Psychotherapy in Children and Adolescents
When Do We Use Psychotherapy in Children and Adolescents?
Individual psychotherapy for children and adolescents can take many forms, including Supportive Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and Psychodynamic Therapy. Psychotherapy is indicated for all the common psychological diagnosis of childhood, or for children struggling with difficult emotions that interfere with their ability to participate and enjoy their usual activities. It can be used to help children heal after trauma or loss, or manage behavior that is causing disharmony at home.
While children and adolescents are the most accurate reporters of their own feelings, they often lack the vocabulary to articulate their mental life or advocate for themselves. Child therapists can help them to identify complicated feelings, and often work as liaisons between parents, schools, and other professionals.
What Are the Differences in Psychotherapy in Children and Adults?
Similar to adults, psychotherapy in children needs to be individualized to the specific client. The approach is adjusted according to the child’s developmental stage, family culture and environment, and temperament. Typically, the success of psychotherapy depends on a healthy relationship with the child and a therapeutic rapport with their parents. Parents often benefit from education regarding how to manage emotional triggers and behavior, and how to create a more positive and peaceful environment in the home. When it seems that a family can benefit from more extensive involvement, the therapist might request to meet with the therapist or refer to a family therapist.
The goal of psychotherapy is similar in adults and children. Broadly speaking, the aim is to provide a trustworthy and nurturing environment where an individual can learn more about themselves and identify adaptive strategies for managing challenging emotions and life situations. While adults usually volunteer to enter into psychotherapy, children are most often persuaded by a caregiver. The therapist is therefore charged with engaging and motivating the child to participate in an unfamiliar process. A therapist might have to engage in play or superficial discussion to first form an alliance which becomes a foundation for treatment.
While very young children care less about confidentiality than adolescents, advantages exist to creating an atmosphere where children feel safe to explore their feelings without fears that they will be exposed to a third party. Confidentiality is often preserved unless a child is thought to be a danger to themselves or others. Therapists should discuss confidentiality with parents, reassuring them that they will be informed of any necessary information, while respecting the autonomy of their child and the therapeutic relationship.
What to Expect when a Child Meets With a Psychotherapist
After a thorough evaluation, your child’s psychotherapist will form a treatment plan that addresses the social, emotional, or academic difficulties your child is having. The clinicians at The Midtown Practice will draw from their various expertise and evidence-based guidelines to build a comprehensive approach that matches the needs of your child and family. When necessary, they will help your family obtain other sources of needed help, such as couples therapy, family therapy, parent coaching, or assessment for psychiatric medication. Our clinicians will continually assess your child’s progress with the end goal in mind, collaborating with schools and other professionals when needed. Our goal is to provide whatever support necessary for your child to thrive and achieve a greater sense of ease and confidence as they mature into healthy adults.