Psychotherapy can help children and adolescents who are experiencing difficulties with their emotions or behavior. Child and adolescent psychologists are trained to listen, observe and help make sense of what a child is trying to communicate through their behavior and play. In children and adolescents, playing, drawing, building, and pretending, as well as talking, are important ways of sharing feelings and resolving problems. Communication, as well as the creation of a safe therapeutic space, are important tools that are used to help bring about change.
As part of the initial consultation, I will meet with the parents or guardians to determine the need for psychotherapy. This decision will be based on such things as the child's current problems, history, level of development, ability to cooperate with treatment, and what interventions are most likely to help with the presenting concerns. I may ask you to provide recent testing or school reports or for permission to contact the child's teacher.
Parent involvement is very important in child and adolescent treatment. For younger children, up to preteens, I consider regular parent contact essential to the treatment. For adolescents, parent involvement can be periodic, as teens will often be more likely to trust the therapist when they know that what they say is confidential. I often schedule additional appointments with parents outside of the child's regular session time. Sometimes these meetings are to help me gain a better understanding of your child and your family, and sometimes we work on helping you better understand your child's behavior. At other times, I may focus on helping parents understand how their own conflicts may be creating difficulty in their relationship with their child.
Psychotherapy is often used in combination with other treatments (medication, behavior management, or work with the school). Psychotherapy helps children and adolescents in a variety of ways. They receive emotional support, learn how to resolve conflicts with people, understand feelings and problems, and try out new solutions to old problems. Goals for therapy may be specific (change in behavior, improved relations with friends or family), or more general (less anxiety, better self-esteem). The length of psychotherapy depends on the complexity and severity of problems.