The decision to put your child in therapy can be a scary one to make. You might feel nervous about putting your child in the care of someone else. Or you might be fearful that they won’t benefit from therapy. And we all understand that kids can, well, say embarrassing comments unintentionally. We want to break down all the types of childhood therapies so you can understand better. We will explain what child therapy is, different approaches to child therapy, what it includes, and how it can help.
What is Child Therapy?
Child therapy is a way for parents to seek outside assistance for a child who has problems coping with everyday life. Children who struggle with emotions and behavior or find it challenging to deal with stress benefit from a safe, therapeutic relationship.
Therapy for children can include different activities that promote healthy emotional and behavioral regulation, including:
- Playing games
- Drawing or painting
Counselors can tailor activities to encourage the development of social skills, anger management, communication, and healthy emotional expression.
How Can A Child Benefit From Therapy?
As a parent, you may wonder what the benefits of child therapy are. You may also question whether therapy makes a difference for children. Research shows that when children have healthy relationships with trusted adults, it’s easier for them to cope with challenges. A counselor can provide a safe, trusting environment that adds additional support to the child’s life.
Therapy for children takes an active learning position that allows children to practice skills in real-time. Each child might need practice on specific skills. Your child’s counselor will have in-depth conversations with them about their lives, feelings, and problems. From there, your child’s counselor can tailor therapy to their specific needs.
Specific ways therapy can help children include:
- assessing ongoing conditions in your child’s life and keeping you aware of anything that needs attention
- developing a continuing practice of emotional awareness
- processing any difficulties or challenges that may arise
Types of Child Therapy
Just as there are many approaches to therapy for adults, there are different approaches to therapy for children. The following are some of the most common types of therapy used with children.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for children helps explain how emotions and thoughts connect to behaviors. By identifying and replacing negative thinking patterns with more positive ones, your child can incorporate this positive thinking into more positive behavior.
For example, a child might become angry upon hearing laughter when they walk into the cafeteria. They assume someone made a joke about them. CBT teaches children to recognize the other possibilities and the triggers associated with their feelings. Maybe that first thought they had isn’t true. Maybe someone in the cafeteria told a funny joke that has nothing to do with them. By brainstorming different ways of thinking, they can avoid anger. Instead, they join in the conversation and ask what the joke was.
With practice CBT teaches children how to recognize triggers, emotions and teaches skills to cope.
Play is essential in a child’s development. Children begin to understand the world around them through play. For example, by playing house or playing imaginary characters inspired by their favorite superhero.
A counselor might play a game with a child to understand the child’s view on a situation that’s bothering them. Play Therapy can also help teach children healthy coping skills in a way that keeps them engaged.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy helps older children work through traumatic experiences. Counselors adapt this approach from work used in adults dealing with a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis.
DBT’s goal is to help older children and adolescents learn to accept their feelings regarding their trauma. It also helps them develop more positive patterns of thinking about themselves. These new ways of thinking lessen emotional distress. Counselors also can administer DBT in a group setting for similar age groups. Groups add the benefit of social skills to the therapeutic setting.
Sometimes, children need to work on specific skills that involve the whole family. Learning appropriate behavior, emotion regulation strategies, and boundaries can include parents and siblings. It’s Family-Focused Treatment because it incorporates the entire family’s dynamics to help foster change. Families can benefit from practicing healthy communication skills in a therapeutic setting. A counselor can intervene if family members express words or feelings in unhelpful ways.
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy examines the dynamic between a parent and a child or between both parents and a child. This therapy is helpful for parents who need to work on specific parenting skills, such as appropriate discipline or managing boundaries with their child.
PCIT focuses on these skills to facilitate the child’s ability to manage difficult emotions and control problematic behavior. This work can enhance the parent-child relationship.
Children benefit from spending time with other children their age. Group Therapy works by increasing socialization and communication skills. Group Therapy for children often incorporates activities, such as games, art, learning a new skill, or practicing academic skills.
Group Therapy allows children to meet and interact with peers dealing with similar concerns. This interaction is beneficial for some children and helps them realize they are not alone.
Music and Art Therapy
Sometimes referred to as expressive arts, music and art therapy are good approaches for children. As they utilize creative expression, children are natural candidates for these therapeutic approaches. By listening to or learning to play an instrument, children utilize parts of their brain that expand their development. By expressing their emotions through art, children can have a safe, therapeutic place to make their inner world and experience make more sense.
Your child’s counselor may use a combination of various expressive arts activities and skills practice. This helps your child express themselves. They also practice a skill that can help them improve their behavior or regulate their emotions.
Supporting Your Child in Therapy
As a parent, you want to be a supportive part of your child’s therapeutic process. Being supportive includes encouraging your child to participate, being empathetic to any struggles your child expresses while in therapy, and maintaining realistic goals.
The therapy process takes time. Your child might need time adjusting to this new supportive relationship. Make sure you’re not putting pressure on your child or yourself to get them “fixed” in a short amount of time.
Try not to demand that your child tell you every detail about what happened in their therapy session. They may have a difficult time remembering everything they did. Your child’s counselor will inform you of what you need to know.
Lastly, remind your child that you love and care for them. Remind them that sometimes therapy can be difficult but that you’re proud of them for making an effort. Continue providing praise and support throughout the therapeutic process. You want your child to know you’re cheering them on.
How All Counseling Can Help
If you think your child would benefit from one of the types of child therapy, contact All Counseling. We’ll help you get connected to a counselor in your area that can meet your child’s needs. With a detailed directory of various counselors and the ability to filter by approach, insurance acceptance, age, treatment type, state, and more, All Counseling is the place where you can get the mental health support you need.