Therapy for Children

Should Your Child See a Therapist?

When Therapy is Appropriate

There are times when a child can benefit from therapy – just like a grownup. Therapy can help children cope with traumatic events, learn problem solving skills and the value of asking for help as well as working on a variety of emotional and behavioral issues.

Some children need help talking about their feelings and family issues, especially during a significant event in life, such as death of a family member, friend or pet, military deployment of a parent, divorce, illness and other troubling circumstances. Other critical stressors that need the help of a therapist stem from bullying, threats and other forms of abuse. These can cause stress that show up as behavior problems, moodiness, changes in sleep patterns, loss of appetite and/or academic or social troubles.

In many situations, it's simply not clear what causes a child to suddenly become emotional, worried, withdrawn, anxious, or frightened. It is important that if you feel your child is experiencing emotional or behavioral problems or needs help dealing with a challenging event in life, trust your intuition and take action.

Signs to Look for -That Therapy May Be of Benefit
  • Delays in developmental benchmarks, such as motor skills, speech, toilet training, etc.
  • ADD and ADHD
  • Excessive anger, such as hitting, kicking, biting, yelling, etc.
  • Over reacting
  • Bedwetting
  • Abnormal eating habits
  • Loss of interest in school, absenteeism, missing assignments, drop in grades, etc.
  • Protracted periods of sadness or depression
  • Isolating or a loss of interest in playing with others
  • Being bullied or the target of threats or abuse
  • Reduced interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Changes in sleep habits or insomnia
  • Abrupt changes in mood – happy one minute and angry the next
  • Complaints of headache, stomachache or other physical pain.
Family or Personal Circumstances During Which Your Child Could Benefit from Seeing a Therapist:
  • Marriage problems like separation or divorce.
  • Legal issues like custody evaluations or court hearings.
  • Significant health problems like sudden, acute or chronic illness.
  • Any signs of use or abuse of alcohol, drugs or other substance in yourself, family member or your child.
  • Change of address of the family or a family member (such as a military deployment).
  • Death of a family member, friend or pet.
  • Discovery of any form of abuse.
  • Traumatic event in the family, school, community or on the news.
  • Diagnosis of autism or other developmental disorder.
Talk to Others About Your Child

It can be helpful to visit with other family members, family friends, parents of your children's friends, caregivers and teachers who interact regularly with your child. Do they notice anything that might indicate there is a problem? Is your child acting appropriately for his or her age? Gather and analyze as much information as you can to determine how you can help your child and whether or not you should see a therapist.

Finding the Right Therapist

How do you find a qualified therapist who has the right experience working with kids and teens? Education and experience are important - however, it's critically important to find a counselor your child feels comfortable talking to. Look for one who not only has the right experience, but also the best approach to help your child in the current circumstances.

Different Types of Therapy

There are many types of therapy that are appropriate for children. We will choose the most appropriate approach for your particular child and their needs and will also assess your family situation, spending a portion of each session visiting with you. The first session is always used to gather information from the parents.

Talk Therapy

This type of therapy is the quintessential form of therapy, where the therapist works to help the child express themselves verbally. Talk therapy is best suited for children with good language skills.

Click here to read more about Talk Therapy


This type of therapy is typically helpful with children who are depressed, anxious or having problems coping with stressful situations.

Cognitive behavioral therapy restructures negative thoughts into more positive, effective ways of thinking. It can include work on stress management strategies, relaxation training, practicing coping skills, and other forms of treatment.

Click here to read more about CBT


The symptoms from mental health issues appear to diminish faster with young children than with adults. Children seem more able to undergo rapid change. Perhaps due to the child's age, it seems that a trauma, or anxiety or a phobia has had less time to take hold throughout a young person's mind and body.

It is significant that EMDR seems to help children move in positive directions. EMDR is a useful approach with younger, less verbal children. Even though it is administered therapeutically the process itself can seem like a game – a game played between therapist and child. When children are having fun, they are potentially more open to being in a therapist's office.

Click here to read more about EMDR

Play Therapy

Play therapy is defined as, "the organized use of a practical tools where trained play therapists help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."

Play therapy is a fun and enjoyable activity that elevates the patient's spirits and brightens their outlook on life. It expands self-expression, self-knowledge, self-actualization and self-efficacy. Play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego. Additionally, play therapy may allow patients to act out skills and roles needed for survival. Learning and development are best fostered through play.

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Sandplay Therapy

Sandplay goes back to an early decade of this century when H.G. Wells wrote about observing his two sons playing on the floor with miniature figures and his realizing that they were working out their problems with each other and with other members of the family. Twenty years later Margaret Lowenfeld, a child psychiatrist in London, was looking for a method to help children express the "inexpressible". She recalled reading about Wells' experience with his two sons and so she added miniatures to the shelves of the play room of her clinic. The first child to see them took them to the sandbox in the room and started to play with them in the sand. And thus it was a child who "invented" what has come to be identified as sandplay therapy.

Click here to read more about Sandplay Therapy

Preparing Your Child for Therapy

You may be concerned that your child will become upset when told of an upcoming visit with a therapist. Although this is sometimes the case, it's essential to be honest about the session and why your child will be going. The issue will come up during the session, but it's important for you to prepare your child for it.

Explain to young kids that this type of visit to the doctor doesn't involve a physical exam or shots. You may also want to stress that this type of doctor talks and plays with kids and families to help them solve problems and feel better. Kids might feel reassured to learn that the therapist will be helping the parents and other family members too.

Giving kids this kind of information before the first appointment can help set the tone, prevent your child from feeling singled out or isolated, and provide reassurance that the family will be working together on the problem.

Providing Additional Support for Your Child

As your child progresses through therapy and deals with sensitive and emotional issues, it is important that you are there for them – ready to listen, care, offer support (all without judgement).

Schedule time to debrief each therapy session and visit about their experiences, fears and concerns. Help you child feel that he or she is your primary focus and priority. By recognizing problems and seeking help early on, you can help your child — and your entire family — move through the tough times toward happier, healthier times ahead.

Consider These Suggestions for Helping the Process:
  • Talk with your child as often as they would like to.
  • Show extra patience, affection and acts of kindness – especially during troubled times.
  • Don't be afraid to set your own boundaries and take care of your own physical and emotional needs – setting an example for you child.
  • Ask for suggestions and help from other family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, doctors, etc.
  • Plan and hold family meetings to discuss appropriate details of therapy and your child's involvement and progress.
  • Plan and hold family activities that focus on your child and an issues he or she is working on – such as favorite hobbies, meals, treats, games, entertainment, etc.
  • Communicate frequently with the therapist and ask for specific tips and strategies to help your unique situation.
  • Be open to the recommendations you get from the therapist and thefeedback you get from your child.
  • Respect the relationship between your child and the therapist and discuss any negative feelings about it, if they arise.

children needing therapy

“Better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.” - Atul Gawande