As a parent/care-giver, you want what's best for your child. You want them to be happy and safe, and to thrive in life. Sometimes, though, children struggle with emotional or behavioral issues that can be difficult for them to handle on their own and you may be unsure of how to help them (which is totally understandable). This is where taking your child to a therapist can be helpful.
I know it can be scary to decide to take your child to counseling, there can be many thoughts and questions running through your head. One thing I want to make sure that you know, from a child therapist's perspective, is that we want to help your child and we want what's best for them too! Taking your child to a therapist is just like taking them to the doctor when you have health concerns; we are trusted, trained professionals who are an outlet for them, can teach coping skills and strategies and get them on track to their best life.
In this article, I want to answer some common questions about child therapy:
What Does A Child Therapist Help With?
Therapists are trained professionals who can help children work through their problems and learn healthy coping skills. Therapy can be an effective treatment for a wide variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, life transitions, trauma, ADHD, stressors at school, a disrupted relationship with food, and more. We provide a safe, non-judgmental space for your child to explore and express their emotions. They can learn coping tools and strategies for problem-solving as well as boost confidence and self-esteem.
How Do I Explain Therapy to My Child?
Use language that is age appropriate in explaining therapy to your child. I typically tell parents/care-givers to use a simple explanation of "Ms. Stephanie is someone to help you when you feel sad or angry. It's okay to tell her things, she just wants to help you feel better." You can try equating a therapist with a medical doctor too; "You go to a doctor for a check-up or when you have an injury, a therapist is a "feelings doctors" - someone to help make you feel better when something is bothering you". As a child therapist, I also make sure my younger kiddos understand what they can talk to me about and what I am there to help with.
How Does Child Therapy Work?
A child therapist will incorporate many modalities into their sessions: drawing or arts & crafts, playing games or role-playing, and typical talk therapy. We want to make sure your child is comfortable with us and feels that our office is a place to have fun and be safe. We incorporate parents/care-givers when appropriate, by either asking them into sessions or giving them an update after sessions. Trust for the little ones is just as important as it is for adults. We like to ensure your child doesn't feel that we are talking about them, rather we want them to want to share what goes on in therapy with you! So there is a delicate balance of updating you and keeping the trust of your child. It's also helpful when parents/care-givers reinforce that therapists are people to be trusted.
How Long Will My Child Stay In Therapy?
This answer varies case-by-case, however, we don't want children in therapy for a long time. We incorporate solution-focused, evidence-based practices to give your child the best care and help them move forward to their best life. This is not to say we rush the therapeutic process, however, we don't want your child in therapy longer than they need to be for what they are struggling with.
When Should I Consider Taking My Child to a Therapist?
Any child can benefit from therapy, regardless of what might be going on, simply because it is a space all their own to explore emotions and skills. However, if you start to notice any behavioral changes (irritability, lack of focus, emotional outbursts, social issues, increased picky eating, etc.) anything that is not the norm for your child or anything that you simply want to have a professional opinion on, it's never a bad thing to call and set up a consult.
I hope this article provides a bit more clarity of child therapy and has also put your mind at ease if this has been something that you've been considering. Everyone has difficulty at times and we all deserve help, no matter the age. If you notice that your child is struggling and are unsure of how to help them, call 914-222-3983 ext. 1 to schedule a consult with one of our child therapists.
Stephanie Polizzi is a licensed psychotherapist (LMHC) in Scarsdale, NY at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, serving clients living in NY, NJ and FL.
EMDR Therapy in her work with clients.