When To Go To A Counselor

Remember the school counselors are here to partner with you and ensure that your child is emotionally healthy so they can thrive socially and academically at school. However, we do not offer long-term therapy. There will be times where we will refer you to a counselor outside of the school, so your child can receive more in-depth mental health services. If your child is already seeing another counselor, it can be helpful for you to sign a Release of Information document so that the counselors can communicate with each other to give more continuous, collaborative care.

When To Get A Child Counseling

(Article from the Child Mind Institute)

When children have emotional or behavioral problems, the earlier they get treatment, the easier it is to help them. But as parents, you also want to avoid unnecessary treatment and costs in both time and money.

When you’re concerned about a child’s mental health, you might be told by family members, friends and maybe even your pediatrician to relax and wait—she’ll grow out of it. Sometimes this is good advice. Sometimes it’s not.

When to Take Action

There are times when it’s clearly not a good idea to wait to get your child help for mental health issues. For instance:

Eating disorders: The longer a child lives with an eating disorder, the harder it is to recover. Getting treatment as quickly as possible can save her life.

Family history: If mental illness runs in your family, be aware of the increased possibility that your child will begin to develop a disorder. In this case it’s important to act promptly.

Cutting: If you discover your child has been hurting herself, even if she says it was a one-time thing, it’s important to get help. It’s dangerous behavior that may be her way of dealing with a serious mental health issue. Learn more about what to do if your child is cutting.

When to Wait

Some life events can cause changes in your child’s functioning as a part of a process of adjustment. Things like:

  • Parental divorce

  • Changing schools

  • A new sibling

These can all have troubling effects on a child’s behavior. Most often this will pass with time. In fact, the criteria for many child and adolescent psychiatric disorders require problem behaviors or feelings to be present for at least a period of weeks or months. Sometimes you need to watch and wait.

Watching and Waiting

How long you decide to monitor feelings and behaviors that concern you, or “symptoms,” depends on the age of your child and what you think is wrong.

Behavior Issues

If your child’s behavior is causing her chronic trouble in school or is seriously disrupting your family life, it’s important to get help. Disruptive, explosive or dangerous behavior can be generated by anxiety, trauma and frustration from an undiagnosed learning problem, among other things.

Once you understand what’s behind your child’s behavior, there are often therapies that can be effective in teaching kids to rein in their behavior. If a child is out of control with parents or teachers, she needs help. It can impact the health and well-being of your whole family.

For behavior problems, you’ll want to consult a mental health professional who can help diagnose and treat behavior disorders. You can consult a behavioral psychologist who specializes in children and adolescents, a child psychiatrist or a social worker with expertise in treating young people.

Emotional Issues

If a child seems unusually anxious or sad or irritable for a long period of time and it’s interfering with her ability to do things that are appropriate for kids her age, it’s a good idea to seek help. A child who is seriously anxious or depressed is not just suffering. She’s missing out on important parts of childhood. You want to get her help as soon as possible, before she falls behind her peers in social and academic development.

It’s also a good idea because the longer your child lives with something like anxiety, the likelier it is to shape her behavior in harmful ways. A young child who couldn’t sleep apart from her parents might become a school-age child who can’t have sleepovers with friends or go to camp. A child who is excessively fearful could become an adolescent whose identity and social life are structured around avoiding things that make her anxious.

Active Waiting

If you decide to wait to get help, keep an eye on the problem and be ready to act if it doesn’t improve. Monitoring your child’s behavior can help you collect valuable information. What you don’t want to do is ignore a problem. Don’t convince yourself that “something” is “nothing.”

Talking to Your Partner

Getting help for your child, or not doing it, can be complicated by disagreement between parents as to what is or isn’t a “problem.” It’s common for parents to have different pictures of a child’s behavior, and different opinions about the kind of response that would be helpful.

This is a major reason families wait to seek advice or care. But, like all waiting, it should be active. Set a timetable for when you will talk about the issue again, and see if you can agree on goals for behaviors you would like to see changed. If you keep track of the issues you’re concerned about, you’ll have clearer grounds for making a decision when you revisit the subject.

Here are more things you can do if you’re concerned about your child’s mental health:

You can also get tips on how to respond when your child is frustrated. And for more information on treatment for mental health issues, visit our founding partner, the Child Mind Institute.

Finding a Counselor

Brigid Collins



Catholic Community Services



360.788.4228 x1

Cascadia Youth Mental Health

Bayside Therapy

Questions To Ask A Counselor

If your child has anxiety:

A therapist should be willing to answer any questions you may have about methods, training, and fees during a consultation. Bring a list of your child’s symptoms to discuss, and be sure to mention any medications for allergies or other illnesses.

Here are some questions to consider asking:

  • What training and experience do you have in treating anxiety disorders?

  • Do you specialize in treating children? (If your child is a teenager, you may want to ask the age limit that your child can remain under this specialist’s care.)

  • What is your training in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or other therapies?

  • What is your basic approach to treatment?

  • Can you prescribe medication or refer me to someone who can, if that proves necessary?

  • How long is the course of treatment?

  • How frequent are treatment sessions and how long do they last?

  • Do you include family members in therapy?

  • How will I know that my child is responding to the treatment and getting better?

  • If my child does not respond to treatment, how will you decide when to change or modify the treatment?

  • As my child ages, will any symptoms change? Will the response to treatment change?

  • What should I explain to the school about my child’s anxiety disorder?

  • How do you approach the topic of alcohol and substance use in teens who take medication?

  • Will you coordinate my child’s treatment with our family doctor or pediatrician?

  • What is your fee schedule, and do you have a sliding scale for varying financial circumstances?

  • What kinds of health insurance do you accept?

If a therapist is reluctant to answer your questions, or if you or your child does not feel comfortable, see someone else.