Are you concerned because your child has become unhappy or withdrawn? Are you seeing more tantrums and outbursts? We offer child-focused therapy and parenting support to help you and your child navigate the developmental stages without difficulty.
Sometimes kids, like adults, can benefit from therapy. Therapy can help kids develop problem-solving skills and also teach them the value of seeking help. Therapists can help kids and families cope with stress and a variety of emotional and behavioral issues.
Many kids need help dealing with school stress, such as homework, test anxiety, bullying, or peer pressure. Others need help to discuss their feelings about family issues, particularly if there’s a major transition, such as a divorce, move, or serious illness.
Should My Child See a Therapist?
Significant life events such as the death of a family member, friend, or pet; divorce or a move; abuse; trauma; a parent leaving on military deployment; or a major illness in the family can cause stress that might lead to problems with behavior, mood, sleep, appetite, and academic or social functioning.
In some cases, it’s not as clear what’s caused a child to suddenly seem withdrawn, worried, stressed, sulky, or tearful. But if you feel your child might have an emotional or behavioral problem or needs help coping with a difficult life event, trust your instincts.
Here are some signs that a child may benefit from seeing a therapist:
- Developmental delays in speech, language, or toilet training
- Learning or attention problems (such as ADD/ADHD)
- Behavioral problems (such as excessive anger, acting out, bedwetting or eating disorders)
- A significant drop in grades, particularly if your child normally maintains high grades
- Episodes of sadness, tearfulness, or depression
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Being the victim of bullying or bullying other children
- Decreased interest in activities
- Overly aggressive behavior (such as biting, kicking, or hitting)
- Sudden changes in appetite
- Insomnia or increased sleepiness
- Excessive school absenteeism or tardiness
- Mood swings
- Development of or an increase in physical complaints (such as headache, stomachache, or not feeling well) despite a normal physical exam by your doctor
- Management of an illness
- Problems in transitions (following separation, divorce, or relocation)
- Bereavement issues
- Custody evaluations
- Therapy following sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or other traumatic events
Different Types of Therapy
There are many types of therapy. Therapists choose the strategies that are most appropriate for a particular problem and for the individual child and family. Therapists will often spend a portion of each session with the parents alone, with the child alone, and with the family together.
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. In some cases, kids benefit from individual therapy, one-on-one work with the therapist on issues they need guidance on, such as depression, social difficulties, or worry. Family therapy can also be helpful in many cases, such as when family members aren’t getting along; disagree or argue often; or when a child is having behavior problems. Family therapy involves counseling sessions with some, or all, family members, helping to improve communication skills among them. Treatment focuses on problem-solving techniques and can help parents re-establish their role as authority figures.
Preparing for the First Visit
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 (or family) 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.
Older kids and teens may be reassured to hear that anything they say to the therapist is confidential and cannot be shared with anyone else, including parents or other doctors, without their permission — the exception is if they indicate that they’re having thoughts of suicide or otherwise hurting themselves or others.
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.