Psychologists for Kids & Teens

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi, 

    We are really struggling to find a child based psychology center that deals with hundreds of kids a day, that has seen it all - hopefully integrated with a broad range of practitioners. What centers are out there? Our child is autistic (highly verbal) with behavioral and mood disorders. We've had a hard time finding places that see our type of kiddos frequently enough. And if you've been through this and have any other resources/groups that help you I would be grateful. :)



    My son goes to the CPMC Kalmanovitz Child Development Center in SF for OT and they have psychotherapists there. Feel free to DM me and I can share our experience.

    Stanford Autism Center -

    Children's Health Council -

    Dr. Megan Allen -

    Dr. Jessica Hobson -

    Autism Center of Northern California -

    Whole Child -

    CPMC Kalmanovitz Child Development Center -

  • Hi. We have a 15 year old with on-going motivational issues. He's got a lot of dreams for the future but can't seem to invest much effort into achieving them. The biggest problem being not doing required (and easy) assignments during the end of any given school year. Like he's purposefully sabotaging himself. He's setting himself up for heart break. We'd like to find a psychologist who will get to the heart of his self-harming behavior. What we don't want is someone who will convince him to lower his, frankly, modest career expectations, but actually get him to see that moderate efforts will get him results. Not looking for an honor roll kid, just a functional one. Can anyone recommend a local psychologist that would fit this bill? Thanks!

    Oh man, that sounds familiar. While you are waiting on a rec, I suggest reading the book, He’s Not Lazy. It helped me understand a little more about what was driving the behavior and also helped me help my teen manage it a little better. Not a replacement for professional help, but good in conjunction, imo. 

    We're two weeks into looking and every psychologist is telling me they are fully booked. No one's answering here in a week. Mental health in this country is impossible to deal with.

    My 15 year old daughter has similar issues and has had success working with Heather Ayers-Cluff

    I was so relieved to find her during the pandemic after several weeks of searching for a therapist who works with teens. Most people were fully booked. I don't know whether Heather has any openings right now.

  • My 8-year old son received a concussion three months ago and has lingering headache symptoms. His excellent doctor and physical therapist at Oakland Children's recommend we talk to a psychologist about post-concussion syndrome. I am wondering if anyone has dealt with this particular issue, or just has a wonderful child psychologist they recommend, who can get us pointed in the right direction.

    I recommend you look up Eric Freitag, PhD. We found him very helpful. He’s a psychologist who specializes in concussions and children.  

    You might talk to Dr Arrillaga to see if he'd be a fit. Concussion was the main reason my teen sought his care. He also does neuro testing.…

    This might not be what you're looking for, but have you considered a DO who does cranial osteopathy?  If my child suffered from a concussion that's the first place I would go.  You can learn more here:

    This is additional training that DOs (Doctors of Osteopathy) take (and very different from sacral-cranial therapists, who have only 24 hrs of training). DOs, like MDs, have unlimited medical license to practice.  You can learn more about osteopathy here: We took our son to Dr Sorrel when she was in the Bay Area (she's now in Santa Rosa) and I believe it helped.  If a blow to the head isn't a good thing it stands to reason that any gentle work to help the skull bones "reset" to their proper place can help with healing: reduce the inflammatory response, allow for draining (scientists have discovered the brain has a lymphatic system, and cranial osteos are well trained to aid in promoting needed drainage).  It's a biomechanical response to a biomechanical injury.  At the least, it won't do any harm- the manual manipulation is very gentle- feels like a light massage.

    More on osteopathy and concussions: for a 2nd study.


    Hi, I have personally experienced post-concussion syndrome, and still have some lingering effects. I can't recommend a pediatric specialist, but I can recommend an excellent, empathic  neurologist--Dr Selena Ellis. And an exceptionally smart and empathetic neuropsychologist--Tom Van Vleet (tomvanvleet [at] would be the best way to reach him)--whose research and practice is in TBI and post-concussion effects. They have been very helpful for me. I also used a speech therapist and an occupational therapist through Alta Bates for a short time. Tom is really only available Wednesdays, and he does not take insurance, but he can bill you and you can submit bills to your insurance if they take out-of-network providers.

