How can therapy help me and my child?
A number of benefits are available from participating in therapy. Therapists can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for your infant/child with issues such as ADD/ADHD, ODD, depression, anxiety, angry outburts or temper tantrums, excessive crying, problems with eating or sleeping, and extreme sadness or fearfulness. Many people also find that counselors can be a tremendous asset to managing the parent-child relationship, helping with bonding and attachment, family concerns, and the hassles of parenting in daily life. Therapists can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you and your child in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from therapy depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from therapy include:
- Attaining a better understanding of your child and their development
- Developing skills for improving your relationship with your child
- Learning new ways to discipline your child that leads to a happy home
- Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
- Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety, for both you and your child
- Helping your child manage anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
- Improving communications and listening skills with your child
- Helping your child change old behavior patterns and developing new ones
- Improving your child's self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
Does my child really need therapy? And how in the world do you even do therapy with a young child??
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced with your child, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they may need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired! You are taking responsibility by accepting where you are in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy for your child. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you and your child the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you may be facing.
Therapy with a young child sounds unusual doesn't it? You may be envisioning a child, lying back on a couch while a very formal therapist says silly statements like "Tell me about your childhood". The idea of therapy with a young child seems counter-intuitive because, come on...he/she is so young! Therapy with a young child can be incredibly helpful for the parent and for the entire family. Because children grow in the context of nurturing environments, early childhood mental health involves the psychological balance of the child-family system. You may have a very fussy child, or there is just something "off" with your son/daughter and you don't know what or where to start, but you know something needs to change. You may feel that you just don't understand or like your child. Therapy can help the bonding process with your child, which will help your son/daughter begin to form a safe and secure attachment with you; in o ther words, helping the child is helping the whole of the family. Therapy with a young child may happen with both the child and the parent in an interactive manner, and will look a little different for everyone based on the child's individual needs.
What is therapy like?
Because each child/parent has different issues and goals for therapy (ADD/ADHD, ODD, OCD, Anxiety, etc.), therapy will be different depending on the individual child. In general, you can expect to discuss the current events happening in your child's life, your personal history relevant to your issue, and report progress (or any new insights gained) from the previous therapy session. Depending on your child's specific needs, therapy may be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more difficult patterns. Either way, it is most common to schedule regular sessions with your therapist (usually weekly).
It is important to understand that you will get more results from therapy if you actively participate in the process with your child. The ultimate purpose of therapy is to help you and your child bring what you learn in session back into your life. Therefore, beyond the work you do in therapy sessions, your therapist may suggest some things you can do outside of therapy to support your process - such as reading some handouts or experimenting with new strategies. People seeking therapy are ready to make positive changes in their lives with their child, are open to new perspectives and take responsibility for their lives.
What about medication vs. psychotherapy?
It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of the child's distress and the behavior patterns that curb their progress. You can help your child best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness. Working with your child's medical doctor may help you determine what's best for your child, and in some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action.
Do you take insurance, and how does that work?
To determine if you or your child have mental health coverage through your insurance carrier, the first thing you should do is call them. Check your coverage carefully and make sure you understand their answers. Some helpful questions you can ask them:
- What are my mental health benefits?
- What is the coverage amount per therapy session?
- How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
- How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
- Is approval required from my primary care physician?
Does what we talk about in therapy remain confidential?
Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and therapist. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but the therapist's office. Every therapist should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone. This is called “Informed Consent”. Sometimes, however, you may want your therapist to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (your child's primary care physician, teacher, etc.), but by law your therapist cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission. Please note that your child's therapist will not voluntarily participate in legal proceedings of any kind, as this adversely affects the therapy process and the trust that has been established with your child. Attempts at engaging your child's therapist in legal proceedings will be pursued to be quashed.
State law and professional ethics require therapists to maintain confidentiality with their clients except for the following situations:
* Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children, adults, and elders to the authorities, including Child Protection and law enforcement, based on information provided by the client or collateral sources.
* If the therapist has reason to suspect the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threated to harm another person.