Individual & Family Therapy
Parent involvement is always a component of therapy for children and teens. Typically, you will be actively involved in therapy sessions for your young child (ages birth to eight), and regardless of your child’s age, you will meet with the therapist after sessions or in separate meetings.
For both children and teens, marriage and family therapists, psychologists and child and adolescent psychiatrists often involve some kind of activity (play, creative expression or sports) or discussion about interests as a way of getting to know your child. Children’s Health Council therapists use a wide range of methods and evidence-based (proven) practices depending on issues, personality and interests. Therapy sessions are tailored for the unique needs of every teen or child, but the sequence of steps for marking progress is the same:
1. Build Rapport and Trust
Before a therapist can begin working on your child’s problems, your child has to feel comfortable, safe and willing to actively participate in the process. Understandably, kids at any age are reluctant to immediately talk about their problems. To feel comfortable sharing sensitive information, they want to know they can trust the therapist. In fact, it's natural for children and teens to feel worried or defensive about therapy. Establishing trust with your child lays the foundation for the therapist and your child to make meaningful progress.
Play can be an important means of building trust. The therapist may begin by talking to your child about things he’s interested in, which can include games or creative play. For a child who is interested in basketball, the therapist may take him to the basketball court and shoot baskets; for a child interested in technology, the therapist may work on the iPad with the child to look at websites that interest him; for a young child who is interested in dolls, the child and therapist might play house. Whatever the activity, the goal is the same: establish trust. By following your child’s lead, the therapist sends the message, “I’m interested in you and want to learn about you." In turn, your child begins to sense, “The therapist cares about me. This is fun. I get to talk about stuff I like. This person gets me.”
2. Set Goals
When you meet with the therapist the first time, you will define goals for your child's therapy. With trust established and your goals in mind, the therapist can begin to explore what your child wants to do differently. For preteens and teens, the therapist can ask these questions directly; for younger children the questions may be approached indirectly.
3. Develop Strategies to Make Change
Once the therapist establishes agreed upon goals with you and your child, he will begin directing therapy to develop new ways of thinking and new behaviors to help your child reach his goals. The therapist will also focus and build upon your child's strengths as a strategy for change.
The therapist has a different role than a parent. It is sometimes easier for a child or teen to talk with or open up to a therapist who is not directly related to his daily life. The therapist's role is to establish a sense of complete security for your child, unlike any other relationship the child has with a teacher, friend or other adult.
Parent involvement varies depending on your child's age. Therapy for preteens and teens involves more confidentiality than therapy for young children, but even with teenagers, parents are involved. For teenagers, it’s important that you understand the plan of action that the therapist and your teen have agreed upon so that you can support the plan at home.
For your young child or young, school age child, typically, you’ll be asked to participate in therapy sessions. At a minimum, the therapist will meet with you immediately after each therapy session or set up a separate meeting to discuss strategies to use at home.
Children's Health Council's therapists use evidence-based (proven) therapies including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavorial therapy (DBT), parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), trauma-focused CBT, pivotal response treatment (PRT), DIRR/FloortimeTM and more.
When a child or teen has problems, it often affects the entire family putting strain on marriages, sibling relationships, extended family and family fun. Marriage and family therapists and psychologists understand family dynamics and provide support for the entire family.
Depending on your child’s age and the issues you’re facing, family therapy may or may not involve the entire family. For example, a family whose child has been recently diagnosed with autism often needs support to grieve, accept and re-imagine their dreams for their child, their marriage and their family.
In other cases, family therapy can be an excellent way to give voice to the sibling who is not having problems, but is affected by his sibling who is having problems.
For parent-teen conflict, therapy can be a game changer. When a teen is acting out and parents feel like they’re not in charge anymore, therapy can help parents and teens find middle ground. Instead of screaming at and fighting with each other at home, working with a therapist can give both parents and teens a new way to communicate so each person has a chance to talk about what is bothering him. Through therapy, parents and teens feel better understood and develop new skills.