephone number for a larger organization that serves your county or city. If your insurance requires you to pay a lot of money out of pocket before your insurance will pay medical bills (ie, a high deductible), you may want to consider going to a community agency that offers therapy options on a sliding scale of fees. If you are unsure which therapist to call, you can also contact your pediatrician’s office to ask if there are any therapists he or she has worked with in the past for similar conditions.


The next step is to start contacting therapists on your list to schedule a first appointment. Some questions to ask include:

  • Are you taking new patients?

  • When is your first available appointment?

  • What is your experience with children or adolescents dealing with similar issues?

  • Do you have flexible appointment times? For example, after school, weekends, or evenings?


In the first few visits of therapy, the therapist will spend some time getting to know your child. In many cases, therapists will spend some time with your child or teenager alone at each visit. Most therapists today use cognitive behavioral therapy (also called CBT) to help children and teens build skills and strengths to address the condition they are facing. Because therapy often involves practicing skills, your child or teen may be asked to do “homework” in between sessions. Your role as a parent can be to support your child in going to therapy, offer praise when your child practices skills they are learning, and do check-ins with the therapist on how things are progressing. Most therapists cannot prescribe medicine but may work with your pediatrician if medication is recommended. You can provide permission to the therapist to communicate with your pediatrician so that your health care team is able to provide the best care for your child.


The JAMA Pediatrics Patient Page is a public service of JAMA Pediatrics. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your child’s medical condition, JAMA Pediatrics suggests that you consult your child’s physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.

Corresponding Author: Megan A. Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH, Seattle Children's Hospital, 6200 NE 74th St, M/S CW8-6, PO Box 5371, Seattle, WA 98195 (megan.moreno@seattlechildrens.org).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.




Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.