Best Child Therapists in Grand Rapids and how Counseling Works

FCP mental health professional with patient girl

Where to Start When You Think You May Need a Child Therapist

Realizing that you need help for your child can often feel very overwhelming.

When I learned that my daughter needed to see a child therapist, I didn’t even know where to start. It’s not something people talk about much in social circles (though I hope that stigma changes) so it’s hard to get recommendations.

We eventually got her help, though, and she’s much healthier mentally now.

In fact, we sent her two siblings to therapy as well for their own struggles, and it has worked wonders in our whole family.

We are more open about mental health struggles and everyone knows they can have candid conversations about what’s going on in their mind. Our kids even know to encourage their friends in this, and that it’s okay to seek help.


 How Does Child Counseling Work?

At What Age can a Kid See a Counselor?

Mental Health Issues Crop up at Any Age – And They Can see a Counselor at Any Time
I was shocked when my daughter became an emotional disaster in kindergarten. She had loved her young fives class the year before and had been a happy, enjoyable child. But as soon as “being in school all day, every day” hit, she lost it. 

The first four weeks of school she sobbed uncontrollably 24 hours a day, desperate to go home and never return to school again. Her teacher was fantastic, and everyone worked hard to help her, but we were clearly out of our league. What was going ON??

Her pediatrician recommended a local child therapist and at our first visit, the lightbulbs went off. My child has anxiety.

She has never had to hold it all in for a long school day before. She loves the safety of her home and felt overwhelmed when she had to leave for long periods. She is used to mom and dad’s presence being her safety net. 

She’s been in therapy ever since, and it’s been worth every minute, and every penny. Sometimes she sees her therapist every few weeks. Other times she can go a few months. She probably will see a therapist for the rest of her life. It’s simply what she needs to do to be healthy. 

How Frequent are Appointments?

Therapy appointment frequency varies. Often when a child first meets with their therapist, they are coming in once a week or once every two weeks while the therapist assesses the child and starts building a plan.

Some children will need weekly or bi-weekly appointments, while others may do well with monthly visits. My daughter’s therapist has her on an “as-needed” schedule, so now we reach out when she needs a check-in. This is about once every 3 months for us.

Do I Attend the Sessions With my Child?

Child therapists all have different systems, but in our experience, the child sees the counselor privately during most of their one-hour appointment time.

Parents can meet with the therapist privately before the meeting to discuss anything important, and often the counselor will bring in the parent at the end of the child’s session to go over things they talked about and possible plans. Sometimes this is with the child present, and other times, you talk to the counselor alone.

It may feel weird to leave your young kid alone with a therapist, but it really gives the child a chance to be honest with their counselor without fear of mom or dad overreacting or getting upset.

These counseling centers and child therapists have been helping West Michigan families for years.

Counseling, Dance / Movement Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Sensory Therapy, Speech Therapy in Grand Rapids

Comprehensive Therapy Center therapies and disabilities guide 2022

Comprehensive Therapy Center

2505 Ardmore St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506-4915

Established in 1982, Comprehensive Therapy Center’s mission is to meet the therapeutic and educational needs of adults and children with disabilities who are at-risk or disadvantaged, through skill building, academic enhancement, and social-emotional support.

We help adults keep or increase their independence. We help children to walk, talk, learn and play.

"You’re only going to gain from this, you’re going to learn a lot about your kid and what they are capable of."- 2021 CTC Parent

Counseling, Parental Support in Grand Rapids

Arbor Circle therapy and disabilities guide 2022

Arbor Circle

1115 Ball Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

At Arbor Circle, we are proud to be one of West Michigan’s most comprehensive providers of mental health counseling, substance use treatment, and family services.

Our Early Childhood services partner with parents to build their skills, help them bond with their children, and assist children in meeting developmental milestones.

Services include in-home infant mental health counseling and case management; community-based groups focused on parent education and family support; and specialized support for childcare providers, teachers, and parents when a child is facing difficulty in a childcare or preschool setting.

“I’m a new mom, and it scared me not understanding development and needs at different stages. It helps to have someone let you know where they are at.”

