Key Takeaways Key Takeaways
  • Therapy for children can address a variety of issues, from mental health conditions to life situations like bullying.

  • Multiple types of child therapy are available to cater to your child’s unique needs.

  • Preparing your child for therapy and choosing a safe, professional setting is crucial for its success.

Understanding the Types of Therapy for Children

Navigating childhood is a complex journey filled with ups and downs. Even with supportive families and stable environments, kids can face emotional and psychological challenges they’re not equipped to handle alone. While it’s completely natural for children to experience difficulty in processing and expressing their emotions, sometimes they need a little extra help. Therapy can offer a safe space for them to explore their feelings and nurture healthy coping mechanisms. It’s not about labeling them, but about giving them the tools to grow in a balanced way.

What Is Therapy for Children, and How Does It Work?

Therapy for children isn’t just a scaled-down version of adult therapy. It’s a specialized field that considers the unique developmental stages, emotional needs, and social contexts kids are navigating.  It’s about helping children understand themselves better and equipping them with the emotional and psychological tools they need to cope with whatever challenges they’re facing. The idea is not to change who they are, but to help them become the best version of themselves by fostering self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and resilience.

It’s important to note children’s therapy is a specialized form of therapy designed to support children, typically ranging from ages 3 to 18 years old. The specific age range can vary based on the individual needs and the type of therapy.

Child Therapy is often more interactive and engaging than its adult counterpart. Therapists who work with children often have training and expertise in child development, play therapy, art therapy, and other modalities tailored to address the unique emotional, social, and psychological needs of younger individuals. Therapists use age-appropriate language and methods tailored to capture a child’s interest and facilitate meaningful dialogue. This might include Play Therapy, where toys and games are used as tools for communication, or Art Therapy, where drawings and crafts serve as expressive mediums. These child therapy techniques aim to help children externalize their thoughts and feelings when they might not have the vocabulary or the cognitive ability to do so otherwise.

The age range can sometimes be flexible, as there might be therapies designed for toddlers, young children, pre-teens, and teenagers, each catering to their respective developmental stages.

Therapy also addresses the need for practical coping skills. This might be anything from learning how to take deep breaths when they feel overwhelmed to knowing how to ask for help when they need it. They’re life skills that can make all the difference, not just in their present situation but as they mature into adulthood.

Often, parents and caregivers are involved in the process, either directly through Family Therapy sessions or indirectly through regular consultations. The aim here is to create a cohesive and supportive environment around the child. It’s important for parents to understand what their child is going through and how best to support them. That being said, confidentiality is maintained between the therapist and the child, barring any safety concerns, to ensure the child feels free to express themselves openly.

All these elements come together in Child Therapy to create a holistic approach to mental health care, focusing on emotional, psychological, and even physical well-being. It’s not a quick fix but a journey that requires patience, commitment, and supportive love and understanding from everyone involved.

What Happens in Child Therapy?

If you’re considering therapy for your child, rest assured that therapists who specialize in treating children are highly trained in techniques and methods designed specifically for younger clients. A child therapist creates a safe and welcoming environment that allows kids to open up and feel secure. Sessions are not just about talking; They often include activities like playing, drawing, or role-playing, which help children articulate their thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening way.

Therapists aim to establish trust and rapport with their young clients, recognizing that children may be hesitant or even scared at the idea of therapy. By providing a safe space where they can express themselves freely, children gradually become more comfortable and open. This confidentiality, balanced with communication with parents and caregivers, allows kids to explore their emotions and challenges in depth.

You might notice several changes in your child’s behavior after they begin therapy. These changes can manifest in a multitude of ways depending on the issues being addressed, but common observations include improved communication, increased emotional regulation, and enhanced coping skills. Children often become more self-aware and gain a better understanding of how to navigate difficult emotions or situations. They learn tools and strategies for handling stress, anxiety, or other challenges, which they can apply not only in their current circumstances but also as they grow older. Should your child start therapy, learn how best to Support Your Child or Teen Through Therapy.

Beyond emotional and psychological improvements, therapy can also have a ripple effect on other areas of a child’s life, like academic performance and social interactions. It’s not uncommon for teachers and other caregivers to notice changes in a child’s behavior, attentiveness, or overall demeanor as they progress through therapy.

In sum, therapy offers children a secure avenue to explore their feelings, confront their fears, and develop essential life skills. It’s a guided journey of self-discovery and growth, facilitated by professionals attuned to the distinct emotional and developmental needs of children.

Which Conditions Does Therapy Help With?

While many people associate therapy with diagnosable mental health conditions like Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, or Depression, it’s important to recognize that therapy can be beneficial for a range of challenges children might face. These challenges can include difficulties at school, such as academic Stress or behavioral issues, as well as problems in the home, like family conflict or adjustment to life changes like divorce.

Therapy can also provide valuable support for children dealing with social struggles, such as bullying, friendship issues, or low self-esteem. In fact, any situation that causes emotional distress or behavioral challenges, or hampers daily functioning can often be helped with therapeutic intervention.

