Mental health is just as
important as physical health
to a child’s well-being
Parents and caregivers
Parents and caregivers are often the first to notice or think that their child might need help. This section provides general information that can be used to help navigate the complex world of child mental health.
Early care and education providers
Early care and education providers, as well as home visitors, play an important role in the lives of the young children in their care. This section was developed for early care and education providers.
Find help in Connecticut
Our evidence-based practices directory lists providers trained in some of the evidence-based practices that are available in Connecticut for children and families with behavioral needs.
Access our resource database
Find information on available behavioral health and family support services in Connecticut and learn about related initiatives contributing to children’s mental and emotional well-being.
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Find information on mental health services in Connecticut and learn about initiatives contributing to children’s mental.
Frequently asked questions
As the person who cares for your child, you usually know your child better than anyone else. As your child develops and grows, they may have problems from time to time. If your child is acting unusual or seems to have a lot of distress for a long period of time, it may be time to get help. Other times to worry are when your child is showing highly unusual behavior that is causing them or others harm. A good question to ask is, “Are my child’s problems getting in the way of his or her day-to-day functioning?” Also ask yourself, “Is my child having problems with eating, sleeping, concentrating, or doing his or her usual tasks such as social activities, school and family relationships?”
All children have trouble from time to time. It is normal for children to have times when they are sad, angry, frustrated, and act shy or show anxiety– especially when faced with new situations. But, when your child is often distressed, cannot be soothed or comforted or is having problems that seem to be getting worse, it is a good idea not to worry alone. Just like your child’s physical health, there is a certain time when you may need to get a professional’s help. Also, if you are feeling overly concerned, have questions, or think that your child needs help or support, it is probably time to reach out to a qualified professional.
It is sometimes hard to know whom to turn to when your child has mental health concerns. A good place to start is your child’s doctor or pediatrician. You can talk to your child’s doctor about your worries and they can help you understand whether these concerns are a normal part of your child’s growth, or whether they need help. Some pediatricians can treat mental health issues, while others will send you to a specialist. It is important to remember that your pediatrician is trained to understand child development and to know what is normal for any given age or phase of development. However, your pediatrician may not have specific expertise in treating mental health issues. Your pediatrician can help assess the level of concern and then help refer you to a mental health specialist. Your pediatrician’s office should also be made aware of other types of help or treatment your child may be getting – just like when you see any other type of medical specialist for your child.
Many areas also have community mental health centers or child guidance clinics that provide support to children and offer a wide range of mental health services to children and families. To find a provider in CT you can call 211. Some parents choose to get help from a mental health professional in their area that is part of their health plan. A list of these health professionals can be found by asking your health insurance carrier, or if you are a HUSKY member, through the Behavioral Health Partnership.
Other places to turn for help include your school counselor, clergy or trusted teacher. These people can often help you get the support you need. However, in some cases, families may find that no one seems to have the answers, or that others seem to reduce their concerns. Remember that you can always call a mental health professional directly if you have concerns or would like a meeting. It is sometimes hard to know who to call and where to start. However, most communities have qualified mental health professionals who specialize in treating children.
If you have private insurance, you may need to choose a provider in your network. Families may also choose out of network providers but may have to pay some costs of the service. HUSKY families can get services anywhere that takes your plan. Families who do not have health insurance can often get services from public agencies or clinics.
Finding a mental health professional is like finding any other qualified professional to help your child. If you live in Connecticut there are many resources, such as Help Me Grow or the 211 Infoline that you can use to help find the right referral for your child. If you were searching for an orthodontist you might start with your dentist or ask friends whose kids had to get braces. For mental health concerns, a good place to start is by asking your child’s regular doctor or pediatrician for a referral. You can also ask trusted friends, teachers, school counselors or your clergy. Sometimes you might need to use the phone book and call some providers in your community. Clinics, agencies or practices that specialize in working with children and families are usually a good place to start. There are many questions you can ask to help make your decision and things you should look for when choosing a therapist. You might have to speak to several therapists before you find one that is a good match. You and your child should feel at ease with the therapist, although sometimes it takes a few sessions before children become engaged or build enough trust to open up. It is important to know that the therapist you choose has experience working with children as well as experience in treating the main issues that concern your child.
The Department of Children and Families has a program called Voluntary Services that provide mental health services for children in the state of CT. You can also search for providers trained in specific evidence-based practices by searching the Connecticut Evidence-Based Practices Directory. This directory lists providers trained in some of the evidence-based practices that are available in Connecticut for children and families with behavioral needs.
Contacting a family advocacy group, such as FAVOR, is also good way of getting help in your community.
There are many types of treatments for children who have mental health issues. Individual outpatient treatment is where your child will see a counselor one or more times weekly to help them with their difficulties. For younger children it is most helpful to have the child’s parent or caregiver involved in the treatment. Outpatient services can be provided as individual, group, and family services. In-home services are also given by many agencies and are an effective way of treating many mental health concerns. Other treatments include school-based, after-school, partial hospitalization and inpatient hospitalization and residential treatment.
Parents and caregivers often say that talking to other parents is one of the most useful forms of support. Connecticut has many family advocacy and support centers where trained parents can assist you and link you to local resources. A link to these services can be found here and you can also consult CT’s Community Collaboratives which can link you into other resources. At times, parents may need to get their own treatment and support, and if needed, find a referral at their local community mental health center, private provider, or through their insurance/HUSKY network.