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What To Do When You Cannot Find A Therapist For Your Child Or Teen

What To Do When You Cannot Find A Therapist For Your Child Or Teen

Getting therapy for your child or adolescent should be a solution – not a problem. 

When children are struggling with mental health issues and need professional support, therapy is meant to be part of the solution. But more recently in the U.S., finding a therapist for your child is now part of the problem. The reality is that finding a therapist can feel nearly impossible to many parents who are justifiably concerned. 

Why is it so hard to find a therapist?

There are several reasons why find a therapist may be challenging, but the primary reasons why you might be experiencing longer than usual wait times is because: 

  1. The demand for therapy is higher than the supply of available services,
  2. providers are at their capacity, leading to many therapists taking on more patients than they normally would, and/or creating a wait list, and
  3. the mental health industry professionals (like so many other helping professionals) are experiencing burnout as the result of the Pandemic.

Additionally, navigating the insurance system has made it very challenging for therapists to manage the administrative and clinical aspects of their business, and many providers are switching to private payment options which can further complicate the process for patients who want or need to use their in-network benefits. 

The result is that many parents feel stressed and frustrated, and families and children are going without the mental health and wellness help they need.

Mental Health America, a non-profit organization, claimed that 15.08% of children under the age of 18 “experienced a major depressive episode” in 2021, and that over 60% of children with major depression did not receive any mental health treatment. Mental Health America along with other mental health non-profit associations have estimated that nearly 1 in 3 children in need are “going without” mental health support. 

To say that “going without” is concerning is an understatement. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has advised that untreated mental health conditions nearly always worsen, and “going without” can result in disability, impairment, addiction or substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, and even suicide. While suicide is on the extreme end of possible risks, multiple studies including a CDC study have reported concerning data indicating that adolescent suicide attempts have been rising each year since 2007. According to many research organizations including the CDC and the United Health Foundation, suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among youths ages 10-24. 

Fortunately, there is hope. 

Without treatment, the consequences of mental illness for the individual, their families, and all of society can be severe, however, the reverse is also true. With mental and behavioral health treatment, quality of life can improve, symptoms can diminish or disappear, and the likelihood of scholastic, professional, and overall life success can be more certain. 

If your child’s mental health symptoms are severe or serious, it is unwise to wait months to speak to a therapist. In serious or crisis mental health situations, guardians should call 9-1-1 or go to the ER immediately, or contact their county’s mobile assessment team. However, if symptoms are mild to moderate (meaning your life or the life of your child are not at risk) then there are many beneficial things a parent can do while waiting to get the support they need. 

KIDStherapyfinder.com started our website to be a resource for parents who needed help finding therapists. Over the last year, what we have heard from providers is that many (not all) don’t need to advertise their service like they used to, as they already receive more inquiries than they can manage, and there is simply a lack of availability to see new clients.  Because of this, we have expanded our site to incorporate additional types of support for families who need help for their family now.

Open to teletherapy? Great! Browse our KIDStherapyfinder.com directory with over 10,000 providers, you are still likely to find a provider who is accepting new patients. Here you can search by insurance, state, and more. Use our "Finding A Therapist For Your Child Or Teen" Guide for additional support. 

There are some incredible telehealth platforms which is making access to provider support more convenient and accessible than ever. Telehealth platforms were already on the rise pre-Pandemic, but since the onset of COVID-19, the expansion of telehealth services by companies who offer therapy, psychiatry, and other wellness services is remarkable. We are particularly impressed with the way play therapists have gotten creative with offering online services to kids through therapeutic tech games, shared videos, whiteboards, and even virtual sand trays. 

Here is what parents and guardians can do while waiting for a therapist appointment:

