Getting professional anxiety support for your child

Emerging Minds, Australia, October

Related to Child anxiety

Resource Summary

This resource has been developed to help parents of children with anxiety access professional support. The types of treatment and professional available are outlined to help parents find the right support for their children, along with tips on preparing children to speak to a mental health professional.


Emerging Minds acknowledges that families come in many forms. In this resource, the term ‘parent’ includes biological, adoptive, foster and kinship carers of a child, and other caregivers who have chosen to take up primary or shared responsibility in raising that child.

Accessing professional support for anxiety

Feeling nervous or anxious is common as children grow and develop. With care and support these feelings pass for most children, but when anxiety has an ongoing affect on a child’s daily life and causes distress it is important you seek professional help. Getting help early is important for your child’s recovery and will help them move forward and enjoy all that life has to offer.

If you are unsure whether to seek further support you might find the child mental health checklist developed by Beyond Blue helpful in making this decision. It includes questions about how your child has been thinking, feeling and behaving, to give an idea of whether they may be experiencing mental health difficulties that would benefit from professional support. It’s suitable for children aged 4–16 years.

The more you understand about your child’s experience of anxiety, the more informed you’ll be and better able to make decisions about the kind of support and help they might need.

Getting help early is important for your child’s recovery and will help them move forward and enjoy all that life has to offer.

Anxiety treatments

The main anxiety treatments for children and young people are psychological therapies or talking therapies. The most commonly used are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). These therapies aim to help children and young people understand the behaviours and patterns of thinking that contribute to their anxiety and modify their thinking and actions to reduce anxiety and its effects. Treatment techniques may include behaviour therapies or ‘exposure and response’ prevention, which are designed to challenge young people to gradually face the thing/s they’re afraid of or do activities they would usually avoid to help them develop skills in how to better manage anxiety.

‘When I was 15 I used to get really worried about little things. I didn’t realise just how much my anxiety effected my life until I got help from a psychologist. Getting through everyday life has been so much easier now I’m not struggling.’

– Rose, 17 years, South Australia

What your child needs to know

Depending on their age, you can help prepare your child for seeing a mental health professional by explaining who they will see and what to expect – for example that the mental health professional will ask about what’s been going on for them and what they are feeling, and talk to them about what might help. Explain that there will probably be lots of questions, and encourage them to talk openly and honestly about how they feel so the mental health professional can work out the best way to help them.

It might take a few sessions (or longer) and if their needs change, the mental health professional might recommend your child or young person see, or may refer them to, a different health professional.

To learn more about their different roles, view our suite of health professional explainer videos.

‘My psychologist was lovely. She didn’t judge me or make me feel stupid for feeling the way I did. She actually helped me realise how normal I was. At first Mum would come with me but once I got to know my psychologist, I felt happy to go on my own.’

– Abby, 18 years, South Australia

Finding the right health professional

Talking to your GP is the best place to start, as a GP can assess symptoms, explain the types of treatment and support that are available, and refer your child to a mental health professional who specialises in helping children and/or adolescents if required. You might see your usual family doctor or you/your child might prefer to find a GP with a special interest and additional training in child and/or adolescent mental health. Try asking the clinic receptionist when you book if there is someone with this special interest you can speak to.

Health professionals who help children and young people with anxiety

  • Psychologists provide psychological (talking) therapies. You can access a psychologist privately, but to claim Medicare benefits (also referred to as rebates or refunds) you need a Mental Health Treatment Plan to access subsidised face-to-face or online sessions with a mental health professional. Your GP can organise your Mental Health Treatment Plan and recommend a psychologist or you can search for one in your local area on the following websites:
  • Psychiatrists treat moderate to severe mental illnesses and can prescribe medication for young people with an anxiety disorder that is not responding to other treatments. Children usually don’t need medication unless anxiety is severe, but for some young people medication in combination with psychological therapy makes treatment more effective. You’ll need to ask your GP for a referral to see a psychiatrist. Learn more about the role of psychiatrists in this video.
  • Accredited Mental Health Social Workers specialise in working with people experiencing mental health difficulties including anxiety, providing psychological strategies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT) and psycho-education. Your GP can help link you with a social worker specialising in mental health or you can search for a Mental Health Social Worker in your local area. When booking an appointment ask about any Medicare rebates that might apply. Learn more about how social workers can help in this video.
  • Occupational Therapists work with young people experiencing anxiety who need help managing daily living activities or support with organisational and social skills. They will also focus on supporting the young person with developing skills around self-regulation. Your GP or mental health service can organise for you to see an occupational therapist if they believe it could help you. Medicare rebates may also be available if they are an accredited Mental Health Occupational Therapist.
  • Counsellors include various professionals (with qualifications or a background in areas such as psychology, nursing or teaching) who offer talking therapies. Referrals aren’t needed but Medicare benefits are unavailable. Private health funds may pay a rebate. Your GP can suggest a counsellor or you can search for a local counsellor on the following websites:
  • School counsellors or psychologists are available in many public and private schools in Australia. They are trained to help children understand and manage emotional and mental health difficulties, and can also refer your child to other health professionals. Your child’s educator may recommend speaking to the school counsellor or psychologist; or you can approach the school’s administration about accessing support. Many schools have programs for wellbeing and it is worth while investigating how they can support your child/young person if anxiety is impacting their school experience in anyway.

