This article will help you find teen counseling near you and inform you on how to choose the best counselor for your teen’s mental health issues and situations.
For parents who are worried about their teenager’s mental health, the prospect of finding the right help can be confusing.
However, the right treatment is available, it is available near you, and rest assured, finding the counseling that your teen needs is often the first step toward helping your child move forward.
This article will help you get started, and please remember that you are not alone.
The U.S. Adolescent Mental Health Crisis
Even before the coronavirus pandemic began to affect and alter the daily lives of every parent and child in the U.S., pediatricians and mental health experts were becoming increasingly concerned about mental and emotional wellbeing among the youngest American population.
In 2019, and long before in-person classes in American schools started toppling like dominoes around the nation, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a report noting that “mental health disorders have surpassed physical conditions” as the most common issues causing “impairment and limitation” among adolescents.
According to their 2019 report, “mental health disorders [now] affect 1 in 5 children; however, the majority of affected children do not receive appropriate services, leading to adverse adult outcomes.”
“National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health”
On October 19, 2021, the AAP, along with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA), released a declaration citing a “National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health.”
The declaration followed the emergence of new data, which highlighted dramatic increases in Emergency Department visits for all kinds of mental health emergencies, including suspected suicide attempts and self-harm.
In fact, by 2018, suicide had already become the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24.
In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the proportion of mental health-related emergency department (ED) visits among adolescents aged 12–17 years increased significantly by 31% compared with 2019.
In early 2021, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts had risen even further, with a massive 51% higher for adolescent girls and 4% higher for adolescent boys compared to the same period in early 2019.
What is “Teen Counseling”?
For the average American parent, distinguishing between normal teenage behavior and a potential mental health issue can be difficult – if not nearly impossible.
However, one helpful distinction will assist you, and it is one that professional mental health doctors and clinicians will look to when providing an actual diagnosis.
Are the emotional, behavioral, or social difficulties in your teenager regularly impairing their schooling, relationships, friendships, or home life?
Early intervention is vital in mental health and behavioral disorders, even if you are unsure. In this respect, it is always best to seek advice and be proved wrong than to wait and wait until the issue snowballs and becomes unmanageable.
“Most people bring their kids to therapy when they’re at DEFCON 1.”
“It’s akin to bringing a child to the doctor with a fever of 101, as they’re coughing up blood. It’s better to go to the doctor with a sniffle and slight fever.”
– Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D., The Chief Science Officer, American Psychological Association (APA)
With counseling, teens participate in the form of psychotherapy known as “talk therapy” – in a safe environment with a professionally-qualified mental health counselor.
The aim of talk therapy sessions, usually one-to-one, is for the teenager to better understand how they’re feeling, how to successfully express their feelings, identify and solve problems, and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Mental Health Disorders, Addiction, Self-Harm & Suicide
In all its forms, mental illness is sadly now common in U.S. teenagers, with around 1 in 5 teens (aged 12-18 years) suffering from at least one diagnosed mental health disorder.
Mental health disorders commonly affecting teens include anxiety disorders, depression (known medically as “major depressive disorder”), and ADHD (abbreviated from “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder”).
In addition, mental health issues can also arise from the use and abuse of addictive, mind-altering substances, leading to the development of a substance use disorder (SUD).
The simultaneous presence of both a mental health disorder and a SUD is known as a “co-occurring disorder” (also sometimes referred to as “dual diagnosis”).
And if that wasn’t enough, there are also the dark specters of self-harm, suicidal ideation (which is regularly thinking about suicide), and, tragically, suicide itself – every parent’s worst nightmare.
These various mental responses and developing conditions to what’s happening in our teenagers’ lives have created the national public mental health crisis among American youth we are witnessing today.
Common Teen Mental Health Disorders
There are many types of mental disorders, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and common ones affecting U.S. teenagers include
- Anxiety disorders, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias
- Depression, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia
Teen Substance Use Disorders & Addiction
Mental health issues often result in issues with the use and abuse of substances, as individuals attempt to “self-medicate” their symptoms. This is just as true for children and teenagers as for adults.
