Therapy for children and adolescents

Therapy for children and adolescents

Therapy with children takes on a different form than therapy with adults. Children generally have difficulty expressing complex emotions or thoughts verbally and tend to communicate via play.  The child’s feelings, thoughts and experiences are therefore explored and accessed via play therapy as opposed to talk therapy.  Various forms of play are utilised in therapy to assist children to express what is troubling them when they do not have the verbal capabilities to do so.

Adolescence is a tumultuous developmental period in a person’s life; it is the time where we need to separate from our parents and find our own identities, and we often do this by trying to fit into peer groups. Adolescents therefore tend to succumb to peer pressure, or they struggle with self-esteem issues and feelings of rejection.

As children and adolescents rely more heavily on the relationship with their parents and other family members than adults, issues within the broader family unit often need to be addressed as well.  Parents or other family members may therefore also be involved in the therapeutic process of the child or adolescent. 

Reasons for therapy often include:

  • Attachment difficulties (in relationship between parent and child)
  • Adjustment difficulties
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low self esteem
  • Trauma
  • Bereavement
  • Abuse (sexual abuse, bullying etc.)
  • Problematic behaviour (stealing, self-harm, substance abuse)

Therapy process

As work with children and adolescents are often more complex, it is crucial to conduct a thorough assessment of the presenting problem and the history of the child which could take a number of sessions. Parents are generally involved in the assessment phase, and collateral is frequently required from schools (with the permission of the parents). Once the assessment phase is concluded, a treatment plan will be discussed with the parents and child detailing the type of therapy that will be utilised, who will be involved in the therapy process and other practical matters that need to be addressed. At times, referrals to other care providers are also necessary at this stage. Sessions are generally 50 minutes long, unless agreed otherwise.