Counseling & Psychotherapy with Children & Adolescents
A lot of emotional suffering experienced by children is potentially preventable. Parents often recognize that emotional issues can be nipped in the bud during childhood or adolescence, before they get worse. The goal of counseling and psychotherapy with children and adolescents is to restore the natural progress of their emotional development by understanding how and why they are stuck and working to remove the blockage.
One adopted boy I worked with had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He had a very high energy level and came from a nontraditional adoptive family. His parents could not help him regulate his hyperactive and aggressive behavior. He would hit his mother and his sister, and behave aggressively towards me as well. His parents’ marital instability and an insecure attachment pattern caused by living in an orphanage prior to adoption seemed to be at the root of this boy’s difficulties. Another child case which made a lasting impact on me as a child therapist was a little girl who suffered from ADHD as well. She had also apparently been sexually traumatized by a family member. She could not contain her sexualized and aggressive urges and behavior with other children, which were the result of the trauma she was made to experience, and was eventually placed in special education for children with emotional difficulties.
The complexities of children’s developing minds can feel remarkable at times, as many parents can attest. And the two cases mentioned above involved multiple layers of complexity that as always affect outcome in child therapy, such as the relationship between the parents, my relationships with co-providers, and the parents’ relationships with me. Other children I see are not so troubled, but the work with their families still presents complex challenges. In one of these typical cases, an elementary school age boy’s parents had no trouble discussing their concerns about their son, but they could not mention the fact that their marriage was crumbling. The boy’s emotional issues, including his sadness over father leaving home, helped the parents avoid their own problems for a time.
Adolescents present their own challenges because they are in advanced developmental stages. One young man I saw got into legal trouble for dealing drugs, and at one point his father kicked him out of the house. He was also the product of divorced parents and felt a great deal of anger towards his father. It was very important to him to have the money and material objects which he believed would cure his shame. A young woman I treated had dropped out of school years earlier, in part due to bullying. She attended an online school but could not finish courses, continually withdrawing and getting incompletes. And she seemed unable to separate from her mother to resume her social development. She knew she was behind her peers who were planning to go to college, but she seemed unaware of the emotional factors that were keeping her from re-joining her peers.
I try to build very strong alliances with parents so that we are all pulling in the same direction. Many difficulties in child therapy can be averted, and much time, effort, and expense saved when parents allow me to work closely with them to remove obstacles that interfere with their child’s development.
If you have concerns about your child’s emotional functioning, whether it is about ADHD; excessive anger, aggression, sadness, or worrying; psychological trauma; academic problems; or other emotional struggles such as social anxiety, please contact me for a consultation. I conduct some combination of family and individual meetings (parents alone, child alone, parents and child) depending on circumstances over about 5 sessions to take a thorough history, form an initial impression and diagnosis of your child’s difficulties, and then circle back to meet with parents to discuss findings and recommendations. This is the child guidance clinic consultation model of child therapy.