St Pete Healthy News



Mental Health Month – Finding The Right Teen Counselor

Mental health resources are endless, but figuring out where to start and knowing where to look can be hard. Your family’s mental health is just as important as your mental health. Keep reading for an insightful blog from Justin McClain with Home Again Counseling that walks through the steps of finding the right counselor for your teen in St. Petersburg.

By: Justin McClain, LCSW Co Owner/ Therapist

Healthier Together Ambassador


“Finding a mental health counselor for your teen is hard. Finding the “right” counselor for your teen is even harder.

 A few months ago, my business partner and I were trying to find a new accountant. The first thing we did was ask around for referrals. Friends, family, coworkers; we asked everyone. When asking for a reputable accountant, no one seemed uncomfortable with the request. And the process was fairly quick. By the end of the week we had chosen an accountant and had a meeting scheduled.

Asking around for a counselor or therapist is a different story. Asking for mental health help still has a stigma or black cloud around it.

In this article, you will learn how to find the right help for your teen including:

  • How to identify the problem
  • Where to look for help
  •  What to do when you think you found the right counselor your teen.

The first step is to “Identify the problem.”

 The best way to do this is by asking yourself, “how do I vent?” We all vent to people when we are stressed out. Especially when it involves our teen’s behavior. It could be with your spouse, friend, parent, or coworker.

 Pay attention to the language you use and how you define your teen’s “problem”. Next, pay attention to the behavior. Whenever someone first reaches out to me for counseling, they may say “I think my teen is depressed” or “-my teen gets angry all the time”. “ I always ask what does “being depressed or being angry” look like? How would an outsider be able to tell if you’re angry or depressed?

 Understanding and being able to put your teen’s challenges into words will help communicate your teen’s NEEDS to both the potential therapist and yourself. I tell my clients that the first step to change is “awareness”.  Being able to verbalize your teen’s challenges is a great first step.

“Google it”

 Wanna find something? Most people these days will just “Google” it. Googling can be an effective way to find a therapist.  Type in key words that describe the problem your teen is experiencing. This could include things like:

  • Teen counselor for anxious teen in St. Petersburg
  • Teen counselor for depressed teen in St. Petersburg
  • Teen counselor near me

 Sometimes Google will give you a listing of therapists in the area. However, it will most likely direct you to a main directory of therapists on Psychology Today.

 When you reach Psychology Today it can be overwhelming at first, but because you’re prepared (completed step 1) this isn’t a problem. You can filter through the directory to get exactly what you need. You can sort by area code, gender, specialty, cost, and payment options (insurance or private pay).

 Be open minded!  What you think you want isn’t necessarily the best fit. Sometimes we may choose a therapist based solely on their physical appearance. This could be their gender, race, age, or the way they smile. While looking for someone that can connect with your teen is important, look at their credentials and experience related to your teen’s needs. For example, if your teen is struggling with anxiety related to going into high school then filter your search for someone that specializes in working with anxious teens. A generalist is not the same thing as a specialist.  Just because Burger King has tacos doesn’t mean you should order tacos from Burger King.

Insurance companies/EAP

 Another option is finding a therapist through your insurance company. Each insurance company has a directory of providers. However, this process can feel more like that old school research project that everyone hated instead of looking for a therapist.

 Take my insurance company for example, it’s horrible to navigate. You can search counseling options by people, places, or areas of expertise. Which is fine, however once you get to the next screen of names it doesn’t offer much more than the provider’s education and address. Clicking on a provider’s name does not offer a bio about that person. (Tip on this later in the article)

 Pay attention to the address there will be a large number of providers with the same address. This indicates that this is community mental health provider or group practice. There is nothing wrong with this, however there are differences between community mental providers and private practice providers.

 What if you don’t want to use insurance. No worries! Major companies offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) as a free benefit to their employees. Pinellas County schools, Baycare, St. Anthonys, Publix, and the city of St. Pete all offer EAP services. Your human resources department will be able to give you more information.

 EAP counseling sessions typically only cover a set amount of sessions. Generally, it will be something like 6 to 8. EAP benefits can be used personally, for your teen, or for family sessions. EAP companies also have directories.

 After you gather a few names on the insurance/EAP directory search for their website or Psychology Today profile. This information will give you a better idea if they are a good fit.

 Talk to your teen’s school social worker or school counselor.

 Each school in Pinellas County has a school social worker or school counselor. They will be able to direct you to the right place. I worked as a school social worker in Pinellas county for four years. I remember helping a student with a new backpack. He later told his mom that “my school social worker helped me with a new backpack” The student’s mother later called me freaking out about the social worker talking to her child.

 There is a common misconception of what a school social worker does. Most people think social workers only take kids away. Yes, that is one kind of social worker. However, school social workers provide information to families in need and provide crisis counseling to students. Not sure of the names of your teen’s social worker or school counselor? Call the school’s front office.

 School social workers and counselor’s will be able to provide community-based options as well. In Pinellas county there are several community-based options.

  • Suncoast Center
  • Directions for Living
  • Sequel Care

 Has your teen and family just experienced a crisis? School social workers and counselors also provide short term crisis counseling.

I think I found a good therapist now what?

Your next step is to schedule a consultation call. Most therapists will offer a free consultation phone call.

  • A consultation call is a good way to ask the potential therapist questions and to get a good feel of them on the phone.
  • At Home Again Counseling we offer a free 15 minute phone call at 727-214-0428. Contact us! We are here to help.”

For more from Justin & Home Again Counseling, click here:  https://www.homeagaincounseling.com/