Parents often ask me how psychotherapy works. Child psychotherapy refers to techniques and methods used by trained licensed therapists to help children and teens resolve emotional and behavioral problems. There are different types of psychotherapy. Each type relies on communication as the basic tool for bringing about change in a child or teen’s feelings and behaviors.
Psychotherapy may involve an individual child or teen, group or family. One teen I worked with commented that therapy helped him solve problems in ways he wouldn’t have thought of on his own. The ability to face and solve problems is an invaluable skill that is cultivated in psychotherapy.
Playing, drawing, building, and pretending as well as talking, are important ways children share feelings and learn to resolve problems. When I work with children, I don’t usually use talk therapy. I use their language of play. Of course we talk during our play, but the communication occurs in the context of the dollhouse, the puppets or as we play a board game.
A child’s thoughts, feelings and circumstances are played out during therapy. It is through the use of the child’s language of play I help them resolve their struggles. Children and teens learn that they can take charge of their anxiety or anger. Therapy helps build self-esteem. It can also help a child/teen know their parent’s divorce is not their fault.
As a child and teen therapist, I am also asked about practical aspects of therapy. I share with parents that prior to meeting their child, I want to meet with them to learn about their child. My initial assessment process is to determine what the problem is and whether therapy is needed. Therapy is useful but not in all cases. The decision to proceed with therapy is based upon such things as the child’s current problems, history, development, ability to cooperate in treatment, and what interventions are most likely to help with the presenting concerns.
The psychotherapy process is often used in combination with other treatments such as consultation with the school, parenting support, and if needed, medication. The length of therapy depends on the severity of the problem. Therapy can last from three months to a couple of years. Each situation is different.
The relationship that develops between the therapist and a child/teen is very important. A trusting relationship makes it much easier for the child to express him or herself. If a child is resistant to therapy, this becomes an opportunity to work through negative feelings and problematic behaviors.
Parents often give in to resistance. This can result in a child not developing and growing in important ways that are critical for their future success. Of course, there are times when a child is so resistant to therapy that it is not a good intervention. When this is the case, other interventions should be considered.
- Emotional support
- Problem solving skills
- Conflict resolution skills
- Help improving communication
- Help understanding and managing feelings
- Safe place to practice new solutions to old problems
Goals in therapy may be specific (change in behavior, improved relations with friends) or more general (less anxiety, better self-esteem, or support during a time of loss). A good child psychotherapist coaches parents how to respond to their children therapeutically so that changes can be reinforced at home and the child’s important relationships can be permanently strengthened.
We count it a privilege to work with our clients. Call or contact us today for an appointment.