Clinically reviewed by Dr. Chris Mosunic, PhD, RD, CDCES, MBA

How to find a therapist for your teen

by Kells McPhillips

Finding a therapist for yourself may feel like a daunting task. Finding a therapist for your teen? That may seem even more challenging. The process of vetting a mental health professional takes time and consideration, but once chosen, these pros can have a valuable and long-lasting impact on your teen’s mental well-being.

There are so many reasons to encourage your teen to try therapy. Research indicates that speaking to someone on a regular basis may help teens struggling with stress, depression and/or mood disorders, low self-esteem, and behavioral issues.

While young adults across the globe grapple with these issues, every child needs something slightly different from a therapist. So before you start your search, it’s critical to reflect on who your teen is and what she, he, or they values when it comes to communication. So before you start your Googling, take a look at this therapy search checklist created by Kendra Delahooke, founder and clinical director of Child Therapy Center of Los Angeles.

1. Consider your budget

Therapy can be expensive. A report by SimplePractice estimates that therapy sessions range from $100 to $200 per session.

Before you start your search, make sure to investigate whether your health insurance covers mental wellness services. If it doesn’t, or if it only covers a fraction of the cost, you may want to consider what you can afford at this time. For example, should you look for a therapist who charges $150 per session and ask if your teen can meet twice a month? Or, if mental health services are partially covered, perhaps you can pay the $50 copay three but not four times a month.

2. Work with your teen to come up with a list of “goals” for therapy

“Having something that is semi-measurable can feel really good for you, for your child, and for the time and financial commitment you've made,” says Delahooke. Maybe your child wants to feel less stressed before quizzes and tests, or they want to ease some of the anxiety they feel about finding someone to sit with at lunch. Whatever the goals are, write them down so you can share them with your child’s therapist later.

3. Look for licensed therapists

As you begin searching for a mental health professional, make sure their licenses are in order. The credentials behind their names should look something like LPC, LCSW, PsyD, or PhD. The professional's license is issued by the state they are practicing in. Look for their license number, which should be easily visible either online or in their office.

4. Keep an eye out for fit

Licenses are critical, but they’re not the only things that matter, says Delahooke. “Fit”—or how well the psychologist’s personality matches your child’s—is just as important. As you begin step five, screening potential candidates, take note of their sense of humor. Of the language they use. Of their age, background, and tone of voice. Consider whether you think your child would get along with them.

5. Screen potential candidates

Once you’ve narrowed your choices to three or four candidates, ask them to hop on a brief screener so you can meet them face to face. Ask them again about their education, as well as their approach to working with teenagers. Ensure they’re open to goal setting with your teen and trust your gut and initial impressions.

6. Ask your child to meet with your final choice(s)

“At our center, we encourage a 15-minute meet and greet on Zoom. The teenagers don't have to come in person; it's just a Zoom meeting where you can see if they're a good fit,” says Delahooke. Since meeting with too many people can feel overwhelming for your teenager, make sure you’ve narrowed the field quite a bit before you reach this step.

Once these introductory calls are over, your teen should be able to make a choice and begin their therapy journey.

7. Repeat the process if the therapist isn’t the right match

Finding a therapist is a lot like finding a friend: Sometimes two people just click, and sometimes they just, well, don’t. If your teenager is dreading therapy, losing track of their goals, or feeling mentally exhausted, this therapist may not be a fit after all.

If this happens, Delahooke recommends having compassion for yourself. This process isn’t easy, but fortunately, you now know all the steps. “It's frustrating, especially because your child needs help. So, I would just start with some self-compassion. It might take a few tries to find the right therapist, and that's totally normal,” says Delahooke.

Return to step five and know you will find someone who clicks with your child.

Calm Health is a mental health wellness product. Calm Health is not intended to diagnose or treat depression, anxiety, or any other disease or condition. Calm Health is not a substitute for care by a physician or other health care provider. Any questions that you may have regarding the diagnosis, care, or treatment of a medical condition should be directed to your physician or health care provider.

Ready to get started?

We’ve made it easy to take the first step. Just download the Calm Health app, create your account, and answer a few simple questions to help us understand how you’re feeling. You’ll get instant recommendations for the Calm Health programs that will be the most helpful for you.

Our programs are created by licensed psychologists, and you can explore them at your own pace, in any order you like.

Try Calm Health
up arrow