Child Counseling

Play Therapy, Child Therapy, and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Play Therapy

It’s common to witness our child throwing tantrums and what we perceive to be overreacting to seemingly small incidents. When we see kids that are bullies or acting out, we may reduce their behavior to an internal aggression. We may think our child’s hesitancy to speak to others or explore new situations may be a simple shyness that he or she will grow out of. We may withhold rewards or issue punishments, but have you thought about if this helps our children understand all these new experiences in life that they’re encouraging? Does this help us understand our child’s inner world? When we see our child suffering, it may be hard to know how to help them. They aren’t able to communicate their feelings or respond in a logical way like an older child or an adult can. The tantrum thrower may feel so overwhelmed with life, and with an inability to say “I’m feeling overwhelmed, I need some time and space to calm down”, they may resort to screaming. The bully may be harvesting a deep emotional pain and fear and maybe mimicking his parents’ toxic fighting because that’s the only way he knows how to relate to people. The shy kid may be falling victim to debilitating anxiety and could be suffering physically with stomach aches, a racing heart, and a sensation of tightness in the chest, not even realizing that these things are all connected. 

 

How we can help:

Unlike adults, whose natural communication is verbal, the natural channel of communication for a child is through activity and play. In session, play is intentional, purposeful, and meaningful. It’s far more than a simple play date. Play therapy is a therapeutic modality that seeks to facilitate a child’s expression and exploration of their emotional world, while the therapist conceptualizes the communicative world of the child. Children are allowed to initiate self-directed and spontaneous play, expressing themselves fully in a safe place to communicate, cathart, and heal. Feelings that are too hard or impossible to express are safely projected onto and depicted through self-chosen toys and play. The therapist helps the child identify feelings so that the child can better understand not only what is going on in their own mind, but also how to express it to others. In play therapy, children have an opportunity to work through past events and associated feelings, work up to future and anxiety-provoking situations, and understand present feelings and emotions. The therapist looks for underlying themes, patterns, and meanings hidden underneath the child’s outward expression, as play therapy Gary Landreth noted that children’s feelings are often inaccessible at an oral level. Play therapy can be used with children anywhere from ages 3-12 depending on maturity level. Children that appear too mentally old for play therapy can benefit from child therapy (see the section on child therapy).

During the play therapy process, parents act as a partner to the therapist. Any effort by the therapist to be beneficial to the child must start with a consistent and productive relationship with the caregivers, as they play a significant role in the children's lives. It is imperative that the caregiver assists the play therapist with consistent information, discuss the effectiveness of restructured parenting skills, and implement any other beneficial therapeutic recommendation by the therapist.

 

If you are ready to collaboratively work with your child and your child’s therapist to understand their emotions, learn how to cope with life’s stressors, and improve their quality of life, please give our office a call to schedule your appointment. You may also contact us using the form here.

Child Therapy

If you’re using statements like “my little baby used to be so happy - I don’t know what happened” or “I should’ve been around more - maybe then I could’ve noticed or even prevented this attitude and disconnect between us”, your child may benefit from Therapy. When children mentally exit the world of blissful ignorance and ease and discover a world of changing bodies, cliques, backstabbing, and the realization of real life challenges, they may take a pretty big emotional hit as they grieve their childhood identities. Of course we can expect some angst, but what’s crossing the line? Maybe you saw a cut on your daughter’s thigh, or you caught your son holding his hand a little too close to a lit candle. There could be a life event that as an adult you’re able to navigate through, like a big move, a death in the family, divorce, or a new baby in the home, but your child is likely experiencing the feelings associated with the event for the first time, and may not know how to handle them or even how to identify them. They could be displaying signs of a fear of inferiority, engaging in unhealthy competition and comparisons. Anyone can benefit from therapy. Even if you feel that it may not be over the line of typical angst, mental health is striving for optimal life functioning.

 

How we can help:

Child therapy entails working with a child that is too old for play therapy, but is not yet a pre-teen.  Child therapy is an eclectic modality that combines talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, bibliotherapy, and other mechanisms related to counseling that allow children to express themselves while learning communication, emotional and behavioral regulation, psychoeducation, coping mechanisms, and other applicable strategies relevant to whatever the child is going through.

 Child therapy may also include filial therapy, which incorporates a parent-child interaction component that can be beneficial to the overall family dynamic.  When working with a child, the therapist will focus on the building blocks of the child’s personality, self-awareness, self-esteem, and their social and moral development. 

A child’s self-system begins to develop in early infancy.  Having a counselor that has the knowledge to relate with your child while allowing them to make the best out of who they are and whom they may develop into is essential.  

 

If you are ready to collaboratively work with your child and your child’s therapist to understand their emotions, learn how to cope with life’s stressors, and improve their quality of life, please give our office a call to schedule your appointment. You may also contact us using the form here.

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