• Dr. Jin Lee

Choose the right therapist for your child: counselor vs. psychologist vs. psychiatrist

How to choose the right therapist for your child: child counselor vs. child psychologist vs. pediatric psychologist vs. child psychiatrist


When I interact with families in my practice, they often ask me, “how do we find the right therapist for our child?”


If you feel overwhelmed with finding the one out of so many therapists out there, you are not alone. I hear you, there are so many types of therapists out there!

Finding a right therapist for your child is possible when you have the right tools to find one!


After reading this blog, you will become equipped to tease out types of therapists and find the “right fit” for your child.


Before getting into the details, here is the bottom line - the best therapist is someone you and your child can trust. Period. Without a trusting relationship, you are not likely to go much further than where you have started. Therapy is an investment for you and your child, so you want to feel good about the therapist. However, to find the trusting relationship with your therapist, start therapy and see how it goes. There is no way around it.


Aside from the trusting relationship, here are some tips and tools to figure out the right therapist.


What are the difference between child counselor, child psychologist, pediatric psychologist, and child psychiatrist?


A child counselor is a general term summing up all the therapists out there, but a child counselor typically has a master’s level of education and training. Those counselors include a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). A counselor can also include an Unlicensed Psychotherapist and a School Counselor. Some of them take insurance while others don’t. These folks, because of their education and training levels, offer a relatively cheaper fee per session.


On a side note, an Unlicensed Psychotherapist used to be a Registered Psychotherapist in the state of Colorado until recently. The title was confusing for many people in the community. This credential includes anyone who claims themselves as an unlicensed psychotherapist.


A child psychologist is a licensed psychologist who has a doctoral level of education and training. As the name says, these people have a special training in working with children and adolescents. They may have sub-specialty within the child psychology field, such as ADHD, learning disability, Autism, anger management, children of divorced parents, childhood trauma, anxiety, depression, and so forth. Unlike counselors, child psychologists can provide psychological testings, so if you want some testing done for your child before or during the therapy, child psychologists can be your one-stop shop. Just like counselors, some take insurance while others don’t. Their fee is typically higher than the master’s level clinicians because of the training and specialty.


A pediatric psychologist is a child psychologist who has special training in working with children who have medical conditions. If your child is suffering from a chronic medical condition, multiple injuries, and/or phobias associated with needles and/or surgery, then you may want to look into finding a pediatric psychologist. There are a lot fewer pediatric psychologists than child psychologists out there because of the nature of the training and specialty. Many pediatric psychologists are in a hospital setting, but some pediatric psychologists are available in the community. If your child struggles with complex issues or mental health concerns because of medical conditions or after multiple injuries (e.g., concussion), then you want to cut to the chase and find the pediatric psychologists. Pediatric psychologists are also have training in providing testing and can address anxiety, depression, and/or sleep concerns. To my knowledge, most pediatric psychologists take insurance in the hospital setting. Otherwise very few pediatric psychologists take insurance. However, if your child gets better with the right provider, you may consider the service as an investment.


A child psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can prescribe medications for your child’s mental health conditions. They have some training to provide psychotherapy, but they may offer brief therapy sessions or don’t offer any counseling. Selective psychiatrists in private practice, like other professions, take insurance, but not all of them do.


How can I find the right therapist for my child?


There are many things to think about beside a provider’s background when finding the right therapist for your child and here are top 4 questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Do you feel you can trust the therapist? - There is nothing more important than a trusting relationship when you work with a therapist.

  2. Is the therapist good listener? - Does your therapist listen without judgment and provide empathy without “assuming?”

  3. Does the therapist seem knowledgeable and competent in your concerns? - You can ask the therapist about his/her background and training in specific areas of your concerns. You can also ask the therapist about how he/she would treat the concerns.

  4. Does the therapist try to lead you or follow your lead? - This is your preference because sometime people want to work with a therapist as an equal partner whereas others prefer to follow the lead. I prefer a good balance of working together as a team with respect and seeking guidance from a therapist.

What can I ask the therapist?


Besides asking questions to yourself, here are some questions you can ask the therapist:

  1. Are you licensed in mental health? If so, what is it?

  2. What is your treatment style? Do you ask parents to join each session or meet with my child only?

  3. What type of therapy do you provide?

  4. What is the fee per session? Do you take insurance?

  5. Do you prescribe medication?

  6. Is your therapy time-limited or long-term?


I would like to emphasize that finding the right therapist for your child is finding a puzzle that clicks. It may take some trial-and-error before you identify the one, but I believe you can find the therapist you feel comfortable by referencing the above tips and tools. It takes a village sometimes, but you can conquer your journey of finding a trustworthy therapist for your precious child.


Please contact me for any questions you may have or to schedule a free initial consultation conversation today!


Until next time… be well:)


From Your Pediatric Psychologist,


Jin Lee, PsyD., MSCP, BCB

Licensed Pediatric Psychologist

MS - Clinical Psychopharmacology

Board Certified in Biofeedback

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