What Does Therapy for Children Look Like?
Children’s brains are different from adult brains, which means the way that children experience emotion, process their experiences, and communicate their needs will be different than how adults do these things.
Play Therapy for Young Children
Younger kids especially often process emotion through play, and play therapists utilize games and toys in their sessions to facilitate this. It can look to parents like their child is “just playing” in their sessions, when in fact the therapist is creating space for this important emotional work to occur.1
Teenagers might engage in talk therapy but spend much of their session discussing things that the parent might not think is “relevant” to their presenting issues. What your teen feels is important to cover in therapy might not perfectly line up with your perception.
Since rapport is a key element of therapeutic change, discussions that do not seem to relate to your teen’s symptoms are still an important part of their treatment.2
Even though the parent or legal guardian has to sign off in order for the child to participate in therapy, this does not mean that you will have access to all of the information from your child’s sessions.
Signs Your Child Might Benefit from Therapy
There is no minimum threshold for someone to need or deserve support. If your child states that they think they need therapy, take their concerns seriously. However, the following signs might indicate that they may benefit from mental health treatment:
- There has been significant change in their mood. If your child has become withdrawn, fearful, or moody, this might indicate that they are having a hard time and could benefit from talking to a therapist.
- Their behavior has changed. Has your child started getting into trouble at school, or have their grades shifted suddenly? This can be a red flag that they are struggling. Instead of punishing them for a change in behavior, help them explore what the cause might be.
- They have experienced a stressful or traumatic event. Trauma is relative, and different things impact people differently. If your child has experienced something stressful or traumatic, they may benefit from processing with a professional.
- They have engaged in self-harm behavior. A person might engage in non-suicidal self-injury when their mental health is suffering. A therapist can help your child identify the underlying causes of this behavior and help them find more appropriate coping skills.