When Should A Child Seek Therapy?
If you are concerned about your child’s emotional well-being, behavior, or the impact of a major life change on your child, it is appropriate to have your child assessed by a mental health therapist with expertise in helping children.
Common issues that we often see are anxiety, depression and behavioral problems. At times, symptoms overlap and can be difficult to understand. Children who struggle to get through the day, whether at home and/or at school, may have a mental health issue.
Early diagnosis and treatment interventions can make a significant different in a child’s mental health.¹
Does My Child Need a Therapist or Psychiatrist?
We recommend an initial assessment from a therapist with training in child development and mental health issues in children before seeking out a psychiatric evaluation (unless child’s behaviors are so severe that outpatient therapy would not be possible). Our therapists coordinate care with a child’s psychiatrist (and other professionals) who are involved in the child’s treatment plan.
How Do I Start Therapy With My Child?
A phone call or email to our practice gets you started! Our staff will ask you some basic questions to determine which of our qualified therapists is a good fit for your child. You will have a chance to ask questions.
How Will My Child Respond to Therapy?
Some children participate in therapy without any difficulty and some may be nervous or resistant initially. Our experience has shown that once a child meets the therapist, they often relax and enjoy the experience. Therapy can be fun!
Our training prepares us to help each child feel comfortable and at ease. Our approach is family-focused, and we include the parents and sometimes other family members in the counseling experience, as appropriate.
How Do I Talk To My Child About Therapy?
You may be wondering how to talk to your child about coming to therapy. It is helpful to explain why you want your child to participate.
You can explain this in clear and simple terms, such as,
“Since (event) happened in our family, I noticed that you feel unhappy. A therapist is not like a doctor who gives shots or medicine. (Therapist name) is someone to talk to and play with, and can help you with feelings and any worries you may have.”
Another example is “Mom and I have noticed that you seem very nervous whenever you go to crowded places or birthday parties. A therapist can help you feel better.”
For an older child or teen, you may explain it this way,
“We’d like you to have some additional support for coping with (reason such as school stressors, friendships, your sister’s disability, etc.). We love you and want to be sure we are supporting you the best that we can.”
“I understand that you are going through a tough time right now and I’d like you to have someone to talk to that can help you through this.”
“We want our family to get along better, and we want to be closer to you.”
It is important to normalize therapy as a resource that families utilize just as you would if your child needed to go to a specialist for another reason, such as an allergist or a math tutor.
Children (and teens) will often feel like they are ‘bad’ or at fault, so it is important to present your concerns in a way that does not blame or judge the child. At CFCE, we think of behaviors as messages about a way a child is feeling.
Parents and caregivers can best support therapy by sharing that they too could use some help in becoming better at what they do. Therapists provide parent coaching based on the needs of the child.
Let your child know that they can talk to you about therapy whenever they want, and respect their privacy if they do not want to discuss specifics. Your therapist will definitely communicate concerns and engage you in the process as needed to reach the goals established for your child’s therapy.
What Will My Child Do in Therapy?
Your child may ask what they will do at the therapy session. You can say that they will play, talk, solve problems and that they will feel better. Children are never forced into talking about something that makes them uncomfortable (see more about therapeutic modalities on our website: Play Therapy and Theraplay). An older child/teen sets the pace for what they want to talk about, and the therapist engages them through creative/expressive activities and topics that they enjoy.
Parents/Guardians Often Ask:
- When should a child see a behavioral therapist?
- How do I know if my child has behavioral problems or a behavioral disorder?
- How do you deal with a child that gets frustrated easily?
During the therapeutic process, we work at getting at the root of why the child is behaving this way in the first place. At CFCE, we believe that every behavior is a message about a need or want that is not met. Once a child’s issues are addressed, behaviors usually improve.
We tailor each treatment plan to a child’s individual needs, and we work at the child’s pace. We address frustration openly and supportively, and help the child develop appropriate coping strategies.
Sometimes a child has turned inward, and while their behavior is fine, parents worry that they are dealing with big emotions and not getting the support that they need. We help these children express themselves and find ways to feel better.
In almost all cases, the family is involved in the child’s therapy because we believe that the parent-child relationship is key to a child’s well-being. Our therapists will support the parents to help their child improve.
If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to reach out to us via phone or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to contact you to discuss the best approach for your child.