Children and adolescents often experience challenging life events which can influence their emotional and psychological well-being. Such life events may be related to their developmental process or may arise due to difficult life experiences, such as bullying, parental separation, abuse and loss. Facing such challenges may give rise to confusing thoughts and feelings which the child or adolescent might have difficulty coping with. This can cause both the child and their parent to feel concerned. The aim of psychotherapy and what Truthshare is here to do with children is to offer them a safe place where they can express themselves, feel supported, develop new coping skills and understand the importance of reaching out for help when they need it.
When should I take my child to a psychologist/psychotherapist/counsellor?
Children experience difficulties in daily life and usually manage to find ways of coping with such experiences. The involvement of a therapist is important when significant life events occur that children may find difficult to deal with. Although some children manage to cope with such situations, it is important to seek professional help for your child if you observe problems with mood, behaviour, academic functioning, social functioning, appetite and/or sleep.
A few of the issues which may be troubling for children include difficulties on a personal level, at home with family members/caregivers, at school and/or on a social level as in the situations mentioned below.
Children may come to therapy to be helped with their self-esteem, with challenging behaviour, and/or with particular emotions such as anger, sadness, and/or anxiety with the aim of becoming more aware of these emotions and getting support on how to deal with these issues. Children often benefit greatly from therapy if they have experienced physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse or have been through a trauma of any kind.
In relation to issues with family members or caregivers, children may benefit from therapy are if they are having difficulties coping with a separation/divorce, are having relationship problems with any member of the family or caregiver, are dealing with loss/bereavement, are adjusting to the birth of a new sibling, are adjusting to a new home/family and many others.
At school, children may be having difficulties in adjusting to a new school, the level of work being assigned, the school’s expectations, or school refusal.
On a social level, children may need support to deal with feelings of loneliness, isolation or in situations involving bullying.
At times, it may seem as though there is no distressing life event, therefore it may be unclear as to why your child is suddenly acting out, is withdrawn, sulky, angry, tearful and/or stressed. If you believe that your child is experiencing an emotional and/or behavioural difficulties, please help your child through the support of a psychotherapist, counsellor or psychologist.
What is involved in the therapeutic process?
Therapy with children can be either directive (where the therapist indicates to the child what s/he is to do), or else non-directive (allowing the child to be open to what s/he wants from the session and how to get this). Therapists are usually influenced by one of these styles; however, they may use a mixture of both approaches depending on the client’s needs. Both directive and non-directive therapy is mainly based on play. The therapy room itself is equipped with a drawing section, floor mats, sand tray, books, puppets, dolls’ house and furniture, play figures, cars, dinosaurs, animals and other toys serving a therapeutic purpose. The therapist makes use of such items by creating particular pictures, stories, sand-tray stories, role-plays, and re-enactments, with the aim of initially focusing on building a therapeutic relationship with the child.
Play is a child’s first language and therefore this is an excellent way in which a child communicates his/her wants, needs and experiences. As the child is creating such work with the therapist, s/he begins to work through his/her conflicts and processes them with the therapist; thus expressing him/herself, finding support and exploring alternative ways to cope with particular emotions and/or situations.
Does the issue of confidentiality hold when the client is a minor?
Therapists are bound by confidentiality towards their clients and this is true even when the client is a child or an adolescent. In this case, it is the therapist’s role to maintain the child’s confidentiality and yet, also work with the parents/caregivers. Confidentiality can only be broken under the following circumstances:
- If the child expresses that s/he is in any form of danger
- If the child expresses that another child is in any form of danger
- If the child shows intent or is being a danger to him/herself
- If the therapist is asked to give witness at the Courts of Law
How are parents/caregivers involved in the therapeutic journey?
It is of great importance that the therapist meets with the parents/caregivers on a regular basis for the therapeutic process to be a collaborative one. The aim of such meetings is two-fold, for both the therapist as well as the parents/caregivers. It allows the therapist to obtain feedback on the progress of the child and be updated regarding any important changes. The therapist may also share prominent therapeutic themes with the parents/caregivers and also provide them with guidelines to support the child’s wellbeing. It is important that information about the child, especially negative information, is provided to the therapist during the parent/caregiver meetings, rather than when dropping off/picking up the child, as this can anger or shame the child and leave an impact on the therapeutic process. It is vital to work alongside with the parents/caregivers in order for therapy to be effective.