Sometimes Kids Need Therapy Too…
Category : Mental Health and Addictions
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When Children Need Therapy
By Dennis Thompson Jr. | Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
Children have many of the same mental health issues as adults and may also need counseling.
Here's some advice on finding therapy for kids.
Adults like to think of childhood as a carefree time full of play and enjoyment, but that's not true for all kids. Children are
susceptible to the same emotional health issues and mood disorders that plague adults. As many as one in five children
and adolescents may have an identifiable mental disorder that requires treatment. At least 1 in 10 has a serious emotional
Psychological counseling can help with many of these issues. Therapy for kids can aid children who have such problems
as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and conduct disorder.
Signs of Trouble
Warning signs that your child may need psychological counseling include:
Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
Constant anger and a tendency to overreact to situations
Persistent worry, anxiety, or fearfulness
Preoccupation with physical illness or their own appearance
Fear that someone is controlling his mind, or that he is "out of control"
A sudden, unexplained drop in grades at school
A loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
Changes in patterns of sleeping or eating
Reclusiveness, preferring to be alone rather than in the company of friends or family
Hearing voices that aren't there
Expressing thoughts of suicide
An inability to concentrate, think clearly, or make decisions
An inability to sit still
Performing routines obsessively throughout the day, such as washing hands or cleaning things
Experiencing regular nightmares
Alcohol or drug use
Dieting obsessively, or binging followed by vomiting or taking laxatives
Taking part in violent acts such as setting fires or killing animals
If a child or adolescent shows some or many of these signs, he likely needs therapy. Therapy for kids can be very
beneficial, particularly if a problem is identified before it can grow worse.
Types of Childhood Therapy
Many different types of mental health issues can arise in children, and therapy comes in many forms. Some forms of
counseling available to children, and the disorders they can help treat, include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy. In this form of counseling, children are taught how their own thoughts can
affect their mood and behavior. Kids are shown how to identify negative or distorted thought patterns and deal
with them. This type of therapy is helpful in addressing mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
Play therapy. Kids are given toys to play with, and a psychotherapist watches their play to better understand
their emotional or mental health issues. Different types of play help the child figure out feelings and express
them. Play therapy can help kids who have depression or anxiety because they are having trouble dealing with
life issues like divorce or the death of a loved one.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy. This is the children's version of the classic "talking cure," by which a
psychotherapist helps figure out the issues that are influencing how a child thinks or acts. The therapy operates
on the theory that a child's behavior will improve once his inner struggles are brought out in the open. This can
help a child who has anxiety or depression, is dealing with an eating disorder, or is lashing out due to a conduct
Behavior therapy. This sort of therapy for kids differs from cognitivebehavioral therapy in that it focuses on
behavior modification. Behaviors are identified that need to be discouraged or encouraged, and then parents
work to change the environmental factors that contribute to those behaviors and also provide consequences for
desired or undesired behavior. It is helpful for treating children who have ADHD, as well as other conditions for
which behavior modification is desired.
Finding Help Resources available to help parents who are concerned about their child's mental health include:
The National Mental Health Information Center has a tollfree number (18007892647), which parents can call
to ask questions and receive information and brochures.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry offers an online resource for locating certified kids'
therapists. You also can call the academy at 12029667300.
Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor or a qualified therapist if your child seems to be having a problem. Quick attention can
help him better overcome the issues he’s coping with, and lead a happier and healthier childhood.