Almost 20 percent of children in the United States have a developmental or behavioral disorder. As a parent, you may wonder if you should seek possible solutions in behavioral therapy when you notice signs of a child’s disorder. The challenge, however, is finding the right specialist.

Finding a child behavioral therapist near you may be possible, but that doesn’t guarantee they’re the right fit.

Learn what to seek in a child behavioral therapist, tips for choosing one, and how to know when it’s time to begin the search.

What is Child Behavioral Therapy?

Child behavioral therapy helps treat children and adolescents with behavioral problems. It focuses on helping the child understand the causes of their behavior and develop strategies to change it. A therapist might use cognitive-behavioral therapy, play therapy, or behavior modification techniques.

Children’s minds develop rapidly and their environment often affects their behavior. A therapist can help the child cope with adverse child experiences, recognize triggers for certain emotions, and develop better strategies for managing them.

This type of therapy treats various childhood mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, and ADHD. It can also provide children with the skills they need to cope with difficult situations in the future and build self-esteem and self-confidence.

What are the Types of Behavioral Therapy?

Behavior therapy can take many forms and each is used differently. Understanding the types of therapy can make finding the right option for your child easier. Let’s look at the options.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This popular behavioral therapy focuses on helping your child recognize and change the thought patterns and behaviors that cause distress. It teaches children how to recognize triggers and prevent or manage them with problem-solving skills.
  • Cognitive behavioral play therapy: This behavioral therapy helps children identify and express their feelings and emotions through play. It also teaches children how to cope with difficult situations and develop problem-solving skills.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): This mindfulness-based therapy encourages children to accept their thoughts and feelings rather than discard them. It also teaches them how to live in the present and make positive choices based on their values.
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): This therapy teaches children self-acceptance and self-care skills to help them manage emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Reports indicate that children participating in a six-week DBT program experienced immense improvement.

Is It Time to See a Child Behavioral Therapist?

While all children misbehave sometimes, certain behavior patterns may indicate a need for intervention. Here are a few warning signs and red flags you should never ignore.

General warning signs

  • Missing school/skipping several classes
  • Frequent mood swings and excessive anger
  • Loss of interest and feelings of hopelessness
  • Joking about other people’s pain and trauma
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Changing friends frequently
  • Continual decline in grades
  • Acts of rebellion like running away from home
  • Lying repeatedly to avoid consequences

Serious red flags

  • Drug use, especially if it’s sudden
  • Criminal behaviors, like stealing
  • Suicidal thoughts, speech, or actions
  • Deliberately hurting or trying to hurt others
  • Intentional self-harm and pain infliction
  • Sexualized behaviors or speech
  • Lack of remorse for harm caused to others/themselves
  • Cruelty to animals, especially pets
  • Defiantly refusing to comply, regardless of consequences
  • Exhibiting traits of psychosis, seeing, or hearing things others can’t

How to Choose the Best Children’s Behavioral Therapist Near You

Behavioral therapy’s effectiveness depends heavily on your child’s therapist. Make sure you research and speak with several child behavioral therapists before choosing one. Here are some tips on how to find recommendations and where to start.

  • Speak to your friends: Ask around for recommendations. Someone you know may have worked with a child behavioral therapist for their children. Get your friend’s honest opinion about the therapist and if they think your child would like them.
  • Work with your child’s pediatrician: Pediatricians usually have a list of therapists they recommend. They also have a comprehensive understanding of your child, which can help narrow down your choices. Their recommendation is likely to be someone your child will feel comfortable with and who will supervise their treatment safely.
  • Ask the school’s psychologist or guidance counselor: School counselors work in mental health—they may be able to recommend trustworthy therapists in your area. They also understand some of your child’s behaviors and can recommend people who might be a good match.
  • Connect with other parents: Like your friends, the parents of your child’s classmates and local community groups may know qualified and trustworthy child behavioral therapists in your area. They may even share personal experiences that can help you decide.
  • Check insurance coverage: Ask your insurance provider for a list of available therapists, especially if cost coverage is a concern. You’ll likely receive an extensive list that can give you a good starting point.
  • Consider telehealth: Telehealth companies may be a solid resource because they maintain networks of licensed therapists, counselors, and mental health professionals. Based on your request, they show you potential profiles that align with your requirements.

Questions to Ask When Selecting a Behavioral Therapist for Children

Questions are critical to your search because they elicit responses that help you evaluate your child’s professionalism, suitability, safety, and overall healing process.  Below are some questions that you should ask potential therapists.

What is your license?

Mental health professionals should always have a valid license and renew it regularly—it’s a crime for a therapist to practice without a license. A license shows the therapist has had formal mental health training and ensures that their methods align with your state’s ethical and legal codes.

Always check for a valid license and ask the therapist to provide proof of their credentials. It’s important to ensure that the therapist is qualified to treat the type of issue you are experiencing. Additionally, be aware of any restrictions or limitations that may be in place for their practice.

How long have you been in practice?

If you’ve verified details about their license, this question takes a step further to spell out their expertise. Asking a therapist how long they’ve been in practice provides valuable insights into their expertise, ability to decipher situations accurately, and how well they work with different children.

More experienced therapists often have a broader knowledge base, better-developed therapeutic skills, and are specialized in a specific area.. You’re looking for a specialist, so early practicing professionals who recently got their license may not suit your child’s needs.

What treatments do you provide?

Ask potential therapists what they specialize in and what type of therapy style they use. Various behavioral therapies exist, but not all have extensive research backing their practice, nor are all highly successful in achieving results. Some therapies are more efficient than others, and a child behavioral therapist should be able to share if they have a scientific research recommendation.

Will you provide a detailed treatment plan?

A therapist must provide a treatment plan explaining how they plan to work with your child to address your concerns. The plan should include a description of the treatment process, a method for measuring progress, and an estimate of how long it will take. If they can’t provide a plan, ask them how they intend to follow the treatment process and track success.

How do you communicate with parents?

A parent’s role in the treatment process is important, and sharing information is crucial. Full disclosure, however, may lead to a disconnect between your child and the therapist. Confirm how often the therapist will share information about their sessions and what details will be included.

Children’s Therapy Resources

Many invaluable resources are available through mental health organizations for parents seeking assistance. Check out our list of essential youth counseling resources for parents and guardians. In addition, here is a list of helpful organizations:

Experience the Best in Child Behavioral Therapy with Rawhide

Our team understands how stressful it is to notice behavior or warning signs in your children. If you need help with youth counseling near you, take the next step by consulting with Rawhide. Our team of licensed professionals specializes in scientifically backed child behavioral therapies to give children the best possible treatment.

Book an appointment to learn more about how we can help or contact us for more information.