Tips for Finding an Evidence Based Treatment Therapist

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Learning that your child or teen has ADHD or is struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression can be overwhelming, and it’s hard for parents to know what to look for when they are searching for a therapist who can help. For your child to have the best chance of success with treatment, it is essential that parents look for a therapist who provides evidence-based treatments. Evidence-based treatments have undergone rigorous testing through scientific studies and clinical trials and have been proven to be effective for many kids with ADHD and other mental health problems (for a description of evidence-based treatments see my previous post on this topic.

Unfortunately, there is no simple way for parents and other consumers to know in advance whether a therapist provides evidence-based treatments. Occasionally, a therapist will have participated in a specific evidence-based treatment certification program and this certification will be listed on their website. While this makes it much easier for parents to have confidence in the therapist’s use of evidence-based treatments, many highly qualified, highly trained therapists who provide evidence-based treatments have not received these certifications. So, relying on a certification alone isn’t a great option. Overall, finding a good evidence-based therapist requires interviewing the therapist and asking key questions to determine whether evidence-based approaches will be incorporated into your child’s treatment.

Questions to Ask Prospective Therapists
When interviewing potential therapists for your child, ask the following questions. You should expect to hear answers that are consistent with the description of evidence-based treatments that I provided in my previous post.

  1. Training and Credentials
    Have you received training in any evidence-based treatments?
    Which treatments or approaches have you been trained in specifically?
    Where did you receive this training?
    Do you have any certifications?
    How much experience do you have treating children or teens with ADHD (and/or other conditions or challenges that may apply to your child)?
  2. Measuring symptoms and treatment progress
    What type of assessments do you conduct at the start of treatment?
    Do you use rating scales or measures and clinical interviews?
    Will I be expected to complete measures about my child’s symptoms and behavior?
    Will you collect measures from my child’s teacher as well?
    How do you measure treatment progress (i.e., how will you know if my child is improving)?
    What will you do if my child’s symptoms aren’t improving?
  3. Treatment and Treatment plan
    Do you create a treatment plan after you complete the initial assessment?
    Do you consult with parents when creating the treatment plan?
    Which treatments or treatment approaches do you use for ADHD (and/or other conditions or challenges that may apply to your child)?
    Do you recommend any websites or have any materials to share that will help me learn more about these treatments and approaches?
  4. Session content
    Do your sessions typically involve working on new skills or strategies?
    Do you expect your clients to practice new skills and strategies at home in between therapy sessions?
  5. Parent involvement
    What is the role of parents in the child’s treatment?
    How often will I (and my co-parent) be expected to attend treatment sessions?
    Will I be expected to help my child practice new skills and strategies at home?
  6. Treatment length
    After you complete the initial assessment, will you provide an estimate of how many therapy sessions you think my child will need?
    Do your clients usually remain in treatment for a few months or a few years?
    Do you encourage booster or maintenance sessions after treatment ends?

As a parent it is ultimately up to you to decide which therapist and treatment approach is the best fit for your child. Choosing a therapist is like choosing any other professional who delivers a service, and finding the right fit requires some research and legwork upfront. Fortunately, this effort will pay off when your child is able to work with a therapist who is trained in evidence-based treatments that can be tailored to meet your child’s individual needs.


*Note that before meeting with any therapist, you should always confirm that they are licensed in your state. To verify a therapist license, first find out whether they are a psychologist, a social worker, counselor, or a marriage and family therapist, and then search for “verify license” on one of the following organization’s websites:   

Psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.): The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards

Social Worker: Association of Social Work Boards

Mental Health Counselor: American Counseling Association

Marriage and Family Therapist: American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy


Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

Article Topics