Children and Adolescents
Do you have concerns about your child or children? Is your son or daughter struggling in school, having trouble making friends, or “acting out” at home? Trauma, cutting, abuse, aggression, poor school performance, sibling difficulties, attention problems, Asperger’s, and the particular needs of gifted children are all things that may bring parents to seek therapy. Children ranging from preschoolers to near-adult adolescents can benefit when their parents find a therapist with whom they can work.
Work with children is most effective when parents agree to be involved in the treatment also. This is important for a number of reasons. First, it is important to help ensure that parents understand and support the process of change as their child attempts to implement it. Second, it is often helpful or necessary for parents to try new parenting techniques to help support and shape their child’s behavior. Third, it is imperative that the therapist have a sense of the family and school environment in which a child’s behavior occurs, in order to make effective and realistic suggestions for change.
Therapy for ChildrenWhile therapy with adults usually involves a lot of talking, therapy with children must take place in a language that is appropriate for their age and development. The language of young and/or developmentally challenged children is play. Play therapy allows a child to express and work through whatever challenges he or she may be facing. Among other things, it can help to reduce aggressive or angry behavior; build empathy for others; and produce a feeling of being understood.
As children grow, their language becomes a mix of play and words, of verbal and non-verbal exchanges. Depending on the age and developmental level of a child, therapy with him or her will probably involve some degree of both. Family sessions may also involve some degree of both. Whatever the modality, the emphasis is on understanding the child’s limits and perspectives; helping the child meet social expectations; and on assisting him or her, and the family, to find new and more effective ways to meet the child’s needs.
Links related to Children’s Mental Health:
- A page from the PsychCentral website with articles devoted to parenting.
- A page from the National Institute for Mental Health, with a few articles on mental health challenges in children and teens.
- Articles by the American Mental Health Alliance on various topics about psychotherapy in general, as well as parenting, children’s mental health, etc.
- View additional links on this topic here.