there is anything we would wish to change in the child, we should first
examine it and see whether it is something that could be better changed
IS PSYCHOTHERAPY WITH CHILDREN, ADOLESCENTS, AND FAMILIES?
is a complex and often difficult job. Children differ emotionally, based
on their biology and temperament, their place in the family, and the
culture and experience to which they have to adapt. All of these affect
a child's personality, moods, behaviors, and relationship patterns.
Some children at some ages may seem especially difficult for a particular
parent to handle. This may happen in part because something from the
parent's own childhood is evoked by the child; the result can be stress
in the parent-child relationship.
children are caught in the middle of a parental conflict, or are highly
sensitive to the stresses of family life, or may react strongly to other
environments such as school. Contrary to the myth people often hear,
children are not more adaptable and less affected by problems than adults.
The opposite is true-children have fewer coping skills and less control
over the environment. They are less able to verbally describe emotional
problems and must therefore show their distress in indirect ways, such
as irritability, sleeping or eating problems, personality changes, physical
complaints, disregard for personal safety, school problems, problems
getting along with others, acting younger or older than their ages,
and so on. It is often useful to consult a child or family psychotherapist
if your child is behaving in a way that concerns you. A consultation
can help you to assess whether the behavior that worries you is within
the wide range of "normal" or whether it signals a problem
that needs attention.
IS SPECIAL ABOUT FAMILY, ADOLESCENT AND CHILD PSYCHOTHERAPY?
approach this specialized area in different ways, depending on the child's
problem and on their training. Some problems are worked out best when
all members of the family (even the children who are seen as problem
free) join in therapy sessions. Other children and other problems may
respond better in individual therapy, where the child has the time and
space, apart from the family, to work on issues that may be getting
in the way of development.
a family meets together in therapy, the therapist listens carefully,
without judgment, to each person's point of view. The therapist is objective,
and helps family members understand some of the difficult feelings that
come up in close family relationships. The therapist insures that no
one person is unduly singled out. The goal is to create a safe place
in which family members can experience different and improved ways of
connecting with one another.
it may at first feel frightening or embarrassing to "air one's
family linen" in front of a stranger, most families find that the
opportunity to create greater trust and harmony among family members
far outweighs the initial fears.
psychotherapy with adolescents is similar to the therapy that adults
engage in. Although they may be somewhat self-conscious at first, teens
often come to enjoy therapy. It is a place where they can focus on themselves,
on their experiences and relationships, on their problems with family
or peers, and on their hopes, dreams and fears. In the psychotherapy
session they have the full, respectful attention of an understanding
young children, the psychotherapist does not usually discuss problems.
Problems are worked on in the context of play. Play, often called the
work of the child, is far from conflict-free. To a trained eye, it is
a powerful form of communication about the child’s ways of experiencing
his or her world and a way of expressing difficulties the child may
be experiencing. Play is also a form of healing. When a child "plays
out" fears and difficult experiences in a context in which they
can be understood, the child is able to move on. If parents are puzzled
by a child’s description of fun in the therapist’s office, they should
be aware that much more than play is taking place.
THE THERAPIST KEEP SECRETS FROM ME ABOUT MY CHILD?
both adolescents and younger children, parents should expect feedback
from the psychotherapist about his or her evaluation of the child. The
therapist should share concerns about the child and suggest ways to
improve difficult parent-child relationships. With adolescents, the
question of what information is shared with the parents and what information
will be considered private is carefully worked out with all concerned.