With a rise in depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues among children, according to the CDC, finding effective treatment is important. When children have trouble coping with stress or struggle with a mental health disorder, pediatric psychology can help. This type of psychology involves having a trained and licensed psychologist assess and treat emotional, mental, or behavioral issues in children. A pediatric psychologist receives in-depth training in understanding these kinds of issues in children and effectively treating them.

Pediatric psychology works best when parents know what to discuss with their child’s psychologist. This helps the psychologist learn more about their child and the kinds of issues they’re struggling with. Parents can also feel more at ease when they know what to expect from these therapy sessions, such as how long it might take and what kinds of therapeutic approaches their pediatric psychologist uses. The following are some ideas about what to discuss when meeting with a pediatric psychologist.

Professional experience and background

Pediatric psychologists, or child psychologists, have a doctoral degree and specialized training and education in child psychology. They also need to meet the requirements to become licensed and complete continuing education every year. Parents can ask their pediatric psychologist about their education, license, and professional background. Since child psychologists might specialize in certain conditions, it also helps to ask which types of mental health disorders and other conditions they treat. This helps ensure that the psychologist has the relevant experience and training needed to help a child with a particular problem or disorder.

child with pediatric psychologist

Fees and payment options

On the practical side, parents should find out about fees and payment options before having their child start therapy sessions. This might include asking if the pediatric psychologist takes insurance and which kinds of insurance they accept. Getting the fees and payment options sorted out beforehand means that parents can focus on discussing therapeutic approaches, their child’s struggles, and other helpful information.

Therapeutic approach

Pediatric psychology includes a wide range of therapeutic approaches. The kinds of therapies used for each child depend on certain factors, such as age and the kinds of issues or conditions being treated. For example, a child who has had a traumatic experience might benefit from child trauma therapy. Other children might respond better to art therapy or music therapy. Some other therapeutic approaches that child psychologists use include:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Play therapy
  • Anger management therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Parent-child interaction or relationship therapy

Parents can ask their pediatric psychologist what kinds of therapies they use, so that they have a better idea of what to expect from their child’s sessions. Keep in mind that pediatric psychologists might adjust therapeutic approaches once they learn more about the child’s condition, such as switching to another type of therapy if needed.

Timeframe

The amount of time it takes for pediatric psychologists to treat children can vary widely. This depends on varied factors, such as how severe a child’s condition is or how well they respond to the therapy they’re receiving. For example, a child might need to meet with a pediatric psychologist for several weeks or months to manage severe depression or anxiety. How often children see a psychologist also affects the overall timeframe. Parents can ask for a general idea of how long they should plan to have their child in therapy, as long as they keep in mind that this is subject to change.

Frequency of sessions

How often children should meet with a pediatric psychologist can vary, depending on the severity of their condition and other factors. Some children might only need to see a psychologist every couple of weeks or even once a month, while others benefit from seeing them on a weekly basis or as often as needed. Parents should discuss how often to have their child meet with their pediatric psychologist. In some cases, children might meet with them more often at first. As they learn to cope with stress, handle anger, or manage other problems or conditions, they might not need to see a psychologist as often.

Goal setting

Pediatric psychology usually involves setting short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals might involve helping children come up with ways to handle negative thoughts or anger in certain situations, such as at school. Long-term goals might involve having children learn to effectively manage anxiety, depression, or another condition or problem on a regular basis. Parents can talk to their pediatric psychologist about how these short-term and long-term goals are determined and how they benefit their child.

Woman discussing concerns with therapist

Beautiful young woman discussing her problems with female psychologist

Role of family in therapy

Therapy sessions with a pediatric psychologist can help children learn valuable coping skills, stress management skills, anger management skills, and other skills. However, their family also plays a significant role during treatment. Parents should discuss this with their pediatric psychologist, so that they’ll know how to help their child work on these skills at home or in other situations. Pediatric psychologists might also have parents take part in therapy sessions with their child from time to time or on a regular basis. For example, parent-child interaction therapy focuses on helping parents and children improve communication and treat behavioral issues or other issues.

Specific issues or conditions

Some children meet with pediatric psychologists due to specific issues they’re struggling with or conditions they have. Children with a diagnosed disorder can get treatment that helps improve their mental and emotional well-being, while also teaching them important skills. Pediatric psychologists are able to treat several conditions, issues, or disorders that children have, such as:

  • Anger issues
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social problems
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Grief
  • Sleep problems
  • Coping with family problems, such as a divorce
  • Abuse

When meeting with pediatric psychologists, parents can provide information about the issue, condition, or disorder their child is dealing with. This is especially important for younger children, since they might not understand or be able to give details on what they are struggling with. Parents should discuss any concerns they have about their child’s behavior, so that the pediatric psychologist can address these during therapy.

From traumatic events to everyday stresses, children can benefit significantly from pediatric therapy with a trained psychologist. Parents should keep in mind that pediatric psychologists can help improve the quality of life for the family as a whole. With this type of treatment, children can learn to communicate more effectively, handle anger and stress in healthy ways, and work through traumatic or tough situations. Part of this process involves parents having informative discussions with their child’s pediatric psychologist.

About the Author: Amanda Delgado

Amanda Delgado has been writing about therapy and other mental health topics for more than a decade. She has a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a strong interest in therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.