It can be tough to know when to consider therapy for your child, but some signs may indicate that professional help is needed. Here’s a closer look at child therapy, how it works, and when you might want to consider it.
What is Child Therapy, and How Does it Work?
Child therapy is a type of therapy that specifically focuses on the emotional, physical, behavioral, and cognitive areas of your child’s healthy development.
Child counselors can help kids with many different issues including trauma, anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, and social skill deficits.
Child counselors use a variety of techniques to help kids, such as play therapy, art therapy, and talk therapy.
Play therapy uses play to help kids better communicate their feelings; this technique can include directive play therapy and/or nondirective play therapy.
Directive play therapy is structured with a specific goal in mind. The therapist plays an active role in selecting the play materials and activities. For example, they offer the child a puppet to engage them in conversations about their present life situations.
In nondirective play therapy, the child to selects their own toys and materials. The therapist provides an encouraging, non-judgmental environment while the child leads the play session with minimal instruction.
Art therapy uses art to help kids express the emotions and experiences they may not be able to express verbally. An art therapist may use a variety of art techniques, including drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage building.
Talk therapy involves talking with a therapist about emotions and experiences. There are various types of talk therapy, with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) being some of the most popular.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
CBT is a common type of talk therapy that helps children learn to manage their emotions and behavior. CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns to change negative behaviors.
CBT teaches children skills such as how to identify and label their feelings, how to understand and express emotions in appropriate ways, and how to problem-solve.
Through CBT, the child can learn to recognize and challenge their negative thoughts, eventually leading to improved mental health and increased self-confidence.
ACT focuses on helping children identify and shift their core beliefs, values, and assumptions about themselves and the world.
The goal is to help children develop a sense of self-awareness and acceptance, as well as the ability to commit to positive change. It also emphasizes the importance of mindfulness, which is the ability to be present and non-judgmental in the moment.
In addition, ACT teaches children how to effectively cope with difficult emotions, using techniques such as refocusing and accepting without judgement.
Both ACT and CBT have been shown to be effective in treating a variety of child mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression, and conduct disorder.
Why Therapy Might Be Necessary for Some Kids
Many parents would agree that children have a lot more to deal with these days. Between the back-to-school rush, classroom bullies, and worries about the Covid pandemic, it’s no wonder that children sometimes struggle to cope.
They’re having trouble in school
Back to school is a time of excitement for many children and it can also be overwhelming. For some children, particularly those being bullied, the start of a new school year can trigger anxiety and depression.
Some children may struggle throughout the school year in other ways. If your child has a hard time keeping up with their schoolwork or is habitually disruptive in class, therapy can help them learn how to identify the root problem and cope with their stressors to make academic progress.
They’ve experienced bullying
Bullying is a serious problem that can have lasting effects on its victims. Nearly 67% of children experience bullying at some point, with 1 in 4 (24%) of children experiencing chronic bullying.
Children who are bullied may suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. A child therapist can provide support and guidance as well as help your child develop healthy coping techniques and exercises.
But what if it’s your child that’s being the bully? Often, bullying is a way for children to express underlying feelings of sadness, insecurity, or anger. Child counselors can work with your child to understand the root causes of their bullying behavior.
By helping your child to understand and process these emotions, child counselors can help them to find more constructive ways of dealing with their feelings. They can teach your child new coping strategies, social skills, and anger management techniques.
Child counselors can also provide support and guidance for you as a parent. They can help you to develop an effective parenting strategy that will address your child’s needs and help to prevent future bullying behavior.
They’re having difficulty making or keeping friends
If your child is having trouble making friends or maintaining friendships, therapy can help them develop the social skills necessary to build and maintain relationships.
Child therapy can also help them identify any negative thought patterns or behaviors that may be holding them back from forming healthy friendships.
They’re behaving aggressively or defiantly
Children struggling emotionally may act out as a way of expressing their feelings. This can manifest itself as getting into trouble at school or lashing out at siblings at home.
Classroom behavioral issues were the most common reason for school exclusion. Children with learning difficulties and mental health diagnoses were more likely than other kids to be excluded from school.
If your child is acting out in anger or constantly testing boundaries, it may be a sign that they need help learning how to cope with their emotions in a healthy way.
They’ve experienced a traumatic event
If your child has experienced a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or abuse, therapy can help them process their feelings and start to heal.
They had a tough time with Covid
COVID has been tough on everyone, but it has been especially hard on children. Many had to deal with the closure of schools and childcare facilities, the sudden loss of social interaction, and the stress of their parents working from home.
As a result, many children are struggling with depression and anxiety. Child therapy can be incredibly helpful in dealing with the challenges of COVID. A child counselor can give you ways to ease your child’s anxiety and help them cope in these difficult times.
Signs your child may be struggling with anxiety or depression
As a parent, it can be difficult to know when your child is just going through a phase or if they may be facing something more serious. Here are some signs that your child may be struggling with anxiety or depression:
Persistent sadness or irritability
If your child seems persistently sad or irritable, it may be more than just the regular ups and downs of childhood. While every child experiences mood swings from time to time, watch for warning signs that the sadness or irritability goes beyond a passing phase.
If your child has difficulty enjoying activities they used to enjoy, loses interest in friends or hobbies, engages in negative self-talk or demonstrates changes in eating or sleeping patterns, it may be a sign of something more serious.
Excessive worry or fear
Children with anxiety may have excessive worry or fear about things that other children their age wouldn’t give a second thought. If your child’s fears are interfering with their ability to conduct everyday tasks or communicate with their friends and family, it’s worth investigating further.
Constant physical complaints
If your child is constantly complaining of physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue, it may be a sign that they’re experiencing anxiety or depression.
Finding the right child counselor
Child therapy is not limited to children who are experiencing mental health issues or traumatic events. In fact, child therapy can help with a number of issues including self-esteem, academic difficulties, and family relationships.
Child counselors are trained to work with children of all ages and to help them overcome a variety of challenges. If you are concerned about your child’s development or well-being, child therapy may be an option worth exploring.
GoodTherapy can help you find the right child counselor. Our team is committed to educating the public on the benefits of therapy, reducing stigma, and connecting people seeking help with carefully screened professionals.
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