The simultaneous prevalence of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder (SUD) is far more common than you may think. Known medically as “co-occurring disorder” – or “dual diagnosis,” drug and/or alcohol abuse and mental disorders, like depression and anxiety, are commonly found in teens, and co-occurring disorders occur in more than half of all teenagers who abuse drugs.
Common addictive substances used and abused by teenagers include:
|Crystal Meth||MDMA (Ecstasy)||Prescription Stimulants (ADHD medications, eg. Adderall)|
|Heroin||Cocaine||Spice and K2 (Synthetic marijuana)|
|Hallucinogens (LSD, “magic mushrooms”)||Inhalants||DXM (dextromethorphan, a cough suppressor found in over 120 over-the-counter [OTC] cold medications)|
The Rise in Teenage Self-Harm, Suicidal Ideation & Suicide
The act of “self-harm” (also known as “self-injury”) can be defined as “self-poisoning or self-injury, irrespective of the apparent purpose of the act.”
In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (known as DSM-5 / 5th. Ed.), self-harm is now listed as a medical disorder and termed “Nonsuicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) disorder” (NSSI).
Self-harm is considered a broad term and could be applied to the actions of many people at some point in their lives. An individual episode of self-harm could be an attempt to end life; however, most of the acts of self-harm are performed with no suicidal intent whatsoever.
According to Mental Health America, the most common methods of self-harm (NSSI) are
- Skin cutting (70-90%)
- Head banging or hitting (21-44%), and
- Burning (15-35%)
Other forms of self-harm include excessive scratching to the point of drawing blood, punching self, walls, doors, etc., drinking harmful liquids, such as bleach or detergent, and purposely breaking bones.
Rates of NSSI among U.S. adolescents are estimated at around 15%, although some studies show a greater prevalence of NSSI among college students, ranging from 17-to 35%.
Suicidal Ideation & Suicide
“Suicidal ideation” (also known as thoughts of suicide or suicidal ideas / SI) is another broad medical term describing “a range of contemplations, wishes, and preoccupations with death and suicide.”
DSM-5 does refer to suicidal ideation, stating that the term may be assigned as a principal diagnosis if the clinician has confirmed that there is no underlying mental disorder.
According to the U.S. 2020 National Survey of Drug Use & Health (NSDUH), among U.S. teenagers (aged 12-17 years):
- 12.0% (or 3.0 million people) had serious thoughts of suicide
- 5.3% (or 1.3 million people) made a suicide plan, and
- 2.5% (or 629,000 people) attempted suicide in the past year
Furthermore, during the month-period from February 21 to March 20, 2021, ED visits for a suspected suicide attempt were 50.6% higher among girls and only 3.7% among boys (again, aged 12-17 years) in the same age group than during the same period in 2019.
U.S. Teenage Emergency Helplines & Resources
|Suicide Prevention Lifeline||800-273-8255||Call anytime if you feel desperate, alone, or hopeless. This number will route you to the crisis center nearest you.|
|Crisis Text Line||Text 741741||Alternatively, contact on WhatsApp.|
|National Child Abuse Hotline||800-422-4453or Text CHILDHELPto 847411||24/7 hotline with professional crisis counselors (assistance in 170 languages, via interpreters).|
|National Runaway Safeline||800-RUNAWAY(800-786-2939)||America’s runaway, homeless and at-risk youth crisis support|
|National Domestic Violence Hotline||800-799-7233 or Text LOVEISto 22522||For any victims and survivors who need support. If you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522|
|National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline||800-656-HOPE (4673)||Call to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.|
|The Trevor Project||866-488-7386 or Text START to 678678||National 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth.|
|LGBT National Help Center||800-246-7743||Free and confidential support for the LGBTQ and questioning community ages 25 and younger.|
|StrongHearts Native Helpline||844-762-8483||Confidential, anonymous, culturally-appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (CT).|
|Partnership for Drug-free Kids Helpline||855-378-4373||Providing support for those with addiction. Available in English and Spanish, from 9:00 am-midnight (ET) on weekdays and noon-5:00 pm (ET) on weekends.|
Finding the Best Counselor for Your Teen (Guide)
Finding the right mental health services for your teenager can be an immense challenge for most parents. There are many barriers to obtaining suitable help, including locating an available specialist near you who is qualified and licensed, navigating the complexities of the mental health system – both public and private, and, most important – finding the right counselor for your child.
