Does My Child Need Therapy?
Every parent wants their child to be healthy in every way: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Your doctor is there to help with your child’s physical health. Your pastor is there to help with your child’s spiritual health. But what if your child needs help with his or her emotional/mental health?
If you're wondering, "Does my child need therapy?" the simple answer is, listen to your gut instincts. You know your child better than anyone and if you feel that something is off, you’ve noticed a change in your child’s mood or behavior, maybe there are physical symptoms like stomachaches or headaches with no medical cause. You think it may be a good idea for your child or teen to see a therapist, but how do you know that is the right decision?
"Does My Child Need Therapy?" Talk To Your Child About It
As you think about whether your child needs therapy, depending on your child’s age, you should talk to your child about what is going on with them and ask if they would like to talk to a counselor who works with children or teens (whichever age your child is). They will tell you whether they want to or not and, if not, what their objections or fears are concerning going to a counselor.
How do you know if your child is old enough for counseling? A good rule of thumb is that if they have language skills to put their perception of the world into words (which usually comes around age 2-3), they are old enough to be helped by counseling. And know that, with children, counseling is usually done in a play setting, which is more conducive for children to open up and talk during play.
Indicators That Your Child Might Need Therapy
If your child had a high fever and a cough, you’d know that they needed to see the doctor. In the same way, there are indicators that your child or teen needs to see a counselor. Some of those include:
Change in eating habits
Change in sleep patters
Withdrawing from activities or people that they usually enjoy
A major life transition like a divorce, remarriage, death, moving to a new city
Negative view of self, talking about dying, self-harm
Struggles in more than one area of their life: school, church, family, friendships
Experiencing a trauma
What Kind Of Therapy Is Best For Your Child?
Therapy for children or adolescents is usually a mixture of individual counseling sessions and family therapy. Children with trauma or children doing self-harm need individual therapy. Children who are acting out, withdrawing, going through transitions will benefit from family therapy. However, children and teens are part of a family system and what is going on with any part of the system affects the whole system, and what is going on with the whole system affects each part of the system. Families are like gardens. If the flowers are not healthy, you can’t just treat the flowers that are wilting…you have to treat the whole flower bed. So, there are some individual counseling sessions needed and some family counseling sessions as well to get the best results, not just for the child, but for the whole family.
If Your Child Does Need Therapy, What’s Next?
If you see indicators in your child or teen that counseling would be beneficial, I urge you to read more about family therapy, which includes counseling for children and teens, and reach out to us at Christian Counseling Associates to schedule a free consultation with one of our counselors who specialize in children and adolescents.