The first place most therapists will start is by carrying out an assessment. Depending how they practice they might want to firstly meet with the parents/carer alone or they might want the child themselves or other family members to be part of the process. Or if it is an adolescent who is struggling it may be that the therapist will take some time to meet with them individually as part of the assessment. This will allow the family to work together with the therapist to identify whether individual therapy for the child is the most appropriate approach to addressing the concerns which have brought them to the therapist. It may be that a more suitable approach is for family therapy, individual therapy for another family member or some parenting support for the parents. The therapist working individually with the child may be considered the next course of action. This will usually be as a result of the parents/carers/adolescent and the therapist holding the view that the child or adolescent would benefit from therapy due to difficulties that they have with something that has happened to them or which they are struggling to overcome.
Therapy offers children and adolescents a space for themselves without agenda. There are only a few rules for them in this space which include confidentiality (always limited by the exclusion of any information shared which places the child or another person in immediate danger) and that it is something that they can chose to opt out of at any time. The sessions offer them a place to make sense of things whether directly through talking about them or through play. Working through their story and experiences allows children and young people the opportunity to discover themselves and their strengths and resources.
The way in which therapists work directly with children and adolescents varies and can include talking therapies, play therapy, counselling, family therapy, art therapy, drama and movement therapy and music therapy to name but a few. With adolescents therapists will often engage in a range of techniques to engage them as clients. Often older adolescents benefit from a talking therapy in which they can work through their difficulties verbally. It is important for them to work with a therapist with experience of working with adolescents as they require a different understanding than adult clients as their situations and experiences can be very different and they may feel very misunderstood by others around them. They will need a therapist that can stick by them and understand the confusion and powerful feelings that they are experiencing.
With younger children some therapists will work in a somewhat indirect work through play therapy. Through the use of play and stories children are able to work through their past hurts and worries as well as discover ways forward and resolutions through their own inner resources. This indirect approach can be important for young children as they are often not able to put into words their feelings and experiences in the way an adolescent or adult may do.
If you are considering therapy for a child you know it is vital to find a therapist who you feel can meet the needs of your child. Please feel free to contact me for a free consultation and to ask me about anything you are unsure of.