You should try to engage your teen’s school system for additional support. However, although attitudes slowly change, stigma and shame are associated with mental health issues.
Do not panic – overcoming these challenges is a reality with access to the right resources, support, and determination as a parent.
Expert Tips for Concerned Parents
Here are several expert tips to remember throughout the process of finding the right counselor for your teen:
- Talk to your family physician or your teenager’s pediatrician. It is normally easier to get an appointment with a mental health specialist if another health care professional, such as your doctor or pediatrician, can refer you.
- Call the local behavioral health hospitals or the community mental health centers in your area to see if they have any openings. Get on their waiting lists if they operate a queue-type system.
- Federal and state law requires public schools to provide mental health care if a mental health problem interferes with your child’s academic or social life. So speak to the school health care professional for advice.
- If you have a friend or relative with a similar experience with their child, talk to them. If their child is currently under professional care, they may have suggestions about how to get an appointment in the clinic they use.
- If your child is experiencing an acute situation. and you are concerned about their safety or the safety of others, go immediately to your local ED. You will get an immediate medical evaluation and options for accessing mental health treatment. Many EDs will make referrals for you.
In some situations, this recommendation from the ED may be a hospitalization. This might be as an inpatient in their hospital or in an acute residential care setting.
1. How to Find a Teen Counselor in Your Area
There are several ways to locate a professional teen counselor in your area – through official directories, referrals from your family physician, your teenager’s school, your health insurance providers, disorder-specific organizations, and advocacy groups, and through apps you can download to your cell phone.
Professional Counselor Directories
All U.S. states require professional licensing and certification, which is available through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). On the successful completion of the licensure examination, qualified counselors are officially granted the title of National Certified Counselor (NCC).
As an NCC, counselors can receive a free listing (for the first 6 months) in the joint NBCC-Psychology Today directory. Here, you can access the complete directory through Psychology Today’s “Find a Teen Therapist” webpage.
Additionally, there are several directories available online that cover minority groups in the U.S., either by race, sexual orientation, a preferred gender, or others:
|A Second Chance, Kinship Care||Resources & Directories for all U.S. Minority Groups||www.asecondchance-kinship.com|
|Asian Mental Health Collective (AMHC)||U.S. Therapists||https://www.asianmhc.org|
|Beyond Words, Psychological Services||Adoptee-Therapists||https://www.growbeyondwords.com|
|Black Mental HealthAlliance||Culturally-Competent Licensed Mental Health Professionals||https://blackmentalhealth.com|
|National Queer & TransTherapists of Color Network(QTPoC)||QTPoC Mental Health Practitioners||https://nqttcn.com|
|Latinx Therapy||Mental Health Professionals||https://latinxtherapy.com|
|American Indian & Alaska Native Society of Indian Psychologists||Various||https://www.nativepsychs.org|
Professional Counselor Apps
- Health in Her HUE: An android and iOS-compatible app connecting Black women and Women of Color with culturally-competent health content, healthcare professionals, and community.
- Liberate A daily meditation app, android, and iOS-compatible, for Black audiences.
- Minds of the Culture: An iOS app providing informational blogs and videos, a directory, a mood journal, a Bible, and more.
