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What is Child and Family Therapy?

Child and family therapy are two different forms of therapy that are sometimes related, but the focus is slightly different. In the case of therapy for a child, the counselor, clinical social worker, or psychologist focuses specifically on the child and certain behaviors and actions the child may exhibit. Family therapy focuses not only on the child, but the family as a group, and how those individual members interact with each other. Children and parents may be involved in both forms of therapy.

In child therapy, the issues may relate solely to the child. For example, if a child is having trouble relating to others at school, or cannot concentrate on school work, then therapy just for the child may be appropriate. If the child may be suffering from conditions such as attention deficit or attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, going to therapy may be a way to offer that child coping skills other than simply using medicine alone. A therapist may also address other behavior problems and help with other disabilities.

Unlike family therapy, child therapy typically involves the therapist and the child spending almost the entire session together. The therapist may invite the parent in at the end of the session for a consultation. In some cases, if the therapist feels it would be helpful, the parent may stay for the entire session, but the focus is specifically on the child, not other social interactions with other family members.

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If the therapist feels that there are issues within the family as a group, then child and family therapy may be an option. These are two different forms of therapy, but offer the chance for the therapist to also work on issues among family members as well. This dual therapy may be especially helpful if siblings are having severe problems, or if blended families are having trouble interacting and adjusting to each other. In some cases, a therapist may believe family therapy could be helpful even if the issues are not among the various family members.

A child and family therapist may not only work in the field of child and family therapy, but may also work in other fields. Many also provide marriage therapy, for example. Often, the issues involving these various therapies are somewhat related in terms of dealing with interpersonal relationships. Therefore, many therapists adjust their techniques for dealing with different age groups, but are trained in the same general principles.

The time in child and family therapy is spent giving children or family members coping strategies, advice on parenting issues, and helping all members of the family better appreciate each other's needs. In most cases, this is done simply by talking about everyone's feelings and getting all issues out in the open, but team-building exercises could also play a role. The therapist is there to moderate, put things in perspective, and point out underlying causes for certain behaviors and feelings. The setting gives clients the opportunity to talk about issues in a non-threatening, encouraging environment.

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