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.

Therapy Services in Grand Rapids

2505 Ardmore SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

“Levi has almost reached his goal, and I am speechless at his progress. We highly recommend [CTC] and talk about it’s benefits at our IEP meetings and with fellow parents.”

Comprehensive Therapy Center therapies and disabilities guide 2021

Therapy Services in Grand Rapids

3292 North Evergreen Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

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

Our evaluation and recommendations were spot-on and life-changing for our family! We have recommended BRAINS to others and will continue to do so. - Cindy Meteyer

BRAINS therapies and disabilities guide 2021

Therapy Services in Grand Rapids

3300 36th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512

When life gets difficult, Wedgwood can help.

We offers a unique continuum of care 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.

Our therapists have the skills, experience, and compassion to help you create meaningful and lasting change.

"Life changing - for the better! Counseling taught both our child, and us, skills to grow, improve, and help our daughter embrace her future." - Parent of Counseling Client

Wedgwood Christian Services therapies and disabilities guide 2021

Therapy Services in Grand Rapids

1260 Ekhart St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Wedgwood provides comprehensive early intensive behavioral intervention services for young children with autism spectrum disorders.

Exceptional, high-quality, individualized, center-based therapy is offered in a fun, engaging environment that sets kids and families up for brighter futures.

Wedgwood Christian Services therapies and disabilities guide autism center

Therapy Services in Caledonia

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.

Therapy Services in Grand Rapids

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

Therapy Services in Grand Rapids

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.

Therapy Services in Grand Rapids

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.

Therapy Services in

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.

Therapy Services in

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

Therapy Services in Grand Rapids

Arbor Circle helps clients build coping skills through more than 50 counseling, education and prevention programs and services addressing everything from school readiness and child abuse prevention to substance use and homelessness.

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

More in Grand Rapids

10 Best Pediatricians in Grand Rapids

Parents Voted for the Best Pediatricians in Grand Rapids My children love their pediatrician so much that they will even brave the “horrific” shots (they are petrified of shots) if…

Continue reading

The 10 Best Orthodontists in Grand Rapids

We Asked Parents to Name The Best Orthodontists Who doesn’t love to see their child smile? An orthodontist can help children feel confident about their smile, but with frequent appointments, and sometimes a…

Continue reading

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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.