There are many emotional and psychological issues that a child or adolescent may face. Some of these may be issues that occur socially such as at school, like bullying. Childhood bullying can lead to weight problems and a host of other ongoing mental and physical health problems later in life.
Children may also have mental health disorders such as anxiety or symptoms of depression.
In certain cases, parents might wonder whether or not their child could benefit from therapy or when it would be appropriate to have their child see a therapist.
Considerations to keep in mind as you decide whether or not your child could benefit from therapy include the following.
How Can Therapists Help a Child?
Therapists can work with children on a wide variety of issues. For example, if a child is going through bullying, which was briefly touched on above, a therapist may be able to help them develop coping mechanisms and work through their issues related to that. Experiencing health, family or school problems can also be a good reason for a child to see a therapist.
Even if there isn’t a specific underlying cause that you can identify, a child experiencing sadness, stress, worry, grief, or low self-esteem might benefit from therapy.
Specific conditions a therapist can help treat in a child or teen include:
- Eating disorders
- Trauma disorders
When Should You Seek Help?
In certain cases, your child may just need time to overcome issues they may be dealing with. In other instances, there may be red flags that you should go ahead and find a therapist for them.
Examples of when a child or teen may need therapy sooner rather than later include eating disorders or when there’s a family history of mental illness. If your child is exhibiting behaviors of self-harm that’s also a time when therapy and intervention are needed right away.
On the other hand, if a child is going through a time of transition, then it may be better to give it time and see how they progress before making a therapy decision. For example, during a divorce or changing schools, a child may seem like they’re experiencing certain issues, but these may go away on their own with time without therapy.
What Are the Different Types of Childhood Therapy?
There are different types of therapy that may be useful for children and teens, and the type of therapy that a professional might recommend for your child can vary depending on their age and their symptoms.
For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy can be good for children and teens, and it’s one of the most commonly used forms of therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps children recognize how their thoughts affect their mood and behavior.
Kids can, with the guidance of a therapist, work to identify negative ways of thinking and then deal with them. This kind of therapy can especially work well for symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Play therapy is for younger children in many cases. With play therapy, a psychotherapist watches a child engage with different toys to gain more of an understanding of issues they may be experiencing.
Psychodynamic therapy involves a therapist talking with a child to determine issues that are influencing the child’s thinking or behavior. The underlying goal of this type of therapy is to help a child talk about their issues openly, which can help the therapist and parents understand more about where certain things, like poor behavior at school, are stemming from.
When Is It Time to Seek Help?
As a parent, how do you know when it’s time to seek help versus when something is just a normal part of childhood?
- The child is experiencing issues in multiple areas of their life, for example at school and at home
- A child may need therapy if they start to seem like their self-esteem is declining or they don’t feel good about themselves
- Children who excessively worry about future events may benefit from therapy
- Hopelessness can be a red flag of deeper issues that may need professional help
- Ongoing self-destructive behaviors such as skin-picking or hair-pulling
- Significant, ongoing changes in sleeping habits or appetite
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Making comments implying that no one cares about them or no one would care if they were gone
As a parent, anytime your child experiences emotional difficulties, you feel it just as much. Knowing when to seek professional help can be important and valuable for your child and you.