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    Who provides children's mental health care?

    Many different professionals provide mental health care for children, and they do so in a variety of settings - schools, community mental health centers, private provider's offices and hospitals.

    The type of professional that is best to deliver care depends on the nature and severity of the issue, and the types of services needed.

    Social Workers

    Credentials:

    • Master's degree or doctorate in social work (MSW, PhD)
    • Provider's name typically followed by LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)

    Social workers provide a range of services. Some social workers focus on case management, which means that they meet with a child and their family to evaluate what needs they have and how these needs can be met through services in the community. They arrange, coordinate, monitor, evaluate and advocate for a package of multiple services to meet the specific child's complex needs. Some social workers provide psychotherapy to children and families. Social workers work in many settings including hospitals, schools, community mental health centers, social service organizations and private practice.

    Counselors/Therapists

    Credentials:

    • Master's degree in clinical or counseling psychology (MA, MS)
    • Provider's name typically followed by LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) or LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist)

    Counselors and therapists with a master's degree are trained in therapy techniques, but do not perform psychological testing. They work in community mental health centers and private practice. 

    Child Psychologists

    Credentials:

    • Doctoral degree in clinical, counseling or school psychology (PhD, PsyD, or EdD)
    • Provider's name typically followed by LCP (Licensed Clinical Psychologist) or LSP (Licensed School Psychologist)

    Child psychologists have specialized knowledge of mental health problems in children and how to treat these problems using psychotherapy. They are also trained to administer psychological testing, which provides information that can be used to correctly diagnose a child's mental health problem. Although they are called doctor due to their doctoral degree, they are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe medications. There are many different types of psychologists, which are briefly described below:  

    • Clinical psychologists have specialized knowledge of psychological disorders in children and their treatment using psychotherapy. Clinical psychologists are also trained to conduct psychological assessments, which help to clarify what a child's diagnosis is and how the problem can best be treated. They work in many different settings including hospitals, community mental health centers, and private practices.  
    • Counseling psychologists provide psychotherapy, but tend to treat children with adjustment problems rather than those suffering from severe psychological disorders.  
    • School psychologists have specialized knowledge in enhancing the development of children in educational settings. They perform testing to assess a child's cognitive and academic weaknesses and strengths and to identify behavioral/emotional issues that may be interfering with school performance. In some schools, school psychologists provide individual and/or group therapy.  
    • Developmental psychologists have specialized knowledge of children's physiological, cognitive and social development. They often perform evaluations when it is suspected that a child may not be developing at what is considered a normal rate. Developmental psychologists work in a number of settings including hospitals, specialized child development clinics, community mental health centers, and schools.  
    • Neuropsychologists have specialized knowledge of the relationship between brain functioning and behavior. They conduct evaluations to see if brain functioning is contributing to difficulties that a child is having. Neuropsychologists generally work in hospitals or private practices.

              Child/Adolescent Psychiatrists

              Credentials:

              • Medical degree (MD)
              • Provider's name may be followed by FAACAP (Fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)

              Child and adolescent psychiatrists are medical doctors, so they have a strong knowledge of the biological functioning of the body and the brain. They have specialized training in children's mental health problems that allows them to provide psychiatric evaluations to diagnose mental health disorders. Some psychiatrists are board certified, which means they have successfully completed an educational program and evaluation process approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

              Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medications to treat mental health problems and may occasionally provide therapy as well. They meet regularly with families to monitor how the medication is working and whether any changes need to be made. Psychiatrists work in many different settings including hospitals, medical clinics, community mental health centers, juvenile detention centers and private offices.

              Pediatricians

              Credentials:

              • Medical degree (MD)
              • Provider's name may be followed by FAAP (Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics)

              Because families usually see their pediatrician on a regular basis for checkups, they are a great source of information and answers to caregivers' concerns or questions. Your child's pediatrician has specialized knowledge of children's physical health and development, as well as a strong understanding of what behaviors are normal for children of different ages. Some pediatricians are board certified, which means they have met have successfully completed an educational program and evaluation process approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

              In general, pediatricians are trained to be able to screen children for mental health issues and in some cases may prescribe medication. Pediatricians tend to treat children with more mild mental health problems, such as children with mild forms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity. If a child's difficulties are more intense or complicated, a pediatrician will likely refer a family to a more specialized mental health professional, like a child psychiatrist or psychologist, for evaluation and treatment. 

              Occupational Therapists

              Credentials:

              • Master's or doctoral degree in occupational therapy (MS or PhD)
              • Provider's name may be followed by MOT (Master of Occupational Therapy)

              Occupational therapists have specialized training in the assessment of a child's ability to perform tasks in their daily living and working environments, and provide treatment that helps children to develop the skills necessary to function independently. This can include helping children develop fine motor skills, adaptive skills, coping skills and social skills. Occupational therapists work in hospitals, schools and private practices.

               


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