Sometimes children need specifically-tailored options in order to engage them in treatment. They are usually more open and expressive if they see the process as fun and not something that is going to necessarily “help them”. I have found that interactive games both in the office and online are an important adjunct in this process. Those children who are more verbal and willing to discuss their concerns are often able to use insight to improve their feelings and behavior. With all children, the consistent and active participation of the parents is important.
Adolescents and young adults often feel the most troubled, but they are also the ones who can show the most positive change. Again, the key is engaging them in a therapeutic alliance. They need to feel that the purpose of their therapy is to help them establish a firmer sense of identity and independence.
Although there are different types of psychotherapy, each relies on communications as the basic tool for bringing about change in a person’s feelings and behaviors. Psychotherapy may involve an individual child, a group of children, a family, or multiple families. In children and adolescents, playing, drawing, building, and pretending, as well as talking, are important ways of sharing feelings and resolving problems.
The relationship that develops between the therapist and the patient is very important. The child or adolescent must feel comfortable, safe, and understood. This type of trusting environment makes it much easier for the child to express his/her thoughts and feelings and to use the therapy in a helpful way.
Psychotherapy helps children and adolescents in a variety of ways. They receive emotional support, resolve conflicts with people, understand feelings and problems, and try out new solutions to old problems. Goals for therapy may be specific (change in behavior, improved relations with friends or family), or more general (less anxiety, better self-esteem). The length of psychotherapy depends on the complexity and severity of problems.