Professionals involved in mental health services for teenagers
If your child has a mental health issue, they might see a mental health professional with qualifications in areas like psychiatry, social work, counselling, psychology or occupational therapy. Your child might also see professionals in education and youth work.
Your child might work with some professionals for just a short time and have longer-term relationships with others.
Here are some of the main professionals you and your child might come across. You might find that the services of different professionals overlap – for example, some psychologists also offer counselling.
If your child needs to see a mental health professional, you want to be sure that you and your child are choosing the right person. You can read more about what to expect from mental health professionals for teenagers.
GPs and teenage mental health
Your GP is the first person to talk to if you’re concerned about your child’s mental health. Many people start by going to their GPs for an initial assessment and referral to adolescent mental health professionals, like psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers or occupational therapists.
Many young people are happy to see their family GP, but others might like to see different doctors. It’s worthwhile finding a GP who has a special interest in adolescence and one your child feels comfortable with. Some GPs have also done additional training in mental health.
When you find a GP you and your child feel comfortable with, you can get to know each other and talk openly. A GP who has your child’s detailed medical history can make a diagnosis much more easily and recommend the best treatment options.
As your child gets older, they might prefer to see the GP without you. You can help your child make the move to seeing a GP alone.
Counsellors and teenage mental health
Your child might see a counsellor to help them solve problems, understand and manage feelings, or make plans for the future.
Some counsellors have formal qualifications in counselling, and some might be registered psychologists. Others might have a background in teaching, nursing, social work or occupational therapy.
It’s worth checking the professional experience of any counsellors you’re interested in for your child.
Occupational therapists and teenage mental health
Your child might see an occupational therapist to help them manage daily living activities and mental health issues. Occupational therapists are trained to assess how someone is coping with everyday tasks.
An occupational therapist can help your child develop self-care routines, organisational skills and social skills. They can also help your child with motivation and learning how to manage their emotions.
Psychiatrists and teenage mental health
Some mental health problems severely affect daily life or are particularly hard to treat. These problems include severe mood disturbance, significant anxiety and psychotic disorder. If your child has one of these problems, your child might see a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Different psychiatrists use different treatments. These can involve:
- family therapy and parent counselling
- psychotherapy – that is, talking about problems and feelings
- medication – for example, antidepressants or mood stabilisers
- a combination of the above.
Psychologists and teenage mental health
Many psychologists work directly with young people to help them find better ways of coping or managing parts of their lives.
If your child has a mental health issue, they might see a psychologist for:
- counselling to help them cope with problems like school or study issues, body image, relationships or stress
- diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses like depression or anxiety, although a psychologist won’t be able to prescribe medication.
School psychologists or counsellors and teenage mental health
Most public and private schools in Australia have access to school psychologists or counsellors.
If your child needs someone to talk to at school, they can see the school counsellor. The counsellor can support your child’s social and emotional wellbeing and academic progress.
The counsellor might talk about your child’s problems and work with your child on a plan to help. The counsellor can also refer your child to other health professionals.
With your child’s consent, school psychologists and counsellors can work together with you, your child’s teachers and any other professionals your child is seeing. You can make an appointment to see the school counsellor to talk about support for your child.
For example, if your child is having treatment for a mental health condition, school counsellors can help organise special provisions at exam time.
Social workers and teenage mental health
You and your child might see a social worker if you need help finding your way through the services system or getting in touch with community resources and support networks.
A social worker might also work as a case manager for your child, helping your child connect with appropriate organisations and therapies. Some social workers can also offer therapy treatments for your child and your family.