Knowing if what your child is going through is normal or part of a bigger issue can be difficult. Typically, children and teens could benefit from therapy when they are struggling with issues they can’t cope with alone or are experiencing symptoms that are affecting their ability to function on a daily basis. It can also be beneficial when certain life transitions occur within a child’s life such as moving, a change in family dynamics such as a death in the family, divorce, or new marriage.
Therapy is a type of treatment that can help children and teens experiencing problems that affect how they feel, act, or learn. This process can help teens learn how to problem solve, communicate, and better cope with the issues they face.
What Problems Do Child Therapists Help With?
Therapists that work with children and adolescents are trained to treat a wide range of problems that children and teens face. For example, child counselors can help children and teens navigate difficult situations like:
- Family conflict and divorce
- School Problems
- Health Problems
- Life Transitions
Therapists can also help children and teens understand and deal with difficult emotions such as:
- Low Self-Esteem
In addition to helping children and teens deal with emotions and situations within their life, therapists are also trained in helping treat conditions like:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Disruptive Thoughts
- Suicide Ideation
- Trauma-related Disorders
What to Expect from Therapy?
Different approaches in treatment will be taken by the therapist depending on the client’s age. For instance, play therapy is typically used for younger children. This entails drawing, playing, and talking within each session. For older children and teens, talk therapy with activities that focus on learning and communication skills is typically used.
Both of these therapies include support from the therapist for the child to increase confidence, self-esteem, communication, and problem solving skills. Child and adolescent psychotherapy also provides a space for children and teens to talk, express, and further understand their feelings and learn ways to cope with them outside of therapy.
What Happens in Therapy?
Child psychologists and counselors employ a variety of methods when working with children and adolescents. For example, a therapist may use:
- Talk – Talking helps children and teens express their feelings. When children feel like their feelings are able to be expressed without judgement while being validate, they can learn how to express and understand their emotions in a healthier way
- Activities – Counselors employ a range of activities throughout the therapy in order to help the client understand, reflect, and find better ways to express feelings, communication, and coping skills. This can be done through activities such as play, drawing, or role-playing. For instance, meditation or breathing exercises may be used to help children and teens cope with intense feelings like stress, anxiety, or worry.
- Life Skill Practice – Therapists often work with children and teens on life skills throughout the therapeutic process. This may be done through activities such as games which helps the client learn and practice skills such as self-control, self-advocacy, patience, sharing, and appropriate expression of feelings.
- Problem Solving and Expression – Typically done with older children and adolescents, therapists will work with clients in order to find ways to solve problems that they are experiencing within their life.
How Long does Therapy Last
The length of therapy varies for everyone. A lot of factors influence the length of therapy such as what kind of therapy is being practiced, what reason your child or teen has come into therapy for, and the goals of therapy. In order to see improvement and goal attainment, expect therapy to last a few months to a few years with weekly sessions.
The Parent’s Role
As a parent, it can be difficult to know what your role is in the therapeutic process for your child or teen. Here are a few things that you can do in order to help your child get the most from therapy:
- Find a Therapist that is a Good Fit for your Child – It’s important to find a therapist that your child likes and feels comfortable with. Starting therapy can cause some discomfort at first so it’s important to check in with how your child is feeling about the process and the therapist. We recommend looking through our clinicians to find someone that is a good fit for your child’s needs.
- Keep a Consistent Therapy Schedule – Change takes time and being inconsistent with therapy appointments may result in slower goal attainment or change to occur in your child’s life.
- Meet with the Therapist – It may be helpful to meet with the therapist and discuss the problems or symptoms that you are noticing at home or at school. Take the time to ask the therapist what you can do to help your child get the most out of therapy. Most of the time, the therapist can give you direction as to what to do that will be most beneficial to your specific case.
- Parent with Compassion – Your child is going through a lot of changes and possibly dealing with some difficult emotions in therapy sessions. Because of this, it is important to show love, praise your child when they are doing well, and using kind words – even when correcting their behavior.
When is a Good time to start Child Counseling and Psychotherapy?
A good time to consider starting mental health counseling for your child or teen is when emotional or behavioral problems occur. Getting help earlier usually makes it easier to help the child or teen.
However, we understand the importance to avoid unnecessary treatments and associated costs in time and money. Sometimes it may be beneficial to monitor your child before starting counseling. If you’re unsure with whether or not counseling would be a good option, talking with a therapist can help guide you in the right direction or call our office at 847-979-0268 for more information.
When to take Action
There are few instances when it may not be a good idea to wait before starting therapy or seeking mental health help. For instance:
Eating Disorders – Eating disorders become harder to treat the longer the person with it has been struggling with it. This and the detrimental effects it can have on your child’s physical and mental health is why it is important to seek immediate help if your child is displaying signs of an eating disorder.
Family History – As certain mental disorders can be genetic, it is important to be aware of the increased chance that your child may begin to develop a mental health disorder that has been present in your family. If there is a history of mental health disorders in your family, it may be beneficial to start therapy a bit earlier, especially if symptoms or behaviors start presenting themselves.
Self-Harm, Cutting, or Suicide Attempts – Self-harm behavior such as cutting, suicide attempt, or suicide ideation is a dangerous behavior that should not be dismissed – even if it was a one time occurance. It’s important to get help from a trained professional in order to further understand the underlying reasons and emotions behind the action.
If you’re interested in learning more about child psychotherapy, counseling services, and psychological testing, please call our office at (847) 979-0268 or visit our website to learn more about the services we offer.