2. Choosing a Teen Counselor: Understand Your Insurance Coverage
Health insurance coverage can be complicated, but remember this important legal point:
Mental health treatment is protected under law and must be provided and covered by your insurance provider.
Follow these steps to determine what types of mental health treatment your provider covers:
- Call your insurer and ask what your policy covers (including outpatient, inpatient, partial, or day programs)
- Ask what the copayments and/or deductibles are
- Ask if your policy is an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) or PPO (Preferred Provider Organization), and
- Request a list of providers who will take your insurance
- Ask how much the insurance company would pay for a provider’s services — “the allowable fee.”
Note: One advantage of a PPO is that if your policy does not work with the provider you want (out of network), you could be eligible for partial reimbursement for paying out-of-pocket.
Furthermore, see what the provider charges and compare that with the insurance rate. The reimbursement is usually a percentage of their allowable fee, not the provider’s fee.
So, 70% reimbursement may be far less than you think, depending on the provider’s charges.
Lastly, many providers do not take insurance, but you should be able to get some reimbursement if you have a PPO.
3. Choosing a Teen Counselor: Critical Factors for Consideration
The most important factors to consider when choosing a counselor for your teenager include experience, licensing and credentials, and confidentiality, among others.
As a parent, you must apply your best due diligence to this selection process.
Always choose a counselor who has extensive expertise and experience working with teenagers. Teens are unique, and their problems and how they deal with them are specific to them and their age group.
In addition, you can ask your teenager if they have preferences about the counselor’s gender or age. The relationship between the therapist and patient is critical to effective treatment and its outcome, so take the time to choose the best fit.
4. Choosing a Teen Counselor: Asking Questions
Interview potential teen counselors by email, phone, or, preferably, in a face-to-face meeting. Often, counselors will conduct an initial consultation for free (or at a reduced rate), enabling you to meet them and answer your questions.
Asking the following questions will provide important information and give you an idea of how the counselor works to help those like your teen:
- What experience do you have with the particular problem my teen is struggling with?
- What has been the outcome for other teenagers you have personally treated for this condition?
- What official state licensing, certification, and qualifications do you have?
- Is the state license current?
- How long have you been in practice?
- Are you a member of a professional organization?
- Do you have any cultural competency experience or training?
- Describe how you will work with my teen; Can you explain the approach you use?
- What would a potential treatment plan look like?
- How do you establish goals for therapy and measure progress?
- What are your thoughts about medication?
- How often do you meet with your parents?
- Will other family members be involved in the counseling process?
- What are your boundaries around confidentiality?
- Are you flexible around school hours?
- Will you be in contact with my child’s teacher or guidance counselor?
Please remember that you can look online for specific reviews of the counselor’s practice and other pertinent information.
If possible, get referrals to a specific counselor recommended by another healthcare professional or person you trust.
You should only proceed with a specific teen counselor if they fully and satisfactorily answer every question provided above and put to them, including any other of your own questions you may have asked as they arose during your meeting.
Avery’s House: Teen Behavioral Treatment in Arizona
One of the most successful therapy avenues available to the parents of a teen with mental health or behavioral disorder is an accredited adolescent treatment program provided by a hospital or clinic specializing in mental health and behavioral issues.
Avery’s House, located in Apache Junction, near Mesa, Arizona, is a behavioral health facility with highly specialized behavioral health professionals who work with adolescents (aged 11-18 years) to evaluate, diagnose, and stabilize a variety of teen mental health conditions, such as:
|Depression||Bipolar Disorder||Anxiety Disorders|
|Mood Swings / Anger||Self-Esteem Issues||Difficulty With Family & Friends|
|Suicidal & Self-Harm Thoughts||Bullying & Victimization||Substance Use Disorders|
Call 855-506-1906 today and speak to one of our representatives.
Please Note: We do not work with aggressive and violent behaviors, extreme substance use with a criminal background, adjudicated teens, fire starters, severe sexual dysfunction, or any other extreme diagnosis.