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Mental health conditions can affect how children manage their emotions, behave, and learn. Therapy can help them with a variety of issues.

This article covers different types of child therapy and child therapy techniques, how to know if a child needs therapy, how to explain therapy to a child, how to find a therapist, child therapy costs and options, and more.

A quick look at the best online therapy for kids

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 children in the United States has a diagnosed mental, developmental, or behavioral disorder.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) explains that although 10% of children and teenagers worldwide have mental conditions, most do not seek help or receive support.

This is backed up by the CDC, which states that just 20% of children with mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders get support from specialized mental health professionals.

Various types of child therapy are based on theories that hold different assumptions about people, behaviors, development, and learning. Many of them are types of talk therapy.

The sections below discuss some of these in more detail.

When choosing an online therapy program, a person should check for the type of therapy they would like to try, as some programs may specialize in certain types of therapy.

Psychodynamic therapy

The psychodynamic theory states that behaviors are rooted in unconscious thoughts.

With this type of therapy, a therapist explores the connection between the unconscious and a person’s behavior. This includes recurring thought and behavior patterns they may have developed to help cope with distressing situations.

Psychodynamic therapy aims to encourage a person to process and gain insight into their experiences and emotions.

Behavior therapy

The behavior theory suggests that all behaviors are learned and modifiable. It mentions that when undesirable behaviors or thoughts are rewarded, it reinforces the behavior.

A behavior therapist encourages and rewards new behaviors while aiming to reduce undesirable ones.

Cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapy is based on the belief that situations or events activate distorted thinking, resulting in maladaptive behaviors and negative emotions.

A cognitive therapist aims to get a person to examine and address their maladaptive thoughts and behaviors to help them reach their goal.

Humanistic therapy

Humanistic therapy, or person-centered therapy, sees a person as the best resource for understanding themselves.

With this approach, a therapist plays a supportive role. They provide an emotionally and psychologically safe environment and invite a person to process their experiences and reflect on how these have impacted their self-worth.

Learn more about different types of therapy.

Therapists use various techniques to address issues specific to the needs of each child and their family. The therapy technique may depend on the nature of the problem, the child’s age, and other factors.

The sections below look at some child therapy techniques in more detail.

Parent-child interaction therapy

Parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) helps parents interact with their children and manage their behaviors. It may also improve the parent-child bond. With PCIT, parents receive in-the-moment coaching from a therapist through an earpiece.

A 2017 meta-analysis suggests that PCIT significantly reduces parent- and child-related stress regardless of session length, location, and issue.

This is backed up by later 2019 research, which suggests that PCIT allows children and caregivers to better regulate their emotions.

Child-centered play therapy

Child-centered play therapy (CCPT) is a play-based intervention. It utilizes the playroom as a safe space to help children process their feelings through symbols and play. The counseling relationship can support healing and positive change, decrease negative behaviors, and improve overall functioning.

CCPT allows children to explore issues using toys and the play environment, enabling them to lead their own healing.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), therapists teach children how thoughts cause feelings that affect behaviors. They help children identify distorted and harmful thinking patterns and replace them with more appropriate ones to improve their mood and behavior.

Trauma-focused CBT is a specialized form of CBT. It helps children cope with traumatic experiences.

One 2020 clinical trial found that trauma-focused CBT reduced post-traumatic stress caused by a parent’s death. Similarly, a 2021 trial found that CBT was effective in treating prolonged grief disorder in children and teenagers.

Dialectical behavior therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of behavior therapy for high risk cases, such as teenagers with suicidal ideation. It uses a combination of CBT, behavior therapy, and mindfulness. It aims to teach people coping strategies and skills to handle conflict and extreme emotions.

DBT teaches interpersonal effectiveness, mindfulness, distress tolerance skills, and emotional regulation skills.

Applied behavioral analysis

Applied behavioral analysis is a well-known early form of therapy for autistic children. It focuses on rewarding desirable behaviors to increase their frequency and minimize less acceptable behaviors.

It teaches behaviors in real-life settings and addresses learning, self-management, and communication.

Learn more about autism in children.

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for autism, visit our dedicated hub.

Play therapy

In play therapy, a therapist uses games, drawings, blocks, puppets, and art to observe and identify themes or patterns and gain insight into the child’s behaviors.

A 2020 systematic review suggests play therapy improves behavior and attitude and reduces postoperative pain in children.

Group therapy

Group therapy uses peer interaction and group dynamics to improve skills and target specific behaviors depending on the group type. One or several therapists may lead a group therapy session.

A 2020 study that involved 30 children of divorced parents found that group play therapy helped them improve their self-control strategies and resiliency.

Family therapy

Family therapy aims to understand the family’s interaction and communication patterns. It also aims to provide support and education to help the family function more positively.

According to the American Psychological Association, online therapy can be an affordable, convenient, and accessible way to receive therapy.

Below are some online options that offer therapy to children and teenagers.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

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Best for fast matches with a therapist: Talkspace

  • Price: from $69129 per week

Talkspace offers online support for teenagers ages 13 to 17 years. Depending on the plan, a child can send unlimited text, picture, and audio messages and have live video sessions with their therapist.

