Information About Therapy for Children
“CBT for children and young people is one of a number of evidence based interventions for common childhood problems and disorders. Professionals with skills in this area, are in great demand and should be sought out.”Anwen Prendergast, LCSW - Anna Freud Centre
“While most EMDR research has been conducted on adults, I believe the treatment works especially well with children, as they tend to take to the process more quickly than adults. EMDR has consistently outperformed CBT in providing quicker resolution to trauma victims.”Ricky Greenwald, PsyD - Affiliate Professor at the SUNY University at Buffalo School of Social Work
“Your thoughtful explanation of how the human brain works within the context of what we’re contemplating for our son’s behavior represented a watershed moment for us. We can now see the qualities that form his personality and his unique way of thinking. I feel this is the key to me being better parent, on all kinds of levels. Now I feel like I have a toolset for reversing the negative energy in our house.”Name withheld for privacy
“If I could give one piece of advice to parents going through a divorce, it would be this; please do not assume that your children can handle this most difficult transition period without help. If you are having a hard time with it so are they.”Name withheld for privacy
Should Your Child See aTherapist?
There are times when a child can benefit from therapy – just like a grownup. Therapy can help children cope with traumatic events, learn problem solving skills and the value of asking for help as well as working on a variety of emotional and behavioral issues.
Some children need help talking about their feelings and family issues, especially during a significant event in life, such as death of a family member, friend or pet, military deployment of a parent, divorce, illness and other troubling circumstances. Other critical stressors that need the help of a therapist stem from bullying, threats and other forms of abuse. These can cause stress that show up as behavior problems, moodiness, changes in sleep patterns, loss of appetite and/or academic or social troubles.
In many situations, it’s simply not clear what causes a child to suddenly become emotional, worried, withdrawn, anxious, or frightened. It is important that if you feel your child is experiencing emotional or behavioral problems or needs help dealing with a challenging event in life, trust your intuition and take action.
Signs to Look for -That Therapy May Be of Benefit
- Delays in developmental benchmarks, such as motor skills, speech, toilet training, etc.
- ADD and ADHD
- Excessive anger, such as hitting, kicking, biting, yelling, etc.
- Over reacting
- Abnormal eating habits
- Loss of interest in school, absenteeism, missing assignments, drop in grades, etc.
- Protracted periods of sadness or depression
- Isolating or a loss of interest in playing with others
- Being bullied or the target of threats or abuse
- Reduced interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Changes in sleep habits or insomnia
- Abrupt changes in mood – happy one minute and angry the next
- Complaints of headache, stomachache or other physical pain.
Family or Personal Circumstances During Which Your Child Could Benefit from Seeing a Therapist:
- Marriage problems like separation or divorce
- Legal issues like custody evaluations or court hearings
- Significant health problems like sudden, acute or chronic illness
- Any signs of use or abuse of alcohol, drugs or other substance in yourself, family member or your child
- Change of address of the family or a family member (such as a military deployment)
- Death of a family member, friend or pet
- Discovery of any form of abuse
- Traumatic event in the family, school, community or on the news
- Diagnosis of autism or other developmental disorder
Talk to Others About Your Child
It can be helpful to visit with other family members, family friends, parents of your children’s friends, caregivers and teachers who interact regularly with your child. Do they notice anything that might indicate there is a problem? Is your child acting appropriately for his or her age? Gather and analyze as much information as you can to determine how you can help your child and whether or not you should see a therapist.
Finding the Right Therapist
How do you find a qualified clinician who has experience working with kids and teens? While experience and education are important, it's also important to find a counselor your child feels comfortable talking to. Look for one who not only has the right experience, but also the best approach to help your child in the current circumstances.
Different Types of Therapy
There are many types of therapy that are appropriate for children. We will choose the most appropriate approach for your particular child and their needs and will also assess your family situation, spending a portion of each session visiting with you. The first session is always used to gather information from the parents.
This type of therapy is the quintessential form of therapy, where the therapist works to help the child express themselves verbally. Talk therapy is best suited for children with good language skills.
This type of therapy is typically helpful with children who are depressed, anxious or having problems coping with stressful situations.
Cognitive behavioral therapy restructures negative thoughts into more positive, effective ways of thinking. It can include work on stress management strategies, relaxation training, practicing coping skills, and other forms of treatment.
Click here to read about CBT.
The symptoms from mental health issues appear to diminish faster with young children than with adults. Children appear more able to undergo rapid change. Perhaps due to the child's age, it seems that a trauma, or anxiety or a phobia has had less time to take hold throughout a young person's mind and body. It is significant that EMDR seems to help children move in positive directions. EMDR is a useful approach with younger, less verbal children. Even though it is administered therapeutically the process itself can seem like a game – a game played between therapist and child. When children are having fun, they are potentially more open to being in a therapist's office.
Click here to read about using EMDR with children.
Play therapy is defined as "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."
Play therapy is a fun, enjoyable activity that elevates our spirits and brightens our outlook on life. It expands self-expression, self-knowledge, self-actualization and self-efficacy. Play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego. In addition, play therapy allows us to practice skills and roles needed for survival. Learning and development are best fostered through play.
Click here to read about play therapy.
Sandplay goes back to an early decade of this century when H.G. Wells wrote about observing his two sons playing on the floor with miniature figures and his realizing that they were working out their problems with each other and with other members of the family. Twenty years later Margaret Lowenfeld, a child psychiatrist in London, was looking for a method to help children express the "inexpressible." She recalled reading about Wells' experience with his two sons and so she added miniatures to the shelves of the play room of her clinic. The first child to see them took them to the sandbox in the room and started to play with them in the sand. And thus it was a child who "invented" what has come to be identified as sandplay therapy.
Click here to read about sandplay therapy.
Preparing Your Child for Therapy
You may be concerned that your child will become upset when told of an upcoming visit with a therapist. Although this is sometimes the case, it's essential to be honest about the session and why your child will be going. The issue will come up during the session, but it's important for you to prepare your child for it.
Explain to young kids that this type of visit to the doctor doesn't involve a physical exam or shots. You may also want to stress that this type of doctor talks and plays with kids and families to help them solve problems and feel better. Kids might feel reassured to learn that the therapist will be helping the parents and other family members too.
Giving kids this kind of information before the first appointment can help set the tone, prevent your child from feeling singled out or isolated, and provide reassurance that the family will be working together on the problem.
Providing Additional Support for Your Child
As your child progresses through therapy and deals with sensitive and emotional issues, it is important that you are there for them – ready to listen, care, offer support (all without judgement).
Schedule time to debrief each therapy session and visit about their experiences, fears and concerns. Help you child feel that he or she is your primary focus and priority. By recognizing problems and seeking help early on, you can help your child — and your entire family — move through the tough times toward happier, healthier times ahead.
Consider These Suggestions for Helping the Process:
- Talk with your child as often as they would like to.
- Show extra patience, affection and acts of kindness – especially during troubled times.
- Don’t be afraid to set your own boundaries and take care of your own physical and emotional needs – setting an example for you child.
- Ask for suggestions and help from other family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, doctors, etc.
- Plan and hold family meetings to discuss appropriate details of therapy and your child’s involvement and progress.
- Plan and hold family activities that focus on your child and an issues he or she is working on – such as favorite hobbies, meals, treats, games, entertainment, etc.
- Communicate frequently with the therapist and ask for specific tips and strategies to help your unique situation.
- Be open to the recommendations you get from the therapist and thefeedback you get from your child.
- Respect the relationship between your child and the therapist and discuss any negative feelings about it, if they arise.