What Is Child Therapy?
Childhood is a time of exploring, playing and learning. It sets the stage for adolescence and adulthood. During this time, a child’s brain, and specifically, the prefrontal cortex, is not fully formed. Consequently, it leaves children unable to plan, control their impulses and emotions. Extreme stress simply exacerbates them. Parental alienation, bullying, social isolation, abuse, neglect or witnessing parental conflict can traumatize developing brains and thwart a child’s emotional development in life altering ways. Child therapy helps in the face of such turbulence.
Children experiencing these situations require leadership and guidance from a grown up to move through their emotions. Essentially, they need an adult to “loan” them some of their executive functioning skills. However, parents often do not know what to do in these situations, themselves. This is especially true when life gets messy for the adult because divorce, money problems, workplace stress, caring for elderly parents , etc., can leave even the most loving and well-intentioned adult with depleted coping reserves. Child therapy brings critical intervention for children and parents to ensure lifelong problems do not set in for the child.
When To Seek Child Therapy
Children often cannot verbalize what they feel. Rather, they act out. Parents should reach out for help if any of the behaviours described below become repetitively entrenched and problematic in your child’s life:
- Academic problems
- Acting out of character (e.g., suddenly more defiant)
- Anxiety and worry
- Bullying others or being bullied
- Developmental problems (e.g., bed wetting, challenges meeting milestones)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive hyperactivity
- Frequent bouts of crying
- Resisting going to school
- Low self-esteem
- Self-destructive or risk-taking behaviours
- Social isolation or withdrawal
- Challenges following rules or instructions
In addition, parents should recognize typical life events when children require extra support. These include:
- Period following a trauma or abuse
- Chronic illness of self or caregiver
- Co-parenting challenges
- Death of loved one or pet
- Parental or caregiver conflict
- Changes in caregiving or living arrangements
- Witnessing trauma or abuse of another
Working With A Child Therapist
Our child therapists are trained and highly specialized in child development and treatment. During the initial free phone consultation, we will attentively listen to your concerns, ask questions and answer yours. For younger children, we organize therapy sessions with parents until your child is comfortable seeing the therapist alone.
We build a relationship between therapist, parent and child in a safe and supportive environment. As an example, for younger children, the first few sessions will involve fun games, play oriented activities and simple silliness to break the ice. Almost always, this puts your child at ease and allows us to get to know both of you. Furthermore, these seemingly playful activities assist our evidence-based methods of conducting assessments. Hence, they lead us to develop collaborative and relevant treatment plans.
Goals of Child Therapy
We understand the impact adverse life experiences can have on a developing brain. Consequently, our goal is to heal trauma and build a bedrock of emotional resilience through therapy. This can be very liberating for children. During our sessions, we will observe and assess your child’s behaviour and emotional responses. We will support him or her to develop the resiliency to explore and better understand his or her emotions in a safe space.
To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, ‘Sometimes the problem is not really the problem at all.’ For instance, a child who throws tantrums, refuses to follow instructions and hits may seem to have anger or respect issues. You may even believe this is part of his or her personality. However, if we dig deep we may identify other issues, like ongoing bullying at school, are fueling the tantrums and rebellion and home.
Decoding Child Emotions
Children’s emotional reactions and behaviour reflect their best attempt to get their needs met. Sometimes, these expressions are viewed as unhelpful and cause disruption and negative reactions from others. That’s where therapy comes in because we teach your child how to cope with emotions and life situations in healthy ways.
When working with children, the starting point for our therapists is recognizing parents as essential attachment figures in their child’s life. Sometimes, we recommend family therapy if we discover an imbalance with this dynamic. A harmonious family unit requires consistency in how parents interact with children and other family members. Therefore, parents become our partners. We decode and translate their child’s inner experience to allow them to meet their child’s needs in healthy and supportive ways
Types of Child Therapy
Attachment Based Therapy is a gold standard for working with children, which we utilize at our therapy sessions. Similarly, our deep expertise with System’s Based Family Therapy, mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy and child development neuroscience also allows us to flesh out your child’s treatment plan to promote coping and resiliency. These are proven forms of therapy that support children and families through bleak periods.
Your therapist can offer excellent interventions, even for fully blown and entrenched negative behaviour, to put things back on course for your child because the beauty of a child’s developing brain allows ample opportunity, through child therapy, to retrain and re-mould it, to form a solid emotional foundation they can grow with.
Reaching Out For Help
Parenting would be very easy if children arrived with instruction manuals. It is also hard not to compare our children to happy, well adjusted and “perfect” children we see on social media posts all the time. This can often leave parents disappointed in themselves and their children. As therapists, we can assure you that no family is perfect. Virtually all families go through periods of strife. Being proactive about helping your child through muddled emotions will keep the problems from spiralling out of control.
Most parents look for help initially by conducting on-line research. Others reach out to in-laws, other parents, friends and teachers for guidance. If you have received nothing but conflicting advice and your child’s situation has not changed, it might be time for professional child therapy. Sometimes, the solution only requires a few sessions.
Therapy fees are one reason why many families avoid seeking help. And we understand this, completely.
First of all, our blogs, authored by professionally trained therapists, are available for free. We publish them regularly and feature topics that are useful for individuals, couples and families. We encourage you to visit our site often because in many cases, this information will help you understand what your child is experiencing. However, our blogs do not constitute professional advice, diagnosis, treatment or therapy for your child. You must always consult with a physician, psychologist, registered social worker or qualified mental health provider to professionally assess your child and direct his or her physical, mental and emotional health. Often, a few targeted sessions with a therapist will set your child up with strategies they can use forever.
Here is how we charge for our time and we are happy to have a frank and open discussion with you about this. We never keep your child in therapy any longer than is required and our clients attest to this professionalism. To accommodate working parents and school routines, child therapy appointments can be scheduled during evenings and weekends.
Rebecca Loucks, MSW, RSW is a Registered Social Worker and co-owner at Beaches Therapy Group, serving clients for over 10 years. We have helped hundreds of families just like yours. Contact us to discover how our therapy sessions are a worthwhile investment towards happy and healthy relationships.