Telehealth appointments are more readily available since Covid-19 ­so you can check availability of online/telehealth appointments when you make a booking. However, be aware that if it is your first time seeing the practitioner they may require you to come into their rooms for your first visit.

For more information about the different mental health professionals for pre-teens and teenagers, check out the Raising Children Network’s Mental health professionals: a guide for pre-teens and teenagers.

You can also ask your GP to recommend a mental health professional or access mental health services through your community health centre, local Headspace drop-in centre (or use the eHeadspace service to chat to a clinician) or a private health clinic. Other resources include Beyond Blue’s ‘find a professional’ directory and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.

Free online and phone support

If face-to-face counselling is not an option (for example, because of distance, illness or available times), online or phone support is another option to consider.

Crisis support

Professional counselling

Online peer support

Kids Helpline

Ages 5–25 years

Call 1800 55 1800 (24/7)


All ages

Call 13 11 14 (24/7)

Kids Helpline

Ages 5–25 years

WebChat (24/7) – waiting times apply

Email counselling – inbox is checked 8am–10pm AEST, 7 days


Ages 12–25 years

Connect with a clinician 1-on-1, 9am-1am AEST, 7 days
Call 1800 650 890
Chat online

Connect with a work and study specialist 1-on-1
Call 1800 810 794
Register online

Register for scheduled professional group chat

Beyond Blue

Ages 16+ years

Call 1300 22 4636 (24/7)

WebChat support service (24/7)

Email support service (reply within 24 hours)

Kids Helpline

MyCircle peer counselling for young people ages 13–25 years (as available)


Ages 12–25 years

Register for scheduled peer group chat

Yarnspace, for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Thursdays at 6:30–9:45pm AEST

Qheadspace, for young identifying or questioning LGBTQIA+ people, Tuesdays at 6:30–9:45pm AEST


Book online for peer chat available for ages 18–25 years, Monday to Friday 1–8 pm AEST

Online community, available for ages 14–25 years, 24/7


For young identifying or questioning LGBTQIA+ people and their loved ones

All ages

Available 3 pm to midnight local time, 7 days

Call 1800 184 527



Offers a free Anxiety & Worry online program for people who experience anxiety and worry. It provides information and teaches you ways to reduce the effects of anxiety and worry while improving your life.

Getting the right support

If your child or young person needs to see a mental health professional it’s understandable that you’ll want to be sure that they have the best possible person supporting them. It can be helpful to get recommendations from a health professional who knows your child like your GP or a school counsellor, or if you feel comfortable asking you could seek suggestions from family or friends who have sought treatment. It’s important your child or young person feels comfortable and that their health professional ‘gets’ them.

It’s normal for your child to feel a little uncomfortable at first, so encourage them to continue for two or three sessions to get to know the health professional and the treatment process. If it feels like the therapy is not working, or your child or young person is uncomfortable with the health professional, talk to them. Ask them what parts of therapy they have found helpful and what concerns them about the process. It’s common for anyone (including adults) to want to stop seeing or find a different health professional if they feel ‘challenged’ to talk about difficult things and/or face things that are uncomfortable. Remind them that improvement in anxiety symptoms might not happen straight away, and treatment is not always easy or fun because it means facing fears. Developing a trusted relationship with a mental health professional takes time. Encourage your child or young person to talk to the mental health professional to see if together they can work out why it feels like treatment is ‘not working’ and make changes where possible.

But also let them know it’s OK to explore other options if they feel like they should try a different type of treatment or mental health professional. The important thing is to encourage your child or young person not to be put off and to keep going until they are able to access the support that’s right for them.

Getting help early is important for your child’s recovery from anxiety. It will help build their resilience as they move through the ups and downs of life so they can enjoy all that life has to offer.

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