One of the advantages of therapy is its adaptability and usefulness for a wide variety of situations and needs. For example, if a child is struggling with Anger Management, specific techniques can be taught to help control impulses and manage emotions better. If a child is facing academic pressure or difficulties with organization and focus, therapy can provide practical coping skills. Family Therapy can offer an invaluable space for all family members to voice their concerns and learn new ways to interact that foster a more harmonious home life.

How Many Types of Therapy Are There For Children?

A diverse range of therapeutic approaches exist that are specifically tailored for children, each aiming to meet the unique emotional and psychological needs of young minds. Here, we’ll explore some of the most commonly used types of therapy for children:

  • Play Therapy: This type of therapy is particularly beneficial for younger children who may not have the language skills to express their feelings. Through play, therapists can gain insights into a child’s problems and find ways to communicate with them effectively.
  • Behavioral Therapy: Focused on identifying negative behavioral patterns and replacing them with constructive ones, this therapy is often used for conditions like ADHD and Anger Management. Techniques such as positive reinforcement and setting achievable goals are commonly used.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Initially created for adults, this type of behavior therapy for kids has been adapted for children and teens. This therapy helps manage emotional swings and incorporates mindfulness and emotional regulation techniques.
  • Artistic Therapy: By engaging in various forms of art—like drawing, painting, or even sculpture—children can express themselves in a non-verbal way. Artistic Therapy is often used when children have experienced trauma or have emotional issues they find hard to verbalize.
  • Movement Therapy: Also known as Dance Therapy, this involves the use of movement to “speak” when words are not enough. It’s especially useful for children with sensory issues or those who need a physical outlet for their emotions.

You can find providers skilled in these and other types of therapy using LifeStance’s Therapist Directory.

Selecting the appropriate type of therapy depends on various factors, including the child’s age, the specific issues they are dealing with, and their personal preferences. Consult with healthcare professionals to determine which type of therapy is the best fit for your child.

How Can You Prepare Your Child for Therapy?

Preparing your child for therapy is crucial for a successful therapeutic experience. Open communication is key; gently explain why they will be attending therapy in a way that they can understand, reassuring them that it’s a safe space for them to explore their feelings and thoughts.

Being supportive during this period helps alleviate any apprehensions your child may have. Some kids may feel anxious or confused about what therapy entails, so offering a simple explanation can go a long way. For instance, you might say, “Therapy is like a special type of talking and playing where you can learn to understand your feelings better.”

Accompany your child to the initial sessions, if possible. This provides an additional layer of comfort and makes the transition easier. It also gives you the chance to communicate openly with the therapist, offering insights that can be valuable for the child’s therapeutic journey.

Additionally, it’s essential to normalize the experience. Books and videos can provide context and make the prospect less intimidating. Keep the lines of communication open throughout the process, consistently asking your child how they feel about their therapy sessions without prying into specifics that they might want to keep private.

For more insights on preparing your child for therapy, particularly online sessions, you can read these 6 Strategies to Prepare Young Children for Online Therapy.

Taking these steps can create a supportive environment, making the therapy experience more beneficial for your child. Being involved but not intrusive, supportive but not pushy, lays the foundation for successful therapy.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right type of therapy for your child can be a daunting task, but it’s a crucial step in helping them navigate the complex world of emotions and situations they face. With an array of options like Play Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, and more, there’s a therapeutic approach to suit every child’s unique needs. Remember, therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution but a personalized journey. It’s about equipping your child with the emotional tools they need for a healthier, happier future.

Authored By 

Gurinder "Vicki" Bolina, PhD, PsyD
Gurinder "Vicki" Bolina, PhD, PsyD

Vicki Bolina, PsyD, provides a safe space for anyone going through difficult situations or just wanting to improve their mental health. She has experience in private practice, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, school systems, outpatient clinics, the prison system, among others.

Dr. Bolina welcomes all ages into her office and specializes in anxiety, depression, and more. She’s also especially skilled in treating:
Adolescent Psychology: Adolescents who are going through a stressful school life and/or home life need coping mechanisms to regulate anxiety. Dr. Bolina offers psychological evaluations, treatment, and support.
Forensic Psychology: Dr. Bolina has extensive experience in the prison system. She provides aftercare for those who are released on parole, as well as those who are actively in the court system.
In therapy,

Dr. Bolina uses different therapeutic methods such as art therapy, CBT, and DBT, and has experience in many different environments to ensure patients get the most appropriate care to live a healthy life.

Dr. Bolina earned her master’s degree and doctorate degree from Argosy University. She has been teaching psychology classes to both undergraduate and graduate level students since 2008. She is a wife and mother and enjoys self-care activities, scrapbooking, and traveling.

Dr. Bolina is the National DEI Director focusing on education, celebrating differences, and helping make systemic changes to ensure all staff and patients at LifeStance Health, Inc. understand this is a safe place for them to be their authentic selves.


Reviewed By

Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S
Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S

Nicholette is a faculty member at John Carroll University’s Clinical Counseling program, and she is also the host of the LifeStance podcast, Convos from the Couch.