Psychotherapy for Children

This page provides detailed information about my approach to working with your child, questions you may have and what you can expect from our therapy sessions.  If a child is able to verbalise their concerns, then I also use talk therapy approaches with them, as appropriate.  This is my area of specialisation and I am committed to help your child achieve a lasting change.

Parents and carers often worry when a child has a problem that causes them to be sad, disruptive, rebellious, unable to cope or inattentive. You may be concerned about your child’s development, eating or sleeping patterns and how they are getting along with family, friends and their learning at school. Every child is unique and special but sometimes they experience problems with feelings or behaviours that cause disruption to their lives and the lives of those around them. Some parents often delay seeking help because they worry that they will be blamed for their child/ren’s behaviour. Feeling responsible for a child’s distress or problems is a normal part of caring. The fact that you have the commitment to start addressing the difficulty is a significant part of helping your child.

Counselling supports good emotionally healthy development of children that underpins their academic achievement and facilitates the building and management of helpful relationships in the home and school environment.

Sometimes, for many children, it is difficult to put into words the difficult feelings or experiences but easier to express them through creative play. I use therapeutic play with the younger children as well as talking therapy according to the child’s needs – this is always child-led.

Therapeutic play is a tried and tested way to help children to express themselves without using verbal explanations through creative materials and toys such as sand, small figures and animals, musical instruments, puppets and books.

Counsellors working with children are trained in subjects such as child development and attachment (the bonding process).  I have also received additional training to use play, a child’s natural form of expression, as a means for understanding and communicating with children about feelings, thoughts and behaviour.  For the one to one counselling to be effective, I will take time to gather information and familiarise myself with the issues and strengths the child feels they have, the concerns of parents along with the child’s existing support structures so that a holistic approach can be given. I work in a child-led way: the child decides what happens in each session and the sessions are always non-directive. This enables them to choose freely, express openly and learn self-control and develop self-esteem from the inside out rather than through judgement, persuasion or evaluation by other people.
I cannot be asked to do certain things in the therapeutic play sessions or work on certain issues of the parent’s choosing. A child’s session should be treated like an adult’s session – it is for them to choose what they want to work on.  I hold a belief that children will develop in positive ways in their own time when they are emotionally ready. Sometimes, a child’s behaviour can worsen in the early stages, but given time, often changes for the better. Please understand sympathetically that this is like a ‘healing crisis’ for your child.

Play is vital to every child’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical, creative and language development. It helps make learning concrete for all children and young people including those for whom verbal communication may be difficult. Counselling and therapeutic play helps children in a variety of ways. Children receive emotional support and can learn to understand more about their own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes they may re-enact or play out traumatic or difficult life experiences in order to make sense of their past and cope better with their future. Children may also learn to manage relationships and conflicts in more appropriate ways.

The outcomes of therapy may be general e.g. a reduction in anxiety and raised self-esteem, or more specific such as a change in behaviour and improved relations with family and friends. Children can develop confidence to explore things that are worrying them or affecting their day to day life. By supporting the emotional health of pupils, counselling helps to make it easier for children to access the curriculum and build healthy relationships within the school environment.

Some children will respond to a short term intervention (for example up to 12 sessions). However, when problems have persisted for a long time or are complicated a longer-term intervention may be required. In these circumstances some therapists have worked with children for two years or more. Sessions are usually once a week and consistency on a regular day and at the same time and place is very important for developing a trusting relationship. It is important to consider therapy as an investment for your child’s future. Any unplanned missed sessions may disrupt the process.

You are very important in supporting your child through the process.

  • Please, be consistent and encouraging to your child about attending sessions regularly.
  • Resist the urge to ask your child what they did, as this will put pressure on them to comment on something they may have difficulty understanding themselves. Remember that some children are unable to verbalise their feelings.
  • Please don’t ask your child to ‘be good’ or check they have been. Therapy is not about being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and your child must feel free to express ‘bad’ feelings in an uncensored way.
  • Please refrain from insisting that your child tell certain things: it is their time and they must feel free to express themselves at their own pace.
  • Play can be messy and it is helpful if your child can wear old clothes, as appropriate, to minimise their anxiety about this.
  • During any therapeutic intervention behaviour may appear to get worse before it gets better – please tell Usha if you have any concerns. Please also feel free to ask her any questions throughout the process, at a pre-arranged time.

If you do not find all the answers to your questions here, please contact me and I would be happy to answer them.