What is Child Therapy and How Does It Differ From Adult Therapy?
Psychotherapy for children must take into account the developmental age of the child or adolescent, the rapidly developing brain and body of the child and the family environment. While all of these issues are taken into account with an adult as well, the dramatic changes in cognitive and emotional understanding that happen in a short time with children impacts the techniques that are used. Further, children have little control over their environment, as opposed to adult clients. Incorporating the family in the child’s treatment is often critically important.
For young children, information is often processed non-verbally, so therapies must incorporate some non-verbal techniques (such as art therapy or play therapy). Even teenagers can often benefit from incorporating some level of non-verbal therapy.
Child therapy is also very forward-looking and behaviorally oriented. Since children are developing so quickly, looking backward to determine the origin of problems is often irrelevant. Instead, therapy often focuses on the consequences of specific behaviors, increasing the child’s awareness of choice in responding to their environment. Impulse control, for example, is facilitated with behaviorally-oriented therapy.
Is Child Therapy Effective?
It is very natural to wonder about the effectiveness of child therapy, and it can be a leap of faith for a parent to entrust a professional with the well-being of your child. Research has documented that child therapy can be highly effective.
A 1995 Study, Effects of Psychotherapy on Children and Adolescents Revisited, published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin, reviewed 150 studies of child therapy and found that, on average, the effect was “positive and highly significant.”
For pre-teens and younger, parents are usually incorporated in aspects of the therapy, which helps build trust between the parent and the therapist. With many types of child therapy, the parents and family are an integral part of the treatment planning, and their involvement is necessary for the therapy to be effective.
With teenagers, the coordination with parents becomes somewhat more limited. Many teenagers are at a stage where they will barely speak to a therapist if they feel that the parent will be given the information. Therapists skilled at working with teenagers are also skilled at navigating these sometimes murky boundaries.
What is Applied Behavioral Analysis?
Applied Behavioral Analysis is one of the best researched therapeutic techniques for children and adolescents. Applied Behavioral Analysis developed from the theories of “Behavior Modification.” ABA has proven effective at helping many children achieve behavior change; in particular, those with ADD or Autism can benefit.
Dana Carretta works with children, ages 3-18. She utilizes a combination of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Applied Behavioral Analysis, and EMDR. She has extensive knowledge in the special needs field, and has worked with students with autism, developmental delays and emotional disturbances. She also conducts Family Training to assist in implementing effective behavioral plans.
Barbara Heffernan works with older adolescents, particularly when the issues are anxiety, trauma or performance problems (school, sports, etc.). Barbara is an Approved EMDR Consultant and a Certified EMDR Therapist, and she utilizes a combination of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), EMDR, visualization, mindfulness and grounding techniques.
Signs your child may benefit from a consultation with a therapist: