What does behavioral health therapy look like for children?

When children begin to have behaviors that disrupt their daily lives and create stress for the family, it can be scary and confusing. Determining what to do and how to support your child when they are struggling can be difficult. Behavioral health can be a viable option to you and your child when the behaviors become unmanageable. But what exactly is behavioral health therapy for children and what does it look like? A child going to therapy can look much different than for an adult who seeks out therapy. Traditionally, for an adult, therapy consists of solely talking to a trained professional. However, for children, using only words to communicate throughout a session may lead to a dead end. Children are not developmentally able to communicate and express all of their emotions and needs through talking, which is typically why we see children tantruming. They have not yet developed their emotional language to express themselves without tantruming. So, if behavioral therapy for children is not effective with using only verbal communication, what will a typical session look like?

Caregiver involvement. For children, therapy is most effective when caregivers are highly involved throughout the process. In your child’s therapy session, the therapist will check-in with you as the caregiver and provide you with an opportunity to process experiences, behaviors, and successes since the last session. You will also review any homework that may have been given to your child and discuss progress towards goals that were established. If needed, you will participate in the entirety of the session. If not, your child will then meet with the therapist alone and check back in with you at the end. It is recommended that at the end of every session, your child teaches you what was learned in session and discuss a plan with the therapist as to how to apply what was learned in between sessions.

Lots of play and games. Children communicate most effectively through their play. They are able to process their experiences and emotions through play and develop new ways of understanding the world around them. Throughout play during a session, the therapist will provide opportunities for your child to facilitate decision making, solve problems, and develop their emotional language. A behavioral health therapist is trained to support your child in developing coping skills, social skills, and problem-solving skills through play and different games.

Skill building. The skills that are taught in session are directly related to the concerns you present to the therapist. Play and games are two ways to teach these skills, but there are also an abundance of other ways that may be used in a session. The therapist may also choose to use worksheets, role-playing, crafts, physical activity, or any other creative avenue. To build skills, your child will practice the skills with the therapist and then be given homework to practice these skills at home. When homework is reinforced by the parent, children have successful outcomes and feel a sense of accomplishment due to mastering their skills learned in sessions.

Behaviors happen. You may find at the beginning of therapy, that negative behaviors happen in the treatment room. This can feel uncomfortable and you may feel the need to immediately solve the issue to stop the behaviors. However, when behaviors occur it important to allow your therapist to work with the child in managing the behaviors. If you are in the room, it can be a critical learning moment as your therapist will model helpful responses and guide you in developing parenting strategies. Each child’s session looks different and is unique to each child’s needs. Overall, a child should be having fun and learning in each session with their therapist. A relationship grounded on trust should be developing between you, your therapist, and your child. There should be significant involvement with you as the caregiver and continued discussion of how your child is progressing towards their goals. Lastly, it is important to understand that most behavioral health therapists believe that children know what they need to do to heal themselves if given the right space and opportunities. This may mean that your child is allowed to lead sessions and guide the process. Every behavioral therapist is different, so be sure to check in with your specific therapist with any questions or concerns regarding your child’s sessions.

Want to know how a Behavioral Health Therapist can Help?

Schedule your infant, child, and teen for an evaluation today and see how a therapist can help your family.
Call (828) 398 0043 or click on the schedule button.

Post navigation