Mental Health Therapy for Children? Why?

Mental Health Therapy for Children? Why?
By Lindsay Hardy, M. A.

Life in general presents us with ongoing challenges, many of which we feel unprepared to handle- parenting, divorce, interpersonal issues, etc.. At times, we need outside support to help us make sense of the challenges we face.  And so do children.  Pursuing counseling for a child, either as a primary service or an addition to current services, can foster positive change on a number of levels. It probably looks much different than you think.  However, knowing when a child might need this type of help can be challenging.

You might think that therapy is for children who are severely impacted by mental health issues that they are unable to attend school, or make friends. While children with debilitating concerns often do attend therapy, there are a host of other reasons why a psychologist, counselor, or social worker may meet with children and families on a regular basis for therapy:

  • Experiencing academic difficulty in school is often related to feelings of low self-esteem and self-efficacy. Academic performance is viewed as the “number one” task of childhood- performing poorly in this domain can exacerbate feelings of sadness and anxiety. Therapy can empower children to use effective ways to cope with these feelings as well as tools for improving academic success.
  • Being a part of a family in which one or more members has special needs can be related to feelings of isolation, stress, and depression. Caretakers, siblings, and individuals with special needs themselves may benefit from having a confidential and safe space to discuss the emotional complexities of living with and caring for those with significant challenges and different abilities. Clinicians may meet with all family members as a group to increase self- and other- understanding as well as to facilitate communication that is healthy, respectful, and supportive.
  • Very young children who “don’t listen” and are physically aggressive towards others often struggle in a school setting, where such behaviors are highly disruptive. It is also likely that these behaviors will negatively impact the child’s ability to learn and achieve to his or her full potential. There are a number of clinicians at JCFS who specialize in working with families to decrease unwanted behaviors, such as aggression, and increase school-friendly and family-friendly behaviors, such as turn –taking and rule-following.
  • Meeting with a counselor/psychologist may also be helpful in determining when behaviors are “typical” and when it may be appropriate to discuss putting an intervention into place. For example, some young children exhibit a great deal of rigidity, or the inability to flexibly interact with the changing world around them (e.g. they become extremely upset if toys are moved to a difference location, etc.). As children grow older and their environments become less “controlled,” this rigidity may challenge his/her ability to form meaningful social relationships with others and perform well academically. Clinicians may work alongside the child’s Speech and Language Pathologists, Developmental Therapists, and/or Occupational Therapists to develop interventions to assist the child in becoming more flexible as well as support other family members during this time. 

These are only a few of the issues that can be addressed successfully and compassionately within a therapeutic relationship. For more information, please contact Integrated Pediatric Therapies at 855-ASK-JCFS or contact the billing administrator directly at 847.412.4377

Photo Credit: Tup Wanders on Flickr