What is a child focused therapist?

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant
Updated January 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The training child focused therapists receive allows them to address the possibility of mental illness, the display of emotional dysregulation, and the behavioral patterns of children.

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What parents need to know before their child starts therapy

While Children's Mental Health Awareness Week is celebrated every first week of May, it can be advantageous to know the importance of children's mental health at any time of the year. Across the US, many children receive mental health services each year. In 2019, 10% of children between the ages of five and 17 participated in child counseling with a mental health professional. Of that number, many were young children. The source found that 10.8% of young children between the ages of five and 11 had received treatment through therapy, medication, or a combination. 

Although many parents may believe that only children that have experienced trauma, loss, or mental illness may benefit from therapy, any child can talk to a child counselor. Therapy can improve their well-being by helping them understand daily struggles and develop life-long healthy coping skills. 

Tips for parents considering therapy for their child 

Many parents hope to be the primary support for their children. However, you might experience moments when you don’t know how to help your child. Needing support does not make you a bad parent, and taking your child to a child therapist can offer various benefits.

There are different types of mental health professionals that work with children and teens. Therapists use talk therapy and a variety of other therapeutic approaches for teaching new skills and providing emotional support. A clinical child psychologist focuses on scientific knowledge about the psychology of children and adolescents, and may partake in continuing education to stay apprised of the latest research into child and adolescent psychology. Social workers are trained in human resources and social justice in addition to psychology and human behavior. What to expect during sessions will depend on a number of factors. 

Pay attention to how your child feels after sessions 

Caregivers may assume that their child will feel better after talking to someone for the first time, and, at times, that may occur. However, there could be times when the session brings up distressing feelings for your child. These feelings can be essential for them to discuss, but they can also make your child feel upset or overwhelmed after the fact, as children often do not know how to control their emotions as adults do. In these instances, an emotion chart for kids can be helpful for them to visualize their feelings, emotions, and behavior. After therapy, be there to support your child. Therapy may not be easy, but with a suitable counselor, your child can meet their goals and make improvements. 

You could also explain to them on the way to therapy that they might sometimes feel upset after sessions and that their emotions are normal and okay. Some parents might also choose to take their child to a fun activity after counseling to help them associate therapy with rewards. For example, you could go to the zoo or buy ice cream. 

Look out for resistance 

Your child may say that they do not want to go to therapy before the session. Listen to your instincts and ask yourself questions. Do you see improvements? What kind of feedback are you getting from the therapist? If the resistance becomes a pattern, talk to the counselor about solutions and consider asking your child how you can make therapy a more positive experience for them. 

A balding father with a white-and-blue shirt holds a pencil as he helps his son, who has short dark curly hair and a blue collared shirt, with his homework.
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Listen to the therapist’s advice

A therapist may not tell everything a child states in sessions with their parents. However, they could offer parenting advice if they notice areas where the family could participate in the child’s treatment plan. They may also suggest parenting tactics to aid in your child’s challenges. You can count on them if you're someone who is still preparing for parenthood or just wants some guidance. It may benefit you not to think of their advice as an intrusion or a reprimand but as part of the mental health services the counselor is providing. 

Consider family therapy 

There may be times when the therapist suggests a session of family therapy. For younger children, the whole family may be involved. Older children may prefer individual therapy. However, regardless of your child’s age, the counselor may ask for you to participate in sessions to facilitate a conversation with your child about a subject involving the family unit as a whole. 

Adolescent psychiatry

Treatment for kids and teens can be a little different because kids learn in different ways as they get older. Many counselors are trained on how to provide treatment for both children and teens, but some may specialize in one or the other. Adolescent psychology focuses on the unique needs of teenagers. 

Older kids may benefit from occupational therapy, social skills training, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and other therapies designed to improve skills and interpersonal relationships. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is also an option for treating child and adolescent mental health conditions. Dialectical behavior therapy teaches kids new skills for coping with big emotions in a healthy way and replacing maladaptive responses with more positive behaviors. 

According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adolescents may respond well to family therapy. Family disputes and communication issues can be a cause of stress for teens. In family therapy, they learn healthy ways to resolve conflicts at home. Interpersonal psychology (IPT) is also recommended for teens because it focuses on improving interpersonal relationships. 

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What parents need to know before their child starts therapy

How to find counseling as a parent  

Studies have shown that online counseling can help parents with children experiencing mental health issues. In one study published in Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, researchers examined the efficacy of online therapy in supporting parents in interacting with their children exhibiting symptoms of behavioral disorders. Researchers found that online counseling services fostered better communication and interactions between parents and children and provided valuable tools that might not have otherwise been available to underserved families.

If you are ready to begin a treatment program for your child or seek parent-child interaction therapy, online counseling is available. With tele-mental health services through a platform like BetterHelp for adults, you can speak with a therapist from home at a time that works for you. In addition, you can take advantage of a messaging feature to send messages to your provider at any time. If you’re looking for online services for a teen aged 13 to 19, you can also consider signing up your child for a platform like TeenCounseling, which offers the same benefits as BetterHelp. 

Counselor reviews

“I have been working with Carolyn for 6 months now, and have tremendously benefited from her pediatric counseling as I support my daughter for Anorexia. Anorexia is a very complex mind-body illness and the families can play a very important role in the recovery by educating ourselves and understanding her behavior. This allows me to use correct words with her, and watch by own behavior with her so I am supporting her in a healthy manner, and not enabling her illness further.

In addition to our weekly video chats, I am able to send her quick texts on the BetterHelp app if an issue arises and I need her thoughts, and Carolyn replies back very quickly with more tips to help me.

Thank you Carolyn, and thank you BetterHelp for being here for me!”

“Tammi has made such a difference in my life. Had I not had her help I’m pretty sure I would’ve lost all contact with my 19 year old daughter who chose to live with her father. She understands teenagers and moms of teenagers! So kind, wise, experienced, compassionate, and level headed, I can’t say enough good about her!!”

Takeaway

While finding a therapist for your child can be overwhelming, it may be a first step to finding solutions to recurrent concerns in your child’s life. In addition, they can learn personalized coping mechanisms to use throughout all stages of their life, which may improve their adult mental health when they reach that stage.

Explore the complexities of parenting in therapy

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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