  1. Be flexible and consider what might be your needs vs. wants to allow for more options. For example, perhaps you really want in-person therapy, however this may not be a need upon further consideration. There are many benefits to teletherapy, and there are many new platforms that offer behavior health virtually. Research has shown that virtual therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy, so considering it at least as a temporary or interim alternative may be prudent. Additionally, teletherapy treatment is typically covered by insurance and it is often way more accessible. Keep in mind, children are very used to online engagement, so they probably are more comfortable with it than you might imagine. Especially considering that children usually regard technology as “fun”, the virtual aspect of teletherapy can make therapy more of a positive experience since it is less formal than going to an in-person office appointment.
  2. Tune in to a parenting podcast. Around the world, expert hosts, panels, and guests are constantly providing parents with great resource knowledge and helpful tips for supporting children with mental or behavioral health needs. Join uplifting and informative discussions by exploring parenting and mental health related podcasts here whenever and wherever it’s convenient for you. 
  3. Consider parent coaching. When you are unable find a therapist for your child, one of the best things you can do is try to fill in yourself, and chances are, you’re already pretty great at doing that. While many caregivers have the desire to provide therapeutic support to their children themselves, they would likely benefit from learning some new parenting techniques and therapeutic methodology training. There are loads of wonderful parenting coaches, courses, and resources to help support you as you support your child. Learn more about parent coaching here.
  4. Enroll in parent training. Continuing on the same wavelength as parent coaching, parent training courses are everywhere, so if finding a parent coach is not preferred, you could always enroll in a self-paced parent training course. Whether you sign up for a virtual course, enroll in an on-demand conference, or attend a workshop or retreat, there are a many of parent training resources available and most of them are very affordable. Rest assured, there is no shame in brushing up on your parenting skills or considering a new technique or approach to parenting. In fact, it may be one of the best things you can do while waiting for a therapist or provider for your child because it will empower you with the knowledge necessary to be there for your child as best as you can be. 
  5. Join a parent membership club. A supportive community is valuable, helpful, and informative, and parenting communities are a lot easier to find than you might think. Simply Google search “Parenting Community” and many options will pop up for all types of families depending on what topic you want. For example, there are parenting groups for parents with children of a particular age, adoptive parents, or parents of children with anxiety, etc. 
  6. Join a parent support group. If your child has a unique disability, illness, or concern, the support, encouragement, and knowledge that can be gleaned from a parenting support group is invaluable. A great place to start looking for a parenting support group is through community mental health clinics or through national organizations like NAMI or NMHA.
  7. Try group therapy. While waiting for a child therapist, why not find an adult one and do family counseling? This way, by the time your child begins individual therapy, they’ve already begun the supportive process and maybe you were able to grow with them.
  8. Call a parent hotline. Hotlines such as Parents Helping Parents or National Parent Helpline are toll-free helplines where parents can speak to a trained volunteer advocate or counselor to obtain emotional support, empathy, encouragement, information, referrals, and crisis intervention resource information. There are many parenting hotlines, and most are free, confidential, and available 24/7. Some hotlines even provide translation services. This is an excellent resource that parents can use for any reason. 
  9. Consult with churches or faith-based organizations. Churches and similar non-profit organizations often offer support groups or counseling ministries which can provide intermediate support. Simply research the churches or faith-based organizations in your area to see what options may be available. 
  10. Join a parenting Facebook group. There are many parenting groups on Facebook which can provide encouragement, ideas, and information for parents seeking interim support.
  11. Attend or start a local or online parenting book club. Book clubs are known for supportive atmospheres that celebrate knowledge, learning, and growth. Why not join one just for parents? Having a community around you to bounce around parenting ideas and brainstorm with is sure to help you help your family thrive. 
  12. Sign your child up for an online program pertaining to the issue at hand. If you suspect that your child needs some support with managing complex emotions, coping with anxiety, or dealing with self-esteem issues, there are some incredible online options that can be started as soon as you enroll. There are many programs and courses available, but some of the best ones are the ones designed, created, and/or recommending by therapists and counselors such as GoZen, Big Life Journal,  Mightier, COPE (for teens), or even Coping Cat Parents which offers learning programs for both children and parents. 
  13. Enroll your child or teen in group therapy (in-person or online). Due to high demand, many therapists are offering group therapy, so when you contact a provider regarding one-on-one availability for your child, be sure to also inquire about adolescent group therapy as that may be a more readily available solution.


Building a strong parent-child connection through listening.

Hang in there. Being a parent can sometimes feel overwhelming, and you may not know what to say or how to react or respond. That’s ok. Listening is powerful. Just focus on building a connection with your child or teen so that they keep talking with you. At times, it can be hard for parents to control their reactions when their child shares distressing information, but do your best to remain calm, neutral, and comforting when your child or teen shares with you so that they are encouraged to keep opening up to you. 

Remember that you as the parent or guardian are the most important person in their life. Take every opportunity you can to demonstrate to them that you are a trustworthy resource with whom they can safely confide and consult. We have many articles on how to talk with your child about their diagnosis and how to build emotional connections with children in a healthy way. Explore our articles for parents here.


Find a provider today

Visit www.KidsTherapyFinder.com and search our directory to find a therapist or provider for you and/or your child today. If you need any help or have any questions, use our Contact Us feature. 

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