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May 31, 2024

Unlocking Potential: The Benefits and Techniques of Child Therapy

Mental health is an important aspect, not only in adults but children too. Children’s mental health conditions can have a lasting effect on how they behave, manage their emotions, grow and learn. This is where therapies prove beneficial.

Yes, we know that therapy for children is not an easy thing for parents to discuss. No parent wants a situation where their child “needs therapy”. Honestly speaking, this is quite unfortunate, because therapies can change children’s lives and make them so much better.

Whether a child is recovering from traumatic issues or struggling to learn at school, qualified therapists can help with the different hardships children are facing.

Let’s look at a few important therapies that can help children cope with different kinds of challenges.

Therapy for Children – An Overview

Psychological therapy is designed to treat children’s mental health conditions or help children manage their symptoms to enable them to function properly at school or home. Therapy may require children to talk or involve them in play or other activities to help them express their thoughts and feelings.

In most cases, children’s therapy includes one or both parents, but at times the therapist may work with the child alone. Some therapy may need the entire family or important adults in the child’s life, such as grandparents or teachers.

At times, the therapist may need to understand a child’s behaviour and feelings by talking to the parents. They may also observe the parents and child together and might suggest alternative approaches to parents on how to react or interact. Each issue requires a different kind of handling, which a qualified therapist is equipped to do.

How Can you Understand that your Child Needs Therapy?

As parents, it is often difficult to understand whether your child needs therapy or it is a matter of simple bad mood. Here are a few symptoms that may indicate your child needs a psychological evaluation:

  • Developmental disorders
  • Learning slowly
  • Frequent nightmares or disturbed sleep
  • Unnecessary aggression, constant anger or overreaction to situations
  • Difficulty in adjusting to social situations
  • Inconsistence
  • Persistent anxiety or worry
  • Inability to sit still
  • Inability to concentrate on studies or any other work
  • A sudden drop in grades in school
  • Withdrawal from activities they normally enjoy
  • Dramatic weight loss/gain or a loss of appetite, over-obsession with weight, going for fad diets, binging or obsession with how they look
  • Following obsessive routines such as hand washing
  • Wanting to be alone
  • Unusual physical complaints
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Primary Child Therapy Techniques

So how does a child therapist work? Let’s look at various techniques that therapists practise to gain a better insight into how they help children.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a commonly used child therapy technique that aims to help children find new ways to behave by changing their patterns of thinking. CBT is meant for everyone, not just children. CBT can help your child irrespective of whether they are having mental health issues.

It is a talk therapy which aims to help people recognise unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and teaches them how to change them. CBT for children involves the child, the parent or caregiver and the therapist. It follows a structural approach to solving problems through a specified number of sessions. The aim is to achieve a particular goal, which is decided through discussion between the parent and the therapist. The number of sessions required is based on the goal that is required to be achieved.

However, CBT is not only a talk therapy. The therapist will provide tangible ways for your child to take control of their emotions and empower themselves. Your child will learn skills that can be put into practice immediately.

CBT is often used in combination with other therapy techniques to achieve the best outcome. The treatment plan may be modified based on the progress achieved by your child.

Play Therapy

One of the primary therapy techniques, play therapy is a play-based intervention solely focused on children. It involves playing with toys, games and role-playing within the playroom, which is utilised as a safe space. The therapy allows children to explore issues using toys in a play environment. The therapist observes the children during play to gain insights about their behaviour. This, in turn, enables them to help the child in healing, decrease negative behaviours and bring about positive changes.

Play therapy has proven to be particularly useful in treating various kinds of behavioural disorders and mental health conditions. It is also used as a support tool for children having developmental differences such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism.

While play therapists mostly work with children, they may use the treatment for adolescents and adults as well.

Parent-child Interaction Therapy

Commonly termed PCIT, this is an evidence-based treatment that aims to help parents interact with children in a better way and manage their behaviours. Among other things, it improves the parent-child bond.

It is a coaching-based session in which you and your child interact in a playroom while your therapist observes you from an observation room, watching how you interact with your child. You will be required to wear a Bluetooth earphone through which the therapist will provide you with in-the-moment coaching about skills to manage your child’s behaviour.

PCIT is usually done in two phases. The first phase focuses on establishing a warm relationship between you and your child. It involves learning and applying skills that have proven to calm children, make them feel good about themselves and improve their relationship with their parents.

The second phase will help you understand how to deal with more difficult behaviours while remaining calm and consistent with your approach.

