Children’s psychotherapy specialises in the treatment of disorders of behaviour, thinking and feeling in children aged between three years old and eleven or twelve years of age. The particular treatment offered may be a combination of individual psychotherapy, play and art therapy, family therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy and skills coaching. Goals for therapy may be specific (change in behaviour, improved relations with friends or family) or more general (less anxiety, better self-esteem). Children and young people with psychological difficulties usually respond well to treatment.
Typical children’s difficulties in these age groups that benefit from psychotherapeutic intervention include: anxiety, attention and attachment disorders, autism spectrum disorders, bullying, conduct and mood disorders, depression, eating disorders, language and learning difficulties, substance abuse, selective mutism, self-harm, sexual confusion or acting-out and suicidal ideation.
The decision to seek professional help can be a difficult one and usually is considered after other avenues have been considered such as extended family, teacher, family physician or school counsellor. A consultation with a child psychotherapist offers assessment, a treatment plan and / or interventions that help the child and the whole family understand and copy in a better fashion.
For the first consultation, the therapist expects the parents to attend together with the child. The consent of the parents and the family’s support for the young person’s engagement with the therapy is essential to the overall success of the therapy. The establishment of a regular appointment time and consistent attendance is important.
It is important not to discount psychological problems in childhood and parents should bear in mind that children usually respond well to treatment. Early intervention prevents further complications such as social isolation, poor functioning in school and relationship problems. The length of psychotherapy depends on the complexity and severity of problems. It is recommended that the decision to conclude the therapy should be made in a joint consultation with the therapist, child and family.