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. The trouble is, parents often do not know what to do, themselves. This is especially true when life gets messy for the adult too because divorce, money problems, workplace stress and caring for elderly parents 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 Therapy
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. However, being proactive about helping your child through muddled emotions will keep the problems from spiralling out of control. Children of all ages are often incapable of verbalizing 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 their 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, it is helpful for parents to recognize typical life events when children require extra support. These include:
- The period following 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
Most parents look for help initially by conducting online 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.
Goals of Child Therapy
Adverse life experiences can have a great impact on a child’s developing brain. Our goal is to heal trauma and help your child build a bedrock of emotional resiliency. Children find this very liberating. During our sessions, we will observe and assess their behaviour and emotional responses which reflect their best attempts to get their needs met. We will support your child 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, we may identify other issues, like ongoing bullying at school, which could be fueling the tantrums and rebellion and home.
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 behaviours, to put things back on course for your child. 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.
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.
A harmonious family unit requires consistency in how parents interact with children and other family members. When working with children, we start by recognizing parents as essential attachment figures in their child’s life. Sometimes, we recommend family therapy if we discover an imbalance with this dynamic. Consequently, parents become our partners. We decode and translate their child’s inner experience allowing them to meet their child’s needs in healthy and supportive ways.
Building a healthy relationship between therapist, parent and child is essential and we offer a safe and supportive environment to nurture this. For example, younger children will spend the first few sessions with 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. These seemingly playful activities assist our evidence-based methods of conducting assessments and allow us to develop collaborative and relevant treatment plans as required.
Therapy fees are one reason why some families avoid seeking help, and we understand this, completely. Here’s how we charge for our time. We are happy to have a frank and open discussion with you about this to ensure we manage your care in the best way possible. Our services are covered by most extended benefit insurance plans. If you do not have coverage, we also offer affordable therapy sessions at discounted rates through our internship program. Therapy is an investment in your health and happiness and it is more affordable than common belief.
Also, our blogs, authored by professionally trained therapists, are available for free on our website. We publish them regularly and feature topics that are useful for individuals, couples and families. We encourage you to visit our site often. In many cases, this information will help you understand what you are experiencing. However, our blogs do not constitute professional advice, diagnosis, treatment or therapy. You must always consult with a physician, psychologist or qualified mental health provider to professionally direct your physical, mental and emotional health.
Often a few targeted therapy sessions may be all you require. We never keep you in therapy for longer than you need. To accommodate varying schedules we offer online and in-person therapy sessions during office hours, evenings and weekends.