Applied Behavior Analysis, Counseling, Diagnostic Testing, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy in Grand Rapids

BRAINS therapies and disabilities guide 2022


3292 North Evergreen Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

2900 East Beltline Avenue NE, Suite F, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

At BRAINS, we strive to change lives by identifying each individual's unique strengths and potential for growth and incorporating these traits into attainable goals.

BRAINS is an assessment and treatment center offering a variety of services to help children and families navigate the journey to better mental and physical health.

Our team of professionals offer expertise in psychological and neuropsychological assessments, counseling, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and applied behavior analysis.

Our multidisciplinary approach ensures a comprehensive and customized treatment plan.

Counseling in Grand Rapids

Wedgwood Christian Services therapies guide 2022

Wedgwood Christian Services

3300 36th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512

When life gets difficult, Wedgwood can help.

We offer a unique continuum of grace-filled counseling services for children, teens, adults, and families.
Whether you are dealing with life changes, mood or anxiety issues, or other difficulties with behaviors or relationships, our experienced clinicians can offer the understanding, support, and practical guidance you need.

Wedgwood's therapists have the skills, experience, and compassion to help you creating meaningful and lasting change.

"I have seen my daughter grow tremendously in her time with Wedgwood, they have helped her gain an understanding of herself, her skills, and her ability to communicate her emotions."

Counseling in Grand Rapids

Wedgwood Christian Services therapies and disabilities guide autism center

Wedgwood's Autism Center for Child Development

1260 Ekhart St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Wedgwood’s Autism Center for Child Development provides comprehensive early intensive behavioral intervention services for young children with autism spectrum disorders.

Wedgwood’s exceptional team provides high-quality support and care that is individualized for each child and family’s specific needs and goals.

Through center-based therapy offered in a fun, engaging environment, Wedgwood helps kids and families develop the skills they need to build brighter futures.

“This program was life-changing for our family! I thank God for blessing us with this fabulous program right here in Grand Rapids.” – Mother of Wedgwood’s Autism Center for Child Development client

Applied Behavior Analysis, Counseling in Caledonia

Horizons Developmental Resource Center

Horizons works with individuals and families who have a variety of neurological, psychological, physical, and relational symptoms.

Includes assistance for children with Bipolar Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, Traumatic Brain Injury and many more.

Counseling, Parental Support in Grand Rapids

Wellspring Counseling

A non-profit organization dedicated to assisting churches and community organizations in providing superior counseling care.

Counseling, Diagnostic Testing in Grand Rapids

Pine Rest

Providing testing & assessment for ADHD, autism, learning disabilities and cognitive impairment at the Psychological Consultation Center and Parent Support and Counseling Services through the Outpatient Clinic Network.

Applied Behavior Analysis, Counseling, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Sensory Therapy, Speech Therapy in Grand Rapids

Mary Free Bed Pediatric Rehabilitation and Therapy

An inpatient rehabilitation hospital where pediatric doctors, nurses, and therapists treat young people who have experienced brain injury, brain related illnesses and concussion, cancer, neurological conditions, stroke, spinal cord injury, fractures, chronic pain conditions, surgery, burns and other debilitating illnesses and injuries.

Applied Behavior Analysis, Counseling in

Hope Network

All locations are open, providing center, in home, and telehealth treatment options.

Through ABA therapy and comprehensive clinical services, we provide everyone we serve with an opportunity to thrive.

Counseling in

Michigan Alliance for Families

A statewide resource for families of children with disabilities to help improve educational services and outcomes.

Grand Rapids Best Child Therapists and Mental Health Pros

These top mental health professionals in Grand Rapids were voted on by our readers. These are the pros that parents trust and kids love.

