If you feel your child has a behavioral health issue (mental health or substance use disorder) that needs to be addressed [read the signs of mental illness by age] but it’s not an emergency situation, there are many options.
For most parents, consulting your child’s physician or primary care provider is the first step. The doctor already knows your child and your family, and sees so many children, she can be adept at recognizing when behavior is beyond the typical range. The doctor can also do medical testing to rule out possible non-psychiatric causes of troubling symptoms. [Get a directory of behavioral health trained pediatricians.]
Due to limited time in the primary care setting, many providers will not have the time to do a comprehensive mental health assessment, so a referral to a mental health provider may be indicated. Ask for a referral or seek out another clinician if you are not comfortable with what your doctor offers.
Finding a behavioral health care provider
There are many types of professionals who work with young people on behavioral health issues [read more about these different specialties]. To find a provider, you have many options:
- As mentioned above, seek a referral or recommendation from your child’s physician or primary care provider.
- Ask your health insurance company for a list of covered providers. Many insurance companies make a list of providers they cover available on the internet.
- Ask your school counselor, social worker or psychologist for assistance.
- Ask trusted friends, family or clergy.
- Contact the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board mental health services – Merrifield Center
- Check to see whether your company's employee assistance program (EAP) or student health center offers mental health services, or ask for a referral.
- Contact a local or national mental health organization by phone or on the internet, such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Northern Virginia.
- Search the internet for professional associations that have directories of mental health providers, such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association or the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
- Check phone book listings or search the internet under categories such as community service numbers, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists or social service organizations.
Resources for searching and choosing a mental health provider:
- Psychology Today search locator for mental health professionals and services:
- Therapist searches: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
- Psychiatrist searches: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/psychiatrists
- Treatment center searches: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/treatment-rehab
- Support group searches: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
- National Alliance on Mental Illness resources:
- Finding a mental health professional: https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition/Finding-a-Mental-Health-Professional
- Finding a mental health professional that fits your culture: https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition/Finding-a-Mental-Health-Professional/Finding-Mental-Health-Care-that-Fits-Your-Cultural