Understanding the Roles of Pediatric Mental Health Professionals

By DullesMoms, July 2023

Navigating the complexities of a child’s mental and emotional well-being can be challenging for parents and kids alike.

Throughout the ages and stages of growing up, kids might start to show signs of needing professional mental health support. From relationship issues and excessive worry to self-destructive behavior, it’s important to know who to reach out to for help (in an emergency, always call 911).

Pediatric Counselor
Pediatric Therapist
Pediatric Psychologist
Pediatric Psychiatrist

Under the guidance of your child’s doctor and with a better understanding of the difference between counselors, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, you’ll be on the path to finding help for your child.

Pediatric Counselor
These professionals, often with a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or social work, are trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling. This includes Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs), who can offer case management and advocacy, and Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs), who focus on individual and group therapy.

Pediatric Therapist
While this term can overlap with counselors, it often encompasses a broader range of mental health professionals, including those who specialize in/are licensed in a specific type of therapy.

Pediatric Psychologist
Holding a doctoral degree in psychology, pediatric psychologists specialize in studying behaviors and mental processes. They assist children in understanding and managing various life problems and mental health issues. Additionally, they are qualified to conduct psychological assessments to evaluate cognitive and emotional functioning.

Pediatric Psychiatrist
As medical doctors, pediatric psychiatrists are uniquely qualified to prescribe medication for mental and emotional illnesses. They can also evaluate and diagnose patients and, in some cases, provide therapy services. Their role is essential in developing comprehensive treatment plans that address both the psychological and biological aspects of mental health conditions.

Within each profession, there are also those with a specific focus, training, or specialty, which can seem overwhelming. If you’re unsure where to start, use your community for guidance and recommendations. While your child’s doctor is always the first step, other resources include your kid’s school, fellow parents, and even local support groups.

Here are a few resources available through your County:

Fairfax County
Behavioral Health Services for Children, Youth, & Families
Does My Child Have a Mental Health Concern?
Children’s Behavioral Health Community Resources
Mental Health Care for All High School Students

Loudoun County
Mental Health Services
Emergency Mental Health Services
Children & Youth Services
Youth & Family Support Services Program

Arlington County
Children’s Behavioral Healthcare
Get Help Guide: Behavioral Health Resources

Please note, this content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.