Can My Child Benefit from Upper Valley Counseling?
Many people think of therapy as a place for adults to work through problems; and that can certainly be true. But what about children? Are there situations where children can benefit from working with an Upper Valley counselor? Absolutely.
Often, when a family decides to bring a child or children to therapy, there is already stress within the family. Perhaps there has been a death in the family or someone has lost a job. When stresses affect adults they take their toll on the children as well. It can add to the strain if the adults are trying to cope with the stressful situation and be a supportive parent at the same time. Therapy can provide support for both.
What can a child gain from therapy?
First, the therapist can be a sympathetic listener for both parent and child. When Vermont Talk therapists work with children, they ask to meet periodically with parents as well as meeting regularly with the child. This allows the therapist to get to know the child better than if they were working without the parent. After all, the parent has known the child all of his or her life.
When the therapist meets with the parent, there is an opportunity to share concerns, thoughts, and moments of pride that you have experienced with your child. The therapist may discuss the general progress of the therapy, but she will not divulge details or quote your child. It is important for the therapy room to become a place where the child can talk freely and feel safe. The same is true for meetings with parents; the therapist will not discuss anything the parent says with the child.
There are some differences between adult therapy and the strategies used in child therapy. Most adults have the words and the awareness to discuss their emotional lives. Many children do not. They need structures that allow them to communicate thoughts and feelings in a more symbolic manner. This often involves play. It is sometimes difficult to understand what the therapist is working on with the child when the child talks about playing games in therapy. It’s tempting to think, “What is my child getting from therapy? All they do is play games!”
Games can provide several benefits to children. First, many children can talk more easily if they have something to do with their hands while talking. In this case, a game may teach the child that it is possible to find ways to relax when talking about stressful things. Second, playing games can help with learning limits, coping with frustration, and communicating feelings.
Once a child has begun to communicate more freely, the therapist can begin to help him or her define a problem and think about strategies for handling it. This will look different depending on the age of the child. For a three year old, the therapist may simply help the child label their feelings. Young children often do not know what they are feeling. They have not learned that the tight feeling they get in their chest when being teased means they are feeling frustrated and angry.
Once they become more aware of their own feelings, they can learn to use words rather than communicating through behaviors such as hitting, yelling, or throwing tantrums. A ten year old, on the other hand, can learn to observe themselves in stressful situations and anticipate when frustration starts and when it is getting to be too much to handle. He or she may learn strategies for decreasing their own inner tension as well as acquiring better communication skills.
Once you have decided therapy is appropriate for your child, how might you discuss this decision with your child? We will explore this in our next blog entry.