From what I’ve seen, the stigma associated with mental health therapy is still present, but getting better. In my opinion, most people could benefit from therapy at some point in their lives. Therapy seems to often be associated with scary diagnoses, but that’s not always the case. A lot of times, therapy is just another tool to help someone get through an adjustment or overcome some bad habits (and develop good habits instead). Because of the stigma, some parents may be fearful of seeking out therapy.
One fear is that their child will get some severe diagnosis that will “follow them” for the rest of their lives. Most of the time, that’s not the case. Most children aren’t going to get a diagnosis of Conduct Disorder! Most children that I see don’t meet the criteria for such a diagnosis, but can still benefit from therapy (both individual and family). So how do you know if your child can benefit from therapy? Everyday Health created a list of signs that your child might need therapy, including constant anger and overreacting to situations and persistent worry or anxiety (you can read the full article here).There are some very severe symptoms/signs on that list and a lot of those are going to be exhibited by older children.
There are some very severe symptoms/signs on that list, but your child doesn’t need to be exhibiting the most severe of symptoms to benefit from therapy. Below I’ve created a list of 10 things that can be addressed in therapy (these are ten common concerns – therapy can help with so much more!). I typically will provide individual therapy for kiddos starting at age 3 or 4, depending on development. Family therapy can benefit kiddos of any age and usually focuses on different parenting interventions that can be used to change behavior.
By the way, I’ve met with parents who dislike the term “family therapy,” because they believe it implies that there is a “problem” with the family – that isn’t the case! Family therapy is labeled such simply because there are family members in the session! Family therapy is a great place for parents to learn new tools they can use with their child(ren).
Ten concerns that can be addressed in therapy with children:
- Defiance/Not following directions (this can affect so many areas of life – homework, chores, hygiene, etc.)
- Aggression – whether towards parents, teachers, siblings, or peers
- Worry/Anxiety (including specific fears of objects and separation from caregivers)
- Bedtime/sleep issues (not wanting to go to bed and/or not staying asleep)
- Potty training concerns
- Social interaction concerns (fighting with others, not making friends, not sharing, etc.)
- Struggling to sit still and/or focus
- Picky eaters
This is definitely not an exhaustive list. Therapy can help with any behavior that you want to see get better!