Knowing when a child needs to see a therapist can be tricky. Kids don’t always have the emotional control or communication skills to verbalize what they need or feel. During difficult times, kids may think they need to protect their parents and not add to their pain. Therapy can provide a safe place for kids to grieve without feeling like they need to spare someone else’s feelings.
Signs a Child Might Need to See a Therapist
Actions speak louder than words. As children are often unable to verbalize their pain, they can show it through their actions. Keep an eye on a child that is expressing behaviors that are not typical. These behaviors include:
- Uncontrollable Crying
- Anger or Aggressiveness
- Social Withdrawal
- Bedwetting or other regressive behaviors after they are no longer appropriate for the child’s age or mental capability
What Kind of Therapy is Available for Children?
Child therapy differs from adult therapy in that a therapist must tailor each session to the child’s development stage. Additionally, the therapy must change and grow as the child does. We recommend seeking out a therapist with specific training in researched-based methods for kids. The type of therapy needed will be different for each child, but there are four primary therapies.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
As one of the most common therapies for children, CBT is beneficial for children experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. During CBT, kids learn how to recognize and understand thought patterns that contribute to depression and anxiety. Over time, they learn how to change those behavior patterns to facilitate healthier thinking.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
DBT works to combine mindfulness and coping skills to help children learn to regulate their emotions. When children learn to control their feelings, their world feels less chaotic and scary. DBT teaches children to work with and change their feelings and behaviors.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
During ERP, a child is exposed to thoughts, experiences, objects, and situations that trigger excessive anxiety or fear. ERP is commonly used to treat OCD in children and is also used to treat phobias and anxiety disorders.
Family-Focused Treatment (FFT)
When a whole family gets therapy, a child thrives. Children learn new ways to express themselves to their parents and learn about problem-solving strategies. In FFT, the entire family learns to improve their interaction, communication, and behavioral patterns.
Why We Choose Play Therapy
While there are many evidence-based therapies for children, one of the primary methods we use at Family-Strategies Counseling & Mediation is play therapy. Play therapy builds on the natural way that children learn about themselves and their relationship to the world. Play therapy has proven to help children with various social, emotional, behavioral, and learning problems. They learn about being more responsible for their behaviors and develop more successful coping strategies. Through play therapy, children learn:
- How to Communicate with others
- Express Feelings
- Teaching Empathy
- Modify Behaviors
- Develop Problem-Solving Skills
- Processing Sexual Abuse
Each weekly session is between 30-50 minutes. From our experience, a child needs an average of 20 play therapy sessions to work through problems typical of children referred for treatment. Of course, some children improve faster, and some issues require ongoing treatments.
Involving the Family
We use a variety of methods inside play therapy, but we often encourage family involvement as well. Families play an essential role in a child’s healing process, and family relationships can be complex. Sometimes children develop problems to signal there is something wrong within a family. Other times the child’s behavior is a source of distress for the whole family. A play therapist will often communicate regularly with the child’s caretakers to develop a plan to resolve problems. In some cases, a therapist might recommend direct caretaker involvement in play therapy.
Children don’t always make it clear when they need therapy because they cannot verbalize what they need or feel. If a child is excessively crying, aggressive, or experiencing unexplained bedwetting, seeking out a child therapist might be a good option. The kinds of therapy available for children range based on the issues they are experiencing. At Family-Strategies Counseling & Mediation, we often use play therapy to help children learn communication and coping skills. In addition, the therapist might recommend varying degrees of familial involvement in play therapy.
Family Strategies Counseling & Mediation is a therapy office serving the Chicagoland Area. We offer couples counseling and mental health services. Our therapists are skilled at working with those who are struggling to process traumatic events. Give our office a call at (708) 798-5433 or email us a info@Family-Strategy.com for appointment details.