What You'll Learn
- How do I get telehealth therapy for my child?
- What resources are available to help me find a provider?
- What kinds of things should I ask a provider?
With telehealth treatment becoming mainstream, therapists now treat many of the same issues over calls or the internet that they do in-person. There are lots of ways to locate therapists who do telehealth with kids. You might want to start by asking your child’s pediatrician. Your insurance company also has a database of therapists. There are lots of websites aimed at specific disorders and simply doing an internet search that includes the words “telehealth session” and your child’s issue will turn up lots of options. Teaching hospitals and non-profit organizations like the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and others can be great places to find telehealth providers.
Once you’ve got a list of a few providers, the next step is to figure out whether they’re a good fit for your child and your family. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. You’ll probably want to know about their training and what kinds of treatment they offer. Since there’s technology involved, you might want to ask how remote sessions are different from in-person ones and how they protect your child’s privacy.
And then, just as with in-person sessions, there’s the question of money. You’ll want to know if the therapist takes your insurance, how much they charge and whether they are willing to adjust their fees if needed.
Those questions should leave you with a short list of therapists. Some may offer a free phone consultation. Others may charge for a first session. It’s important to keep looking until you find someone your child feels good talking to. You don’t have to feel bad about telling a therapist that you’re talking to a few different people.
Maybe you’ve been considering therapy for your child for a while now. Or maybe your child is experiencing new behavioral or emotional challenges as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Whatever your situation, you might be thinking that now would be a good time for your child to start working with a mental health provider. But with in-person treatment out of the question, where do you begin?
Right now, many mental health providers across the country have begun seeing patients online through what’s called telehealth. Telehealth is essentially therapy that happens over the internet instead of in person. Video calls are the most common medium, but telehealth sessions can also happen over the phone or via text chat. Just like in-person mental health treatment, telehealth can provide sessions for individuals, families or groups. Though the details of treatment may vary, telehealth sessions are generally available for most mental health conditions.
To learn more about telehealth, you can also read our 2020 Children’s Mental Health Report, which offers an overview of the latest research.
Where to Look for Telehealth Providers
Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to explore remote care options, how do you find a provider? Here are some places to look:
- Evaluators. If your child has already had a formal psychological evaluation, you can ask the evaluator for recommendations.
- Current providers: If you or your child already see a provider, you can ask if they offer remote options or know of any colleagues in their field or related ones who might.
- Pediatrician: Your child’s pediatrician is always a good first stop. They may keep a list of local providers you can check with.
- Your insurance provider: Often your insurance provider will have a searchable database of in-network providers. Some even have the ability to filter by providers who offer remote services.
- Universities and teaching hospitals: Many telehealth programs are run through universities and teaching hospitals, so it’s worth taking a look at some of the big ones in your state.
- Internet: It may sound basic, but a simple internet search is often a good place resource. Try searching for the kind of provider you want plus the word “remote” and your state to see what pops up.
- Parent groups: Online parent groups can offer a wealth of support and information. There are groups based on location as well as groups for parents of children with every diagnosis under the sun. Connecting with other parents who have gone through this process already can provide solid recommendations — and help you feel supported, too.
- Professional organizations and nonprofits: Search for professional organizations and nonprofits associated with the type of care you’re looking for; they can often provide resources and suggestions. Here are some organizations that offer directories to providers and, in some cases, free hotlines to answer questions and provide support:
- American Psychological Association apa.org
- Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies org
- American Psychiatric Association http://finder.psychiatry.org/
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Resources/CAP_Finder.aspx
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network https://www.nctsn.org/about-us/network-members
- Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) https://chadd.org/professional-directory/
- Selective Mutism Association https://www.selectivemutism.org/
- National Eating Disorders Association https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
- Autism Speaks https://www.autismspeaks.org/
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/
How to Choose a Telehealth Provider
Finding remote care is much like finding in-person care; you’re still looking for high quality and a good fit for your child.
When considering a remote provider, you can ask them many of the same questions you’d ask any potential provider:
- What is your training and experience?
- What kinds of treatment do you typically offer?
- How does remote treatment differ from in-person?
- What privacy measures are in place for remote sessions?
- Do you accept my insurance?
- What are your fees? Do you offer sliding scale or payment plans?
Then, once you’ve picked someone who seems like a good fit or narrowed it down to a couple of options, you can also consider the first session or two as something of a trial run. You can be open with providers about this, too. For instance, you might say: “We’re considering a few options right now, but we’d love to have a first session with you and see how it goes.” Providers are professionals; they understand how important a good fit is and they won’t take it personally if you decide to go another direction. Many providers also offer a free phone consultations, which can be a helpful way for you and your child to get a better sense of what it would be like to work with them.