What is Child Therapy?

Mary McMahon

Child therapy is a form of therapy that has been tailored for children. Children can sometimes benefit from psychotherapy, and versions of physiotherapy, speech therapy, and other types of therapy are also available for children. Parents may seek therapy for their children on the recommendation for a doctor, as for example when a doctor suggests physical therapy for a child who has been burned so that the child can recover his or her range of motion, and parents can also seek out therapy on their own to deal with issues which arise as a child develops.

One-on-one psychotherapy can be part of child therapy.
One-on-one psychotherapy can be part of child therapy.

In the case of psychotherapy, child therapy can be offered by a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or licensed clinical social worker. Group and solo therapy are available for children, along with directed therapy with parent and child to discuss specific behavioral issues. Every therapist has a unique approach to working with children, and may integrate several therapeutic techniques to find one which works for the child, including play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or music therapy.

Some hospitals have a child psychiatrist on staff who speaks with young hospital patients and their families to help them address any mental health concerns.
Some hospitals have a child psychiatrist on staff who speaks with young hospital patients and their families to help them address any mental health concerns.

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Children in a wide variety of situations can benefit from psychotherapy. Behavioral issues can sometimes be a sign of underlying psychological problems, and children who are struggling in school may also be candidates for therapy. Stressful events such as the death of a parent, a big move, or a parental deployment can all be occasions for a few sessions of therapy to help the child process the event.

Children may find expressive writing to be therapeutic.
Children may find expressive writing to be therapeutic.

The various types of physical therapy used in rehabilitation of adults are also available to children in child therapy. Children who have experienced traumatic brain injuries, broken limbs, burns, and other traumatic physical events may attend sessions with a physical therapist to help regain their prior strength. Congenital birth defects which lead to issues like speech impediments or cognitive impairments can also be addressed with therapy. Some practitioners specialize in child therapy, working in settings like children's hospitals, while others treat children and adults.

Therapy for children might involve group play.
Therapy for children might involve group play.

Finding a good therapist for a child can be a challenge. Just like adults, children sometimes need to try several therapists to find a good fit. Therapy, whether it's for a broken leg or a broken heart, will not progress unless the child feels comfortable with the therapist. Parents may want to interview the therapist first to get a feel for how the therapist works and how the therapist approaches child therapy sessions, and then ask for a trial appointment so that the child can meet with the therapist without the pressure of being committed to future appointments.

Music therapy may help traumatized children express themselves.
Music therapy may help traumatized children express themselves.

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