    I can go on ad nauseam about how difficult PCS and related symptoms can be, and how other symptoms can be linked. Dr. Ellis will evaluate him thoroughly (she helped me understand all that I was experiencing). If your son's only lingering symptom is headache, I can guess that he probably needs more cognitive rest--in the form of naps, more sleep, no electronics, and maybe just time in a (darkened) room with no noise or other stimulation, trying not to think. All the professionals I saw told me that if I experienced symptoms (e.g., confusion, drowsiness, headaches), it was because I had already overtaxed my brain and should have stopped to rest already. So any neuro-professional may give your son similar advice. Cognitive rest is really the only way to recover. 

    Tom & Dr Ellis would be helpful in fully assessing and advising him. If they don't take children as patients, I'm sure they can refer you to someone else.

    The only other thing I can offer, if you're still looking for more, is that the daughter of a friend of mine suffered a concussion playing soccer. Her club had the right protocol (this is how I first learned that I'd been given bad advice from the ER). She's in the south bay, but I could ask her if she took her daughter to a neurologist or other specialist, and whether she went to a pediatric specialist. Her daughter was on a very limited school schedule for about 3 months, and I think it was a month or more before she was allowed to listen to music or watch TV. 

    Good luck. Tell him he will likely start feeling better soon, especially if he rests!! The first 3-6 months can be the most difficult. I'm told recovery is quicker with kids, but for me the first 3 months were horrible, and I didn't see any real improvement until about 6 months. My headaches began to diminish in about 6 months, and it was about a year before I could say my head didn't hurt most or much of the time. The rest I forced myself to take was the most helpful; probably good if your son can get as much as possible before school starts. It's surprising what can be exhausting, so the need for rest can be subtle. The first day I went back into the office, just seeing and talking to people was so exhausting I went home and slept 18 hours! (I'm normally an extrovert and an insomniac.)

    I hope this helps. Please contact the moderator if you'd like me to talk to you further.

    Hi again, just wanted to provide some more direct information. The therapist who has been helping is Alissa Blackman MFT on 66th and Telegraph. Johanna's contact is johanna.ortis [at] and 510.303.3197. She can explain more why at this stage it has been an MFT who has helped the most, and the other approaches and therapies they tried along the way. All the best, Elizabeth

    I really appreciate these specific and thorough recommendations.

    The symptoms seem to have resolved for the moment, but I am keeping all of this information on file for the time being.

    Many thanks!!!


  • I am looking for a child psychologist for my 7 year -old daughter. She is having a hard time to make and keep friendships and also since her brother was born we have been dealing with aggressive behavior. All recommendations are welcome. We prefer a woman psychologist in Berkeley, Albany or Rockridge area. 

    Thank you so much!

    I have a verrrry difficult child. We have had AMAZING results with Elena Schabes at the Antioch Kaiser. I know she also sees patients elsewhere, it would be worth it for you to contact her. If she can't help you I am sure she can recommend someone else.

    Good luck!

    I'd highly recommend Dr. Fortunee Kayra-Stuart. She worked with my daughter for 18 months, from 5-1/2 to 7yo and it resolved the anxiety issues she was suffering. She loves working with children through play. She's in her 80's, in excellent health, migrated from Greece, incredibly experienced, works with the courts a lot (family law) and a remarkable therapist (I still see her).

    fortunee [at]

    2550 Ninth St. #115
    Berkeley CA 94710

    Best of luck finding someone for your child. 


    We see Dr. Patrick Chrisman. He is very gentle and caring and was great with our young daughter. Please check his website out. Good luck. 

  • Hello: I reviewed many of the therapists recommended in other threads for young children. I did not see any with "extra" knowledge on a incarcerated parent; and parent with mental illness. I do have divorce and custody added which is important. I am willing to travel. My home base is varied Martinez to Walnut Creek to el sobrante. East bay preferred. I am more then ok with Oakland and others. I just want to help my 4yr old son be able to express his emotions via play therapy and know it is ok. That even though it is intense and our family dynamics are different. He can always tell me or someone else what he needs. Thank you for your thoughts. I am with Kaiser but will pay out of pocket. Again thank you. It takes a village. ~KJ

    I do not know for certain that this doctor has extra expertise in helping children cope with incarcerated family members, but he is definitely worth checking into: Daniel Alterman at Richmond Kaiser.

