Child & Teen Therapy

Children and adolescents, or teens, build social skills and emotional intelligence as they grow. These things often lead to healthy, happy lives. But some kids have emotions or behave in ways that disrupt their well-being.

Learning about children's mental health issues can increase your knowledge of how to help. Certain skills can teach you to interact more effectively with your child. Seeing a therapist can teach you these skills. A therapist or counsellor may also benefit children or teens. Therapy can be a safe space for kids to process thoughts and emotions.

STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT: BIRTH TO ADOLESCENCE

Children go through changes in their moods and behaviours as they grow. Some of these changes are predictable. They can be challenging, but most are normal parts of child development. When a child's behaviour matches their age, "growing pains" need not cause concern. 

Many theories address the phases of child development. Knowing these stages can help parents and caregivers understand child behaviour and needs. Erik Erikson was an influential developmental psychologist. His theory outlines the stages of psychosocial development from birth to adulthood. It is one of the most popular stage-based theories. Erikson identified eight stages of life.

 

Five of these stages take place in childhood and adolescence: 

  • Infancy: Trust vs. Mistrust. In the first stage of human development, infants explore the world. They learn if their environment is safe and predictable. Infants need attention and comfort from their parents. It is from parents that they develop their first sense of trust or mistrust.

  • Early Childhood: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. Children start asserting independence. They develop preferences and start making choices. Defiance, tantrums, and stubbornness are common. Children begin developing interests. They also gain a sense of autonomy, shame, and doubt.

  • Preschool Years: Initiative vs. Guilt. Children learn about social roles and emotions. They become active and curious. Imaginary play is crucial in this stage. Children continue to display their willpower as they grow. Parents' and caregivers' reactions will impact their child's behaviour. They can affect a child's will to act on their own as well as their attitudes about misbehaviour.

  • School Age: Industry (Competence) vs. Inferiority. Relationships and schoolwork become more important in this stage. Children begin to show a wide and complex range of emotions. Problems in school or with friends may lead to mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Academic and social tasks become more demanding. Conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) and oppositional behaviour may interfere.

  • Adolescence: Identity vs. Role Confusion. Adolescents, or teens, become more independent. They may form identities by trying out new behaviours and roles. Puberty usually occurs in this stage. It brings many physical and emotional changes. Changes during these years may strain parent-teen relationships. New behaviours may go beyond boundary-pushing and cause problems. Emotional highs and lows may persist. This could lead to anxiety or depression.

CHILD AND TEEN THERAPY MENTAL HEALTH RISK FACTOR

Each phase of development brings specific challenges for children. They tend to work through these as normal a part of growing up. Mental health conditions can make these challenges harder. They may come up due to events in a child’s life. These could have been traumatic events, such as being bullied. They can also be routine, like moving to a new home.

Every child responds differently to life changes. Some events that may impact a child or teen’s mental health include:

We often celebrate milestones as children grow. But this process can also cause mental health issues. Kids and teens may develop issues with behaviour, separation, substance abuse, or something else.

Parents can support children and teens as their brains develop. Therapy can help address mental health issues. It can allow them to process issues surrounding growing up, school, or friends. Many resources exist to help teens dealing with issues that can have a severe impact. 

TIPS FOR TALKING TO CHILDREN ABOUT THERAPY

Children may feel afraid to confide in an adult they do not know. These tips may help parents and caregivers talk to children about therapy:

  • Let them know they are not in trouble.

  • Take them seriously.

  • Stay open, authentic, and relaxed.

  • Normalise the issue they are experiencing, they will feel more confortable knowing it can happen to others.

  • Explain that the therapist is there for help and support.

  • Explain confidentiality. Let children—especially teens—know therapy gives them a safe and private space to share. Acknowledge you will be alerted if there are threats to their safety.

AGES & STAGES DEVELOPMENTAL ASSESSMENT

Two of the most common questions we get from parents are “Is my child normal?” and “Should I worry?” In order to help ease your anxiety and provide insight into these questions, we use an important tool called the Ages and Stages Developmental Assessment. This assessment can be performed in 1-2 sessions and will give parents a detailed analysis of their child’s level of functioning across five domains: Communication, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Problem-Solving, and Personal-Social.

This is a fun and interactive assessment that will examine how your child is functioning and additionally identify any areas of concern. If areas of concern are noted in the assessment, we formulate a detailed treatment plan with tools and at-home play assignments to help guide the child toward increasing their level of functioning in a particular domain.

 

ART & PLAY THERAPY

Children often communicate with play and art rather than words and usually require alternatives to talk therapy because they may not be capable of verbalising abstract emotions. Art and Play therapy will therefore be incorporated into assessment and treatment. I will also examine a child’s behaviour and nonverbal body language in formulating assessments. Integrating art, play, behaviour, verbal, and non-verbal body language allows me to take a multi-faceted and comprehensive view of your child’s psychology in order to provide the most effective treatment.