Both phases have specific outcomes that both the parents and therapists aim to achieve.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

This therapy is used for high-risk cases such as teenagers having suicidal thoughts. It is a flexible psychotherapy that combines elements of cognitive behaviour therapy, behaviour therapy and mindfulness.

The term ‘dialectical’ refers to a blend of two opposing ideas, the first one being accepting the reality of a person’s life and behaviour, and the second one being change of situations and dysfunctional behaviours.

This therapy is conducted in four stages:

Stage 1

Where the individual is stabilised so that they can gain control of their behaviours. This stage involves crisis intervention and assuring the safety of the child from suicide, self-harm, or other issues such as addiction.

Stage 2

This is the stage when the child works through their traumatic experiences and emotional pain. They are assisted by the therapist to identify unhelpful beliefs, thoughts, and behaviours.

Stage 3

This stage involves solving issues that the child faces during day-to-day life. The focus remains on maintaining progress and setting achievable goals so that they can take responsibility for their actions. One of the aims of this stage is to help the child find the joys of life.

Stage 4

This is the final stage where the therapist and the child work together to advance their life and achieve spiritual fulfilment.

Applied Behavioural Analysis

A well-known early form of therapy for autistic children, applied behavioural analysis focuses on rewarding desirable behaviours so that their frequency is increased and the frequency of less acceptable behaviours is decreased.

Applied behavioural analysis (ABA) therapy may help in the enhancement of learning, communication and social skills. While this is not a cure for autism, it can help improve and develop a variety of skills in children.

Deeply rooted in behaviourist theories, this therapy assumes that reinforcement can influence the change of behaviour under a similar set of circumstances in the future. ABA includes a reward system where a child is given an item or privilege when they demonstrate a desired behaviour.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a psychotherapy technique that involves one or more mental health practitioners providing psychotherapy to one or more children in each session. At times, this may also be used in conjunction with individual therapy.

Group therapies enable therapists to observe how a child relates to other children in a group setting. These are quite helpful for children suffering from poor social skills, social anxiety, inattentiveness and similar issues. A group setting helps the children to work through such obstacles and derive support from other children. This helps children deal with issues such as bullying, anxiety, depression, grief and other mental health issues.

Family Therapy

Family therapy aims to understand a family’s dynamics and the way they interact and communicate. This can help the entire family provide support to the child and function as a cohesive unit.

Family therapy is very useful in understanding the root cause of a child’s problematic behaviour. It can benefit the entire family, not just the child. Individuals in the family can build stronger relationships through family therapy as it can improve communication and help in the management of conflict within the family system. This, in turn, can help in addressing issues being faced by children.

The goal of family therapy is to create a better home environment that provides a perfect setting for a child to grow up. It may also help in solving deep-rooted issues that the family has been facing.

How to Find the Right Therapy for Your Child?

When it comes to therapy, there’s no one-size-fits-all concept. Different difficulties require different kinds of therapy. As a parent, it may be difficult for you to find out which one is most suited for your child.

The best way to go about this is to talk to your paediatrician or a qualified therapist. At times health issues such as poor sleep, poor vision, difficulty in hearing, trouble breathing and others can be fallout of emotional issues rather than physical ones. And not addressing the issues can aggravate them. Hence speaking to your child’s paediatrician can help you find the right path.

For more information, visit our Child Development department or contact us at +(603) 5650 1114.

How to Explain Therapy to Your Child?

One of the primary challenges you may experience as a parent is explaining therapy to your child. While this may be easier for teenagers, it may be more difficult to explain to younger ones. One idea is to refer to a therapist as “feelings doctors”. You may also explain that a therapist is a person who can help them play and communicate in a better way.

If you are a parent of a teenager, you may involve your child in the decision-making process such as which therapist to go to or when and where. This will help them feel like they are more in control of the situation, which can prove beneficial.

Every Child is Unique

Children are like beautiful flowers waiting to bloom. Providing the right support at the right time can make a world of difference in their life. Hence, parents need to overcome the stigma and obtain the right kind of help for their children. A little help can go a long way when it comes to the mental health of children.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a child therapy?

Child therapy is a type of therapy designed to help children and adolescents understand and manage their emotions, behaviours, and thoughts. This form of therapy is typically facilitated by licensed mental health professionals who specialize in working with young individuals.

What are the goals of child therapy?

The goals of child therapy are tailored to the individual needs of the child and may vary depending on the specific issues being addressed. It may help in:
– Helping children understand and manage their emotions
– Reducing problematic behaviours such as aggression, defiance, or hyperactivity.
– Address specific developmental needs such as ADHD, Autism, etc.
– Enhancing communication skills
– Developing social skills and others.

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