    My experience with him came in the form of a parenting class which I deeply enjoyed. I am planning to set up appointments with him for my 6 year old daughter for anxiety as well. He is truly an empathetic human with deep understanding of children and I really trust his approach.

    I would think that many therapists would be able to provide support to a child experiencing loss/absence of a parent. However, if you want your child's therapist to have experience working with children who have incarcerated parents, I would suggest contacting a foster care mental health team to see if any of the therapists there have private practices. 

    Good luck!

    I highly recommend Katrinca Ford.  Phone number (925) 831-1926 and website:

    She has worked with children with incarcerated parents and developed some training materials on the topic for teacher and mental heath staff at Head Start in Contra Costa County while I was working there.  

    Thank you both. I have a apt with one kp provider. I will check out Richmond next. Then maybe some of the referrals on this site.  His preschool director is trying to say he has ADHD at 4. then discussed "you Should look into it with mental health illness in his parent." It was hard for me to listen to: I already had a appointment made for his anxiety and questions I didn't know how to answer. She said this 2-3 times in front of him. I know I need to ask her to discuss this privately. I feel a little overwhelmed and out of my league. He only acts "out of control when he hears this." I also work a lot so I don't know if I am a accurate gauge. Thanks again. KJ

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Psychologist for a teenage daughter

Feb 2014

I would like to highly recommend a Psychologist for a teenage daughter with social anxiety, perfectionism, and depression. We met Dr Lesleigh Franklin during a crisis with our teenage daughter. Dr Franklin immediately took charge, bonded with our daughter, and has guided us to a better, safer place. Our daughter has made great strides in a few months. She works with our family, including 2 step-parents, allowing us to meet as a group &/or just our teen. She is extremely insightful and direct, allowing us to start healing, and make changes in our lives allowing our daughter to have less anxiety. I have met so many therapists that haven't been helpful in the past, that I want to share this one. Lesleigh Franklin PhD, 415-515-4281, 411 30th St, Suite 305, Oakland. Gretchen

Seeking a pediatric psychologist

Sept 2012

Can someone please recommend a pediatric psychologist that accepts Anthem Blue Cross (HMO)? Thank you. Frustrated with Insurance Obstacles

I highly recommend Dr. Deborah Ronay. She is compassionate, sharp and very experienced with children. 510-379-9235 Valerie, LCSW

My recommendation may be a bit South for most in this network, but here's my experience nonetheless. Our kids' pediatrician gave us a referral to the Center for Developing Minds ( ) Our 5 year-old son was having sleep problems. At that practice we met with one of the partners, Dr. Neal Rojas. I was impressed with the way he went about collecting information and determining a solution. He began with a quick medical exam and then engaged my son and I in some role playing. He asked me to write a very detailed narrative about our bedtime ritual. After two visits he had a plan of action for us - just some basic rewards to reinforce correct behavior, and that I needed to shorten the bedtime ritual. It all made sense. Dr. Rojas wrote a thorough assessment of things, called and talked to me about the plan, and followed up with our pediatrician. It barely took a week before our sleep problems were solved. Other things to consider - at the time - 3 years ago - this was the only practice in the area with a pediatric behavioral psychiatrist. I emphasize ''behavioral,'' this guy really understands young children. Also, this wasn't cheap, and you pay in full at the time of service. That being said, the office staff provides you with everything you need to submit a claim to your insurance company - which worked for us. Dan

Child Psychologist, w/ experience with cancer kids

May 2010

I am seeking a recommendation for a child psychologist, who has experiences with children who had gone through cancer treatment in the past, and are having some social adjustment issues at school. My son went to almost four years of cancer treatment. He is off treatment for two years, and now in the end of 5th grade. Even since he was still during treatment, he tends to fall into a role of being bullied.

He sees himself as physically weaker than his peers (which unfortunately is true due to the result of cancer treatment), and he feels he is too weak to stand up for himself.

I would like him to have someone who can coach him how to navigate some socially conflicting situations with his peers.

He is talented with drawing and art, has tremendous patience, and has very pleasant characteristics. However, he does not seem to know how to be confrontational in more firm and assertive way.