1 2

Winner: Renee Orr, LMSW, at HRA Psychological Services

TOP 10 Mental Health Professionals for Kids

1. Orr, Renee LMSW (HRA Psychological Services)

2. Warholic, Christina PSYD (BRAINS)

3. Wiersema, Chelsea LSMW (Human Kind Counseling Group)

4. Dykstra, Eric (Anchored Family: Psychology & Counseling Associates)

4. Maurer, Dr. Jennifer (BRAINS)

6. Bowden, Dr. Jennifer (Helen DeVos Behavioral Health)

6. Bergsma, Alyssa (Mindful Counseling GR)

6. Bridges, Brad (BRAINS)

7. Brouwer, Brooke LMSW (Anchored Family: Psychology & Counseling Associates)

7. Wolff, Dr. Michael (BRAINS)

7. Zinser, Carrie LMSW (BRAINS)

Where to Find Even More Amazing Doctors, Dentists, Mental Help Pros +

If you’re new to Grand Rapids or find yourself needing a new medical professional check out our comprehensive guide to the Top Dentists, Pediatricians, ETC for Kids in Grand Rapids

These are the pros that parents rely on to keep their children healthy and safe in Grand Rapids.

 Mental Health and Insurance  

When you’ve decided you need professional help, where do you even start to find child counseling? 

You start with insurance. Health insurance can cover a broken bone or a flu shot, but when it comes to mental health care, things are less clear.

Before you take your kid to a bunch of appointments, find out what your insurance will cover. Or if you don’t have insurance, see what other resources are available.

Some companies around Grand Rapids have mental health options for their employees and families. My husband’s job, for example, offers employees and dependents six free sessions with therapists covered under their insurance plan.

If you have health insurance, call your provider. They can give you specific information about how much coverage you have and which providers participate with your plan. From there, you can approach some of the specific resources in this article.

Even if you do not have insurance, you still have options. 

  • In Kent County, Network 180 is the best place to start (800-649-3777).
  • In Ottawa County contact Community Mental Health (866-512-4357).
  • Another valuable community resource is 2-1-1. You can call 2-1-1 from any landline phone and a trained staff member will help get you in touch with the appropriate health or human service organization you need. (If you are calling from a cell phone, the Kent County number is 1-800-887-1107 and the Ottawa County number is 877-211-LAKE.) Anytime I have called, the staff have been very helpful and well informed. There is no cost for this service and it is available 24-7. You can also check out Kent County 211 online here or Ottawa County 211 online here.
  • You can find more options at Free Clinics of Michigan, where you can search by location.

How do I Choose a Child Therapist?

You obviously want to find a counselor who specializes in working with kids. If your child has a specific diagnosis such as autism, ADHD, ODD or anxiety you will want to make sure the counselor is experienced in that area. 

Most parents prefer to meet with the child counselor first, just to make sure it will be a good fit for their kid. Please remember: just because the first child therapist isn’t a good fit doesn’t mean you won’t find one.

Sometimes it takes a little trial and error – and, while potentially frustrating, that’s ok! Our daughter found her perfect match with her second child therapist. The woman is a literal wizard and has helped all three of my kids grow into their best selves.

 Normalize Talking to Your Kid About Their Mental Health

If you view this as a positive experience, your child will, too. 

I framed my daughter’s therapist appointments as a fun opportunity to figure out how her brain works and how to feel more calm at school and in certain situations. I told her that her therapist had tricks for helping her brain to not worry as often. 

We were excited to meet someone who was going to help us! And to this day, she looks forward to her counseling sessions. (Partly because her doctor gives her tootsie pops after each meeting, but also partly because she enjoys the peace these visits bring.)

It’s normal to have some reservations about seeking counseling for your child, but if you can see the bright side, they will, too. 

If you have a child with a lot of anxiety, give them some choices about seeing the counselor. (Do you want to write down some questions for the counselor ahead of time? Do you want me or Dad to go with you? Is there something you would like to take with you to help you feel more comfortable?)

Whatever angle you think is going to work best with your child, use it. When more people use these services to help their children, the stigma occasionally associated with them will melt away. 

Remember — happy children (help) make for happy adults. Why not give them the tools to help them for the rest of their lives? Care for your family’s mental health. Your future will thank you for it.

Young girl sitting on couch visiting with Child Therapist

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1 thought on “Best Child Therapists in Grand Rapids and how Counseling Works”

  1. HI, Thanks your article is great help for guiding kids counseling and therapy . We also have therapies and counselors for providing
    bright future for childrens… we also offers many services and therapies for more information please give a visit to us at Anxiety in kids grand rapids. Have a nice day ! thanks

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