To start with Talkspace, a person will answer an online assessment and Talkspace will match them with a therapist. The company states this is usually within 48 hours. Once matched, a person can start therapy sessions.

Talkspace writes that it can help people with a range of conditions and problems, including:

Talkspace therapy costs $69129 per week. However, prices may vary based on a person’s location and the availability of the therapists.

A person can consider the following pros and cons of the Talkspace service:

Pros:

  • various communication methods to choose from
  • a person can contact their therapist 24/7
  • offers psychiatry services for individuals on medication

Cons:

  • does not cater to individuals under the age of 13
  • no financial aid available if insurance does not cover the service

This service may be suitable for people who would like to quickly be matched with a therapist.

Best for smaller budgets: TeenCounseling

  • Price: from $60–90 per week

TeenCounseling is an online platform that allows teenagers aged 13–19 years to message, chat, call, or have video sessions with counselors. Caregivers and teenagers have separate rooms with the counselor.

To start with TeenCounseling, a person will be matched with a therapist and the caregiver will discuss the child’s condition with them. A person will then have to approve of the therapist for them to be connected with the child.

Children using the service need to use a smartphone to contact the therapist over text, phone, or video.

Counseling through TeenCounseling costs $60–90 per week. A person will be billed every 4 weeks.

The pros and cons of TeenCounseling may include:

Pros:

  • cheaper price than some competitors
  • various communication platforms to choose from
  • parents can also communicate with the counselor
  • a person can send their therapist a message 24/7

Cons:

  • does not cater to children under age 13
  • psychiatry services are not available
  • does not accept insurance

People looking for a cheaper option may find TeenCounseling more suitable than other providers.

Best for younger children: Amwell

  • Price: from $109–129 per session

Amwell provides various telemedicine and counseling services for children as young as 10 years through its network of licensed psychologists and counselors.

Amwell provides help with anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, life transitions, and more.

Sessions can cost $109–129, depending on the therapist’s credentials.

The pros and cons a person can consider include:

Pros:

  • also provides telemedicine services
  • accepts many insurance plans
  • a person can choose their therapist

Con:

  • does not provide services to individuals under age 10

This service may be best suited to people with younger children who need the help of a therapist.

Best for specialist therapists: Synergy eTherapy

  • Price: from $100–200 per session

Synergy eTherapy offers support for various conditions and concerns, including trauma, family conflicts, substance misuse, and anxiety.

Costs range from $100–200 per session, depending on the therapist and their state.

However, the service offers a reduced rate of $50 for sessions with interns under the supervision of clinical supervisors. It also has reduced-rate options for people with financial constraints and those without insurance coverage.

The pros and cons of the Synergy eTherapy service include:

Pros:

  • reduced rate sessions available
  • have therapists with varying specialties

Cons:

  • can be expensive depending on location
  • therapists are not available to contact 24/7

Synergy eTherapy may best suit those who would like to see therapists with specific specialties.

Best for CBT: Online-Therapy.com

  • Price: from $50–110 per week

Online-Therapy.com provides CBT services to individuals. Unlike many typical teletherapy services, Online-Therapy.com provides people with information, tools, worksheets, and other features, such as journaling and yoga.

In addition to unlimited messaging, individuals can have one 30-minute live video, voice, or chat session with their therapist each week.

Costs range from $50–110 per week, depending on the subscription.

A person may wish to consider the potential pros and cons of Online-Therapy.com:

Pros:

  • provides alternatives to traditional therapy, including yoga and journaling techniques
  • unlimited messaging feature
  • good price compared with competitors

Cons:

  • only offers CBT therapy
  • one session a week with a therapist may not be enough for some

This service is best suited to people who are looking for CBT sessions.

Best for health insurance coverage: Thriveworks

  • Price: from $60–130 per session

Thriveworks offers child therapy sessions for all ages. A person can choose in-person and online sessions. Thriveworks offers phone and email support between sessions but its therapists are not available 24/7.

The company accepts most insurance plans, meaning a person can usually pay a copay payment of $15–40 per session.

However, a person must pay a monthly membership fee of approximately $39 on top of session costs. This price may vary depending on location, and those who cannot afford to pay may be able to have this fee waived.

The potential pros and cons of Thriveworks may include:

Pros:

  • accepts people of all ages
  • in-person sessions available
  • accepts many insurance plans

Cons:

  • therapist not available to contact 24/7
  • monthly fee cost on top of session cost

Best for psychiatrists: Doctor on Demand

  • Price: from $129–229 per session

Doctor on Demand provides therapy for children and adults 7 days a week. It writes that its therapists have varying specialties and backgrounds and can also help with medication management.

Insurance may cover a person’s session. However, if it does not, psychologists are available for $129 for a 25-minute session or $179 for a 50-minute session.

Psychiatrists are more expensive at $229 for 45 minutes or $129 for a 15-minute follow-up session.

A person can consider the pros and cons of Doctor on Demand:

Pros:

  • sessions available 7 days of the week
  • therapists have various specialties
  • accept some insurance plans
  • a person can choose their therapist

Con:

  • expensive if not covered by insurance

Best free service: 7 Cups

  • Price: free for trained listener service, $150 a month for professional counseling services

7 Cups is a free service providing volunteer listeners over a chatroom service. The volunteers are not trained therapists.

