When you hear the word therapy you might imagine a person sitting and talking about their problems. Psychological support can even be referred to as “talk therapy.” But how does therapy work with children who may be unable or disinclined to talk directly about their feelings? Read on to explore this topic.
Is my child old enough to see a psychologist?
Therapy does not have an age limit. Even children who are preschool aged may engage in therapy with positive results. Parental involvement in therapy will typically be greater for younger children, as they need more assistance learning new skills, and parents may also be given strategies. For children who are young or have limited insight into the presenting problem, then parents may also be a source of information.
How do therapy activities differ based on age?
Therapy activities also differ depending on your child’s age, personality, and development. For adolescents, they may be capable and comfortable with telling the psychologist their difficulties and working through them directly. For younger children, psychologists still listen to their concerns and help build skills but may incorporate games or preferred activities that fit with their developmental level.
Psychologists will tend to factor in the following considerations when working with children and adolescents:
- Level of parental input (developmentally and personality influenced)
- Child’s openness to therapy
- Child’s ability to articulate difficulties
- Child’s preference for therapy style (the way they like working, for example, could be your child prefers directive style or likes to have lots of time to talk).
- Goals of therapy
- Developmental age and ability
- Language and cognitive abilities
How do I know if my child needs therapy?
It can be difficult to tell if your child needs therapy. If they haven’t seemed themselves and have emotional, social, or behavioural difficulties, it may be time to consider therapy. It can sometimes be difficult to ascertain if your child needs therapy or is simply having an adjustment difficulty. If your child’s functioning continues to be reduced after a transition has occurred, this may signal the need for therapy. Therapy may also be of benefit to assist during difficult times of transition, and your young person does not need to have a diagnosable mental health condition to potentially benefit from therapy.
When should I take my child to a psychologist for behavioural issues?
All children go through developmental changes that can be linked with high emotions and even tantrums. It can be useful to stay abreast of developmental guidelines to help you gauge how your child is going. Behaviour that is not developmentally standard may be a sign that your child could benefit from therapy. For example, difficulties with sharing toys is fairly standard for toddlers, though may be a sign of rigid thinking and social difficulties if your child is significantly older than this age.
When a child’s behaviour or emotions are causing significant stress for themselves and/or the family unit, then this may be another time where therapy is warranted.
My child doesn’t like sitting still and talking. Is psychological therapy still worth pursuing?
Whilst every situation is unique, having a high-energy child is not necessarily a reason to avoid therapy. Indeed, psychologists are trained to assist with behavioural issues and conditions such as ADHD.
Psychologists have techniques for managing children who are very high energy, such as:
- Reducing time of engagement to shorter blocks, with breaks. More parent engagement may occur.
- Incorporating loved activities/themes into therapy content to improve engagement
- Timing therapy sessions at optimum times to boost concentration/focus
- Building strong rapport and using behavioural techniques to keep children on track
My child is very shy. Will therapy be appropriate for them?
If your child is very reserved or has difficulty separating from you, you may be concerned about their ability to engage in therapy. Psychologists are trained to work with clients from all different backgrounds and personalities. If your child is anxious or hesitant to attend, then the psychologist will work on making them feel comfortable and safe. This may take time. Our team of psychologists are equipped to work with a range of presenting issues, including separation anxiety. So, if your young person is anxious during the session then the psychologist will be able to assist you in managing this issue.
Are there any benefits in taking your child to a psychologist when they are young?
Engaging your child with a psychologist when they are young may have benefits. Children learn skills in therapy that can help them manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in the long-term. Understanding of mental health and emotional vocabulary can be boosted through therapy.
If children have a positive experience of therapy this may set them up to have healthy attitudes around seeking help in the future if needed. Certain conditions are also known to be best assisted through early intervention (such as autism spectrum disorder).
In summary, psychological therapy can be of benefit across the lifespan, even for young children. Therapy can be adapted to suit children of different ages, with psychologists taking into account developmental level, personality, and level of parental input appropriate. If you believe your child or adolescent would benefit from therapy, please call us on (07) 3857 0074.
What Age Can A Child See A Psychologist? When Should A Child See A Psychologist? When Should I Take My Child To A Psychologist