Child Therapy, Counseling for Kids

Cheyenne puts up a fight in the mornings: she doesn’t want to eat breakfast or get ready for school. She doesn’t want to go to school at all. She begs her parents to let her stay home, but when they ask her why, she grows quiet. Cheyenne knows they won’t believe that she’s come down with another cold. So, she just crosses her arms and pouts all the way to school each morning. And when she gets home, she runs straight to her room.

Worried about their 7-year-old’s strange behavior, they explain what’s been going on to Cheyenne’s pediatrician who refers them to a child therapist. To their surprise, Cheyenne is willing to meet with and open up to the therapist. She talks about school and reveals that she’s being bullied by a few girls in her class. They make fun of her clothes and exclude her at recess, she tells her therapist. Cheyenne feels better opening up about her experience and her parents are now able to work with her teacher and school principal to address this problem. A few months later, the bullying has subsided and Cheyenne is their happy, smiley girl again. 

 

What Is Child Therapy?

Child therapy is a specialized form of counseling designed to help children properly understand and handle a multitude of issues, from mental illnesses to traumatic events to difficult situations or experiences at home. Child counselors—who are well-equipped to work with children—understand how their minds work and are able to break down a given issue in a way they will understand. There is not an age limit for which children can and can’t receive counseling—all are welcome, from toddlers in preschool to teenagers in high school. Regardless of the patient’s age, the therapist’s goal is to help them work through their emotions and get them back on a healthy path. If, on the other hand, children don’t receive the treatment that they need, they might experience negative developmental, mental, and emotional effects, which can even persist into adulthood.

 

Who Should Seek Child Therapy?

It’s hard enough for us, as adults, to understand and explain our feelings—now, imagine what it must be like for a child. Therapy can serve as a guiding light for them: it’s purpose being to help them better understand and address their mental and emotional health. Now, this could be a child suffering from the harmful effects of a messy divorce, a young boy who doesn’t understand his compulsions (characteristic of OCD), or a depressed teen who’s being bullied at school. The possibilities are endless, but the following are common issues addressed in child therapy:

  • Mental health diagnoses
  • Death of a loved one
  • Abuse (sexual, emotional, physical, mental)
  • Addiction in the family
  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Moving to a new town
  • Starting at a new school
  • Bullying
  • Divorce

That being said, it’s not always easy to tell when your child or teen might need therapy—even if they are dealing with one of the issues above. Here are some signs that your child is, indeed, having a difficult time and might need (or could benefit from) therapy:

  • Change in appetite
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Difficult sleeping
  • Unwarranted aggression
  • Persistent anxiety and nerves
  • Failing or worsening grades
  • Social isolation
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Self-harm
  • Expression of suicidal thoughts

 

How Does It Work?

Again, the primary goal of child therapy is to equip kids with the tools they need to effectively handle the stressors in their life, no matter what those stressors may be. Here are a few examples of how child counseling tackles common issues and helps children flourish again:

  1. Dealing with Divorce Divorce doesn’t simply involve the couple that is separating—it often affects all of those close to them, especially their children. Children of divorce can experience a broad range of emotions—but often they feel unloved, confused, guilty, depressed, or simply distraught about their parents’ split. And these feelings can worsen as time goes on, custody battles worsen, and tensions rise. A counselor can help them understand and effectively deal with all of these emotions; they teach children that it’s okay to feel however they’re feeling, whilst showing them how to better manage those feelings. Effective techniques include journaling, crafting, deep-breathing, and simply opening up about their emotions.
  2. Managing Change It’s easy to forget how impactful change can be on children, but the truth of the matter is that they’re sensitive to significant changes like big moves or school changes. Kids often experience major stress and anxiety due to these changes, which can stick around for an extended period of time, unless properly confronted and dealt with—that’s where therapy comes in. Child therapy teaches them how to cope with change by shifting their focus on the negatives to the positives. Techniques like positive self-talk are learned and the children begin to feel more comfortable with the idea of change being a normal part of life.
  3. Building Self-Confidence More often than not, children suffer with a low self-esteem, which can lead to bigger issues down the road like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Counseling helps them to see their value and also teaches them how to develop more positive thought patterns. For example, a teen’s feelings of worthlessness may lead him to believe that he doesn’t deserve the love of his friends and family; a therapist will help him recognize this negative self-talk and turn it into positive self-talk and thoughts. They will also help them realize their true worth.
  4. Understanding Mental Illness Mental illnesses—and all of the harmful symptoms, effects, and consequences that come with them—are difficult for anyone to comprehend. But children have a particularly tough time accepting and understanding the diagnosis of a mental illness. Child therapy gives them the opportunity to ask questions and learn about their disorder, whether it be obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, or any other given illness. Whatever the case, counselors help them understand their diagnosis and also cope with the harmful effects that come with it.
  5. Coping with Trauma When children experience a traumatic event—be it abuse, a natural disaster, a car crash—they often emerge fearful, confused, upset, and/or overall emotional in one way or another. And they may even go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, which comes with distressing memories, thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks. Child counseling helps these kids talk about what they experienced, so as to get their thoughts and feelings out into the open, rather than bottled up inside. They learn that it’s okay, helpful even, to talk about the traumatic experience, and they also adapt coping mechanisms, which make day-to-day life following the event easier.

 

Quick Facts about Child Therapy

  • There are child counselors that specialize in providing therapy specifically to children (of all ages).
  • Several kinds of therapy can benefit children: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), trauma-focused CBT (TF-CBT), art therapy, music therapy, movement therapy, etc.
  • Child therapy can be used to determine a diagnosis (such as that of an anxiety disorder) or may be key to treating said disorder.
  • Child counselors and parents can combine efforts to help a child through their difficulties.
  • Child counselors can shed light on underlying issues that both the child and child’s parents weren’t aware existed.
  • Child therapy often deals with the same issues adults face—but it takes a special kind of therapist to break down these issues for kids and teens.

Schedule a Child Therapy Session Today

As you can see, child therapy benefits children who experience a variety of issues: mental illnesses, the harmful effects of divorce, traumatic events, a damaged self-esteem, a difficult move… the list goes on. And while it may be difficult at first for them to open up and get into the groove of therapy, it will ultimately make for a happier and healthier child—who will then be free to become a happy and healthy adult.

We want you and your child to find the help and care that you need. If child therapy is something you want to pursue in your area, make an appointment with a therapist from Thriveworks today.  To book a session, visit our main counseling page. Or, if you want to explore online counseling, check out our online counseling opportunities.

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Start counseling, therapy, or life-coaching today with a skilled, caring provider near you!

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