When Children Need Therapy

When children need therapyAdolescents have many of the same mental health issues as adults and may also need counseling.

Adults like to think of childhood as a carefree time full of enjoyment and play.

However, that is not true for all kids. Children are susceptible to the same emotional health issues and mood disorders that plague adults. 

As many as one in seven children and teens may have an identifiable mental disorder that requires treatment. 

At least 1 in 12 has a serious emotional disturbance. 

Psychological counseling can help with many of these issues. 

Therapy for kids can aid children who have such challenges as ADD / ADHD, anxiety, bipolar, borderline personality disorders, conduct disorders, cultural and gender issues, depression, eating disorders, family difficulties, mental disorders, OCD, personal and social adjustments, school adjustment concerns, stress and trauma. 

Signs of Trouble

Warning signs that your adolescent may need psychological counseling include:

  • Aggressiveness / bullying
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • A loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • An inability to make decisions, concentrate, or think clearly
  • An inability to sit still
  • A sudden, unexplained drop in grades at school
  • Bedwetting
  • Binging followed by vomiting or taking laxatives or dieting obsessively
  • Changes in patterns of eating or sleeping
  • Clinginess
  • Constant anger and a tendency to overreact to situations
  • Crying uncontrollably
  • Cutting
  • Experiencing regular nightmares
  • Expressing thoughts of suicide
  • Fear that someone is controlling their mind, or that they are "out of control"
  • Hearing voices that aren't there
  • Performing routines obsessively throughout the day, such as washing hands or cleaning things
  • Persistent anxiety, fearfulness, or worry
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness or sadness
  • Preoccupation with their own appearance or physical illness
  • Reclusiveness, preferring to be alone rather than in the company of friends or family
  • Taking part in violent acts such as hurting animals or setting fires

When a child or adolescent shows some or many of these signs, they likely need therapy. Therapy for kids can be very beneficial, particularly when a problem is identified before it can grow worse. 

Types of Childhood Therapy

Many different types of mental health issues can arise in adolescents, and therapy comes in many forms. Some forms of counseling available to children and teens, and the disorders they can help treat, include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In this form of counseling, children are taught how their own thoughts can affect their mood and behavior. Kids are shown how to identify negative or distorted thought patterns and deal with them. This type of therapy is helpful in addressing mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral treatment. It usually involves an individual therapy session and a skills group session every week for at least 6 months.
  • Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT). Emotion-focused Therapy focuses on emotions and the way children deal with them. It also puts emphasis on the self and the importance of relationships. EFT is based on the idea that many mental and physical health concerns are caused by avoiding emotions and pretending that everything is okay, or by not getting our emotional needs met. EFT helps adolescents resolve unpleasant emotions by working with these emotions instead of suppressing them. It uses the unpleasant emotions as a source of information. EFT focuses on how teens experience problems and what they trigger them to do as a way of coping with their emotions.
  • Family Therapy. In family therapy, a therapist may work with the family as a group and sometimes with subgroups or individuals. Family therapists are very interested in the family’s goals and strengths. They see the family as key to a child’s recovery from mental health, substance use, and behavioral problems. Family therapy puts emphasis on the importance of communication and understanding. In therapy, families explore and identify positive patterns and behaviors, and those which may contribute to distress. 
  • Group Therapy. In group therapy, a small group of patients or families meet regularly with the therapist. There are many types of group therapy. Some groups are mostly educational and some focus on practice and do little talking about individual problems. Other groups encourage members to discuss issues and offer helpful feedback to each other with guidance from the therapist. All personal information shared in groups is confidential.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT). Interpersonal Therapy is a short-term treatment for youth with depression and interpersonal problems. It focuses on relationships, life transitions and how to improve the way your youth communicates and relates to others. IPT helps youth learn to identify emotions and the links between events and feelings. It shows those who are dealing with a loss or major life change like starting high school or losing a good friend how to build new skills and supports. With IPT, youth begin to see how the way they communicate can cause problems. They learn how to think through issues and express themselves more effectively.
  • Mindfulness-based Therapies. Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose and in the present moment. The goal of mindfulness is to focus less on reacting to something or someone and more on observing and accepting without judgement. It teaches adolescents to be aware of their thoughts and feelings and to accept them, yet not attach or react to them. This practice helps teens to notice their automatic reaction and to change it to be more of a reflection.
  • Play therapy. Kids are given toys to play with, and a psychotherapist watches their play to better understand their emotional or mental health issues. Different types of play help the adolescent figure out feelings and express them. Play therapy can help kids who have anxiety or depression because they are having trouble dealing with life issues like the death of a loved one or a divorce.
  • Behavior therapy. This sort of therapy for kids differs from cognitive-behavioral therapy in that it focuses on behavior modification. Behaviors are identified that need to be discouraged or encouraged, and then parents work to change the environmental factors that contribute to those behaviors and also provide consequences for desired or undesired behavior. It is helpful for treating children who have ADD / ADHD, as well as other conditions for which behavior modification is desired.
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy. This is the children's version of the classic "talking cure," by which a psychotherapist helps figure out the issues that are influencing how a child thinks or acts. The therapy operates on the theory that an adolescent's behavior will improve once their inner struggles are brought out in the open. This can help a teen who has anxiety or depression, is dealing with an eating disorder, or is lashing out due to a conduct disorder.
  • Psychotherapy for Parents and Young Children. There are many different types of psychotherapy for parents and young children. These therapies all focus on strengthening the bond between parent and child. Some begin as early as the first year of life and others are more suitable for preschool and early school-age children.

Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor or a qualified therapist when your child seems to be having a problem. 

Quick attention can help them better overcome the issues they are coping with and lead a happier and healthier childhood.

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