FAQ on Child & Adolescent Counseling
Learn about child and teen counseling. When should you bring your child in to see a therapist? What does adolescent counseling look like?
When should I seek Therapy for my child?
Often times we know something is wrong with a child or teen based on changes in their behavior (such as a drop in grades, isolating themselves from peers and loved ones, having angry outbursts or crying fits, and the list goes on), but it can be hard to pinpoint the cause of the change. Parents feel stuck and may wonder, “Did I do something?”, “Is this just a phase or part of normal development?”, “Did something bad happen to my child?”, “Is something going on at school?”
When you call we can discuss the basics of your situation with you over the phone with a free 15 minute consultation. We will help you determine if the behavior or concern is developmentally ‘normal’ and if we believe therapy would be beneficial. We will also try to determine whether we would be a good fit for your needs based on our training, specialties, and the level of intervention needed. You are welcome to ask us any questions you might have and if we don’t feel we’d be a good fit we can help to connect you with someone else who is.
What kind of issues do you address with kids and adolescents?
As with adult therapy there is a wide range of issues that can be addressed in child and adolescent therapy. We deal with everything from depression and anxiety to divorce adjustment. We see kids with academic issues and traumatic experiences. We work with ADHD-type behaviors such as low impulse control, increasing focus, and improving decision making. We help children to develop better self-esteem, coping skills, and anger management skills. We teach and model communication skills, healthy emotional expression and regulation, and social skills. In our first communication with you we will be able to give you more of an idea of the specific ways that our services could help your child.
What does Child or adolescent therapy look like? I’m not sure my child would like sitting on a couch talking about what he’s going through.
In the first appointment we will meet with you, the parent(s) to discuss your concerns. This assessment could take the entire appointment and we usually recommend leaving your child a home for this appointment. The therapist will aim to get a solid understanding of your child’s typical characteristics and any changes you’ve noticed, the behaviors of concern, and or any life events or family changes that you believe may be affecting your child. At the first or second session, the therapist will develop a game plan and you can mutually decide the type of therapy (individual, parenting, family, or some combination) that will work best for your needs and those of your child.
Through the use of play therapy, kids and adolescents are able to act out their situation or emotional struggles in a smaller scale; while they may feel they have little control over certain aspects of their life, in play they can take control and work through their feelings. As difficult feelings surface in play the child is able to face them and better cope with them. Play therapy can help our therapists to identify suppressed feelings and guide the child or teen into greater understanding as well. After the initial intake appointment, we usually sit down with your child and invite them to play with us. Check out our expressive therapies page to learn more about play therapy.
Our therapists also use art therapy to help your child express and work through their feelings. This might include painting, sculpting, drawing, coloring assignments, and other forms of creative activities aimed at making your child comfortable, addressing the areas of concern, and of course having fun while we do it. Check out our expressive therapies page to learn more about art therapy.
We also love playing board games here and will gladly teach parents how to use even basic household games such as Candy Land, Jenga, and Operation in therapeutic ways. Additionally, some children learn and grow best through more physical activities. Our therapists are not above physical games such as red-light, green-light and may be found at times playing in the hallways! (Of course we will always ask your permission before stepping out of the office).
After the first appointment, do I need to attend with my child or adolescent?
The short answer is, No. If your child is uncomfortable, you may certainly join us in the appointment, but usually children warm up to therapy within a very short time. We frequently see children and teens privately, but ideally we like to have regular check-ins with you to let you know any progress we’ve seen in session, to update you on concerns we have, and most importantly to allow you to update us on significant changes and ask any questions you may have.
In some cases, particularly those in which the child has difficult behaviors, we recommend parenting therapy sessions as part of the treatment plan. Children make much faster and more lasting change when their parents are actively involved in learning how to support them. We also offer family sessions if parent-child interactions seem to be a challenge and the therapist feels they would helpful.
Many times adolescents and teens prefer not to have their parents join them in session and in these cases, we encourage you to respect your child’s wishes so they feel therapy really is a private space for them to share anything and everything that they might not feel comfortable sharing with others yet. In these cases we explain upfront limits to privacy to both the parents and their adolescent. Legally, parents of minors have a right to ask any questions and know what is being worked on in therapy and we will gladly keep you informed. That being said, if your child is aversive to the idea of you knowing details of what is discussed we encourage you to respect their privacy with the understanding that the therapist will always inform you if something of serious concern comes up. Teens and adolescents will often share more and build better trust with their therapist if they know that their parents won’t get a play by play of everything that comes up in session.
*Please note: We frequently get the question about whether teens can drive themselves to their appointments. This is fine AFTER the initial session in which a parent or legal guardian must complete the professional counseling agreement providing consent for the teen to attend sessions.