Its volunteers are available 24/7. However, there may be delays in getting assistance depending on volunteer availability.

7 Cups also offers paid sessions with licensed therapists. This costs $150 per month.

It may be suitable for individuals who do not need immediate help and those looking for a more casual way to talk about challenges in their life.

There are trained listeners for people aged 13–17 years old.

A person may wish to consider the potential pros and cons of this service:

Pros:

  • free listeners available 24/7
  • discussion boards available on the website
  • group chats available

Cons:

  • free services are not with licensed therapists
  • free services do not offer video or phone sessions
  • licensed therapists do not offer free sessions

The table below compares each of the therapy services for children in this article.

PriceAge rangeType of session
Talkspacefrom $69129 per week13–17• text
• picture
• phone calls
• video calls
TeenCounselingfrom $60–90 per week13–19• text
• phone calls
• video calls
Amwellfrom $109–129 per session10 and overvideo calls
Synergy eTherapyfrom $100–200 per sessionnot stated• phone calls
• video calls
Online-Therapy.comfrom $50–110 per weeknot stated• messaging
• phone calls
• video calls
Thriveworksfrom $60–130 per session1–18• in-person sessions
• phone calls
• video calls
• email
Doctor on Demandfrom $129–229 per sessionnot stated• video calls
7 Cupsfree with trained volunteers
$150 per month
13–17 for free services
18 and over for paid counseling
messaging

While occasional challenging behavior and outbursts are usual for many children, persistent or sudden changes in a child’s behavior may indicate a need to visit a mental health professional.

A child may need therapy if they experience:

  • repeated displays of defiant behavior
  • problems in different areas of life, such as family, relationships, or academics
  • excessive worry
  • persistent sadness
  • low energy levels
  • a lack of concentration
  • changes in appetite
  • a sudden change or loss of interest in previously valued hobbies or interests
  • thoughts of self-harm
  • social withdrawal
  • sleep pattern changes
  • a lack of personal hygiene
  • physical complaints that do not have a cause or do not respond to treatment

In younger children, behaviors that indicate a need to visit a mental health professional may not be as easy to detect. However, they may include:

A person may wish to speak with a family doctor to discuss the child’s health before subscribing to a mental health service.

A parent or caregiver should try to explain therapy to a child in an age-appropriate way. For example, they may be able to offer more information depending on the child’s age and ability to understand.

Parents and caregivers may wish to describe therapists as “feelings doctors” to younger children.

If they intend to be part of the process, they can also share that therapy can help them communicate, play, and understand each other better.

With older children and teenagers, parents and caregivers can involve them in the decision-making process. Decisions may include choosing the clinic, therapist, and schedule.

Parents and caregivers can ask their pediatrician for a referral. If the child is in school, a school social worker or counselor can also offer recommendations.

Parents and caregivers can also search website directories that list psychologists by state and specialty. Some examples include:

The cost of therapy varies depending on location, type of therapy, specialization, therapy length, insurance coverage, and the therapist’s training and reputation.

However, costs typically range from $65–$200. Some therapists may charge up to $250 per session.

People with insurance coverage can expect copays amounting to $10–$50.

Some services offer free sessions or will reduce or waive the cost of therapy if a person cannot afford to pay full price.

The following are common questions and answers about therapy for children.

Does insurance cover online therapy?

Some online platforms take insurance and partner with health plans. Others may provide receipts for reimbursements. The Affordable Care Act also provides mental health coverage.

Can parents and caregivers be involved in treatment?

Yes. Therapists generally encourage parents and caregivers to actively participate in and support the child’s treatment and recovery. However, this may also depend on the child’s treatment program and their comfort level with parental involvement.

Can a child sign up without parental consent?

Allowing children to sign up for online therapy without parental consent varies per state. However, most providers require a parent or caregiver’s consent.

Is the session information shared or confidential?

Online therapy providers use Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant platforms to ensure confidentiality.

Therapists maintain ethical codes that uphold privacy and confidentiality except when allowed by law, such as during mental health emergencies wherein a child might become a threat to themselves or others.

Therapists must also report abuse and parental neglect.

What is the youngest age a child can go to therapy?

A child can attend therapy at any age. The age a child starts therapy will depend on what problems the child is facing, any mental health conditions they may have, and advice from doctors.

Caregivers may be more involved in the therapy sessions if the child is younger.

How do I know if my child needs behavioral therapy?

A child may benefit from behavioral therapy if they have a sudden change in their behavior or mood or if they face challenges in their personal, social, or academic life because of their behavior.

These behaviors may include defiance, excessive worry, regular sadness, and a loss of interest in previous hobbies and interests.

Many children and teenagers with mental health conditions do not seek help or receive necessary treatment. Online therapy can be an accessible and inexpensive way to receive mental health treatment.

With so many types of child therapy available, parents and caregivers should consider the child’s unique needs and those of the wider family when choosing a therapist or therapy platform.