I have asked some help from school, but the support seems minimum.

Any recommendation is appreciated. Thank you. Mom who is seekng support for my child

Rachel Levy works in Market Hall in Rockridge, and specializes in work with this population. She's bright, competent, and great with kids. Her number is 510- 287-2625. Seth

Your son is probably eligible for a 504 plan or an IEP(if he doesn't have one already), which obligates the school to plan for his needs. Talk to one of the parent advocates at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF). You also might check at the hospital where he was treated, and see if there are any post-treatment support groups for children. anon

Hi, I feel for your son and all he and your family have gone through. I have an excellent referral however. Kristina Whitney, Ph.D. is a wonderful clinical psychologist who specializes in working with children as well as working with children who have or have had medical issues. She is top notch and I think you should at least call to get a feel for her style. Dr. Whitney is located in Oakland in the Rockridge area and her phone number is (510) 658-8052. Good luck. Rachel

I know of two therapists at Children's Hospital who deal only with cancer children and their families (our family too!). They are Dina Hankin and Pam Orren, both very nice women. I don't know if you have to be seen by the oncology group at CHO to have access to Dina and Pam though. Worth looking into. I'm sorry you have need for their services. Another peds onc mama

2005 - 2009 Discussions

Child psychologist specializing in sexual abuse

Oct 2009

I have reason to believe my four year old daughter might have been sexually molested. I am looking for a good child psychologist/therapist who specializes in sexual abuse who can help us figure out what happened and also help my daughter recover. Thank you. anon

I wanted to let you know that you are not alone. We are dealing with this currently.

The first thing that you need to know is that as soon as you bring a professional into your child's life, Child Protective Services will be notified and a report will be written. All therapists, psychologists... are mandated reporters. CPS may or may not investigate. Your report will be forwarded to the police in your city. Berkeley is very proactive in investigating reports of sexual abuse.

Your child will have interview/s at Callico, an agency who specializes in interviewing children about abuse. The DA will view the interview either by tape or in person. Your child may or may not have a physical exam at Children's Hospital. They are fantastic and it is not scary at all. The police may or may not file charges, but you will be expected to keep your child away from the perpetrator.

Children's Hospital has fantastic therapeutic services. They are free to victims and are specialized in dealing with sexual abuse. Please call them and learn about the Center for Child Protection. You can survive this as long as you allow yourself to receive support. Discovering sexual abuse puts you through an intense grief process. Anger, Denial, Bargaining... and eventually you can make it to acceptance. I pray you peace and strength. You may ask the moderator to give you my email. Stronger than I ever thought

ISO Child Psychologist for 7yo's anxiety

Jan 2009

Our seven-year-old daughter has anxiety issues. We need help. Might you have a child psychologist to recommend? We're in Contra Costa so referrals on the east side of the tunnel are even more appreciated. I'm reading The Highly Sensitive Child now and would also be grateful for any books you might recommend that could help us. L.

Hi. I would highly recommend Virginia VandenBergh MFCC. She has helped me a great deal with my little sister's anorexia and has a great deal of expertise in this area. She has a wonderful way with children and is extremely compassionate. Her office is located in the Rockridge Area of Oakland and I find that she can often work with me at odd hours- very amenable. Her phone number is 510-654-6096. I wish you the best of luck. Jordan

Mary Crittendon

June 2003

Mary Crittendon has come recommended to me to assess my child. She is a developmental and behavorial pediatric pyschologist at UCSF. Has anyone had any experience with her or heard anything? Thank you!

My son was evaluated by Mary Crittendon in kindergarten (he is now in 6th grade). She was wonderful. A tiny woman who can fit in the little chairs that the kids sit in. She was very helpful in seeing my child in all his diverse aspects. She did not diagnose ADHD but did suggest follow up evaluations. She had very specific information about how he perceived the world around him and how to help him be more comfortable and effective. We didn't go back to her, but four years later we did end up having him seen again and he was diagnosed with ADHD. He is now seeing Dr. Brad Berman, who I love and who also sees kids as wonderful, funny, interesting humans who need help and guidance to be their best. My suggestion is, if you go to her and she says come back in a year -- do it. anon mom