Child psychologist – When should my child see one?

A common question we get asked is when should my child see a child psychologist?

Many children have emotional ups and downs and as adults we also share in these different emotions, so for the most part, some struggles are being human and very normal. These are the small hiccups along the way that are usually temporary and fade very quickly. However, there are some things that weigh a little heavier on our children than they need to.

So at what point should my child see a child psychologist on top of their occupational therapy sessions?

We may refer your child to see a child psychologist for some of the reasons below:

  • To support children with sleep routines and habits and improve their quality of sleep. Some psychologists specialise in support children experiencing anxiety around settling and staying asleep
  • To receive more specialised cognitive-based support and strategies to help a child who may be experiencing a range of mental health conditions (i.e., Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Support – a process which helps them to identify undesirable or unhelpful thoughts and replace these thoughts with desirable ones)
  • To support children with behavioural challenges.
  • To gain more insight into a child’s potential triggers and how to support heightened or extreme anxiety around this

“When little people experience big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos” ~ LR Knost

  • To support children who have experienced or are experiencing bullying, trauma, abuse, neglect, suicidal thoughts, or challenging behaviours associated with mental health conditions
  • To support children who are living with gender dysphoria, may be transitioning or may identify themselves on the LGBTQI+ Spectrum, to aid their confidence, identity, and sense of self-worth
  • To seek more information about pursuing a potential diagnosis, to then receive funded support. Some psychologists specialise in completely specific diagnostic assessments on children
  • Some psychologists may even refer to a psychiatrist or paediatrician who has done additional training in mental health, to explore prescribing medication to support your child’s daily functioning and mental health. 

While occupational therapists can do a lot to support your child’s emotional regulation, there are certain cases and circumstances where your treating occupational therapist may refer your child onto a child psychologist for additional support.

Having a ‘two-pronged’ approach with both an occupational therapist and a child psychologist can assist to support your child in a unique way.

It may be impossible to take the mental health condition away completely, but the ability to minimise the impact of the mental health condition on your child’s daily life can be improved.

We’re supporting your child’s emotional regulation in a range of ways

Did you know our emotions and our senses are all linked and intertwined? The part of our brain that process our emotions are very close to the parts of our brain that process sensory information like smells. Therefore, meaning we often associate our experience of sensory feedback with memories and emotions.

So, if senses and emotions are linked, it means it’s possible to work on emotional regulation through sensory play. Think about when we jump on the trampoline or swing across the room, pretty fun right! But this is sensory feedback helping our brain to calm down and make sense of what we are feeling! It helps us to self-regulate our emotions and may have huge benefits for children.

Sensory Play

5 ways we’re supporting your child’s emotional regulation

We help your child:

  • Recognise, identify, label, and process their emotions
  • Step out of their comfort zone, take educated risks, and provide strategies to minimise their anxiety
  • Recognise feelings in others and co-regulate, particularly during collaborative play.
  • By teaching them child sensory strategies and techniques to calm down when becoming upset or frustrated.
  • By gradually increasing the challenge during activities, to develop your child’s frustration tolerance, persistence, and resilience.

We’re supporting your child to learn how to regulate their emotions through functional play experiences.

If you have any further questions about this topic, we encourage you to speak to your treating occupational therapist for more information and personalised recommendations around which psychologist may be the right fit for your child. The right ‘fit’ and sense of trust as well as rapport between your child and their psychologist is critical moving forward. 

OTFC Group are based across three locations Adelaide CBD, Mile End and Parkside.

Influencing Lives. Creating Possibilities. Making a Difference

OTFC is a South Australian clinic-based service that is centrally located and services children and adolescents from birth through to 21 years of age both locally and nationally. Dedicated to providing a client focused approach where children and families feel validated in their concerns, supported in difficult times, encouraged to be proactive and inspired to facilitate change.


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