Does my child need to talk to a therapist or counselor? Knowing when to ask for help if your child is having trouble coping with his/her illness or injury is tough. Some children have trouble coping with stress reactions in the hospital, and for a while after an injury, illness or hospital stay. If your child’s reactions bother him/her, or get in the way of getting back to normal activities, you should consider getting additional help and support. Start by talking to your child’s doctor or nurse, a school counselor or religious leader about child’s symptoms.
Are these symptoms getting in the way of your child’s recovery?
Listen to one mother's advice: "When help is offered - take it!"
If your child (or your other children/ yourself/ your partner) is experiencing any of these symptoms, take this quick quiz to help you gauge your child’s emotional recovery and identify any signs of traumatic stress that might need special attention. (Note: The quiz was developed for parents of injured children, but others may find it helpful as well.)
While doctors and nurses can help your child recovery physically, a mental health professional’s job is to help your child (and family) recover emotionally. These professionals can be psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, or psychotherapists. When choosing a mental health professional for your child, it is important to find a provider who has the right training and experience in working with children and teens after illness, injury, or other difficult and potentially traumatic experiences. Also, it is important that your child (and you) feels comfortable with his/her therapist.
What is the “right help” for my child or my family?
Different types of treatment may be used to help your child and family overcome medical traumatic stress, and cope with the difficulties and challenges of a child’s illness or injury. The details of treatment (like what kind, how long, by whom) will vary for each child and family. Generally, treatment for medical traumatic stress should:
- directly address the traumatic experiences related to illness, injury, or hospitalization, and your child's reactions to them,
- include you as parent in the treatment in some manner,
- support family needs so you can best support your child, and
- focus on reducing traumatic stress symptoms for the long run, but also on helping your child cope and function better with any current challenges.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers step-by-step guidance (en Español) on how to find help for your child after a traumatic event, like an injury or illness.
Where can I find help near my family?
- American Psychological Association: Psychologist Locator
- American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy: Therapist Locator
- Mental Health America: How do I find treatment?
- ISTSS Clinician Directory - Locate a Clinician, Counselor or Mental Health Professional
I don't have insurance. Can my child still get help?
If you do not have insurance, it may be helpful to contact local therapists or agencies and ask if they offer a sliding fee scale or payment plan. Also, find out if your child or family is eligible for federal or state coverage like the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Insure Kids Now / Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de EE.UU.: Acceso al Cuidado Médico
- Children's Health Coverage: State Fact Sheets
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
What kind of therapy is best for my child after a trauma?
Research suggests that children and families facing traumatic stress reactions (including medical traumatic stress related to injury or illness) are often helped by therapy that focuses specifically on trauma reactions and concerns.
More information about specific, evidence-based trauma treatments, as reviewed by the National Registry for Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) can be found via the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) (look under “Trauma Treatment”).
My child is starting therapy. What can I do to support him/her?
Once you have found a mental health professional to work with your child and family, it is helpful to discuss with them what to expect before, during, and after therapy. Also, KidsHealth offers information about taking your child to therapy. These resources will provide you with more information on what to expect before, during, and after therapy.