In a 2014 study on children’s mental health in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it was reported that on a yearly basis, close to 20% of children and adolescents aged 3 to 17 experience mental health issues. A desperate attempt to control this alarming number can be detected from the fact that in 2014, the estimated expenditure on children’s support services reached a staggering amount of 245 billion dollars. The most distinguished and discuss part of these services – psychological therapy.
Psychological therapy is a system of psychiatric treatment that encompasses therapeutic dialogs and conversations between a psychotherapist and a child, sometimes in the presence of a family member. A scientific discipline since the late 19th century, child psychotherapy involves helping children and parents recognize their problems and adjust their behavior accordingly by adding positive reinforcements in their lives. The field of psychotherapy is heavily distinguished. There are different approaches. The form of therapy is primarily determined by the nature of the problem. The treatment can also include a combination of different approaches. The most commonly used psychotherapy approaches include the following –
• Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the most widely recognized therapy approach. This form of treatment is designed to improve a child’s temperament, anxiety, and conduct by surveying blurred or unclear thought patterns. CBT psychotherapists educate children on how these thoughts cause heightened emotional states causing them to shape their behavior as forms of coping mechanisms. For instance, a child may become dependent on substance abuse in order to cope with their perceived reality. CBT is all about teaching children to identify their harmful thought patterns and correct their perceived reality.
The aim of a CBT therapist is to make the child replace these distorted thought patterns and to convert them into more appropriate and positive feelings. Of all the fields of psychotherapy, most research has been done on CBT and results show that this approach does have an effective role in treating a range of conditions, especially depression in teenagers. CBT in itself is a diverse field. There are a number of subsets under CBT dedicated to helping children who are coping with traumatic childhood experiences.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a field of psychotherapy dedicated to treating suicidal adolescents with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). DBT is more focused on educating teenagers on their responsibilities and examining their way of processing intense negative emotions.
• Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) helps children understand and admit to their inner emotions. ACT therapists aim to gain a clear understanding of their patients’ emotional issues and devise ways for them to deal with these issues with a positive attitude.
Other forms of therapies include family therapy, group therapy, psychodynamic therapy, interpersonal therapy and Mentalization Based Therapy (MBT). Depression is the most common issue with the children and adolescents seeking or needing these forms of treatment. Although there are numerous forms of child psychological therapy, the most commonly prescribed approach is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Since this form of treatment is the most widely researched approach with proven results of helping children with depression, most parents trust this method.
CBT for children has proven to be a valuable method of treatment helping children with –
The self-reflective approach of CBT helps children with defiance issues open up and speak in a frank and honest manner. The CBT therapist will always try and get to the heart of the child’s behavioral complications using proven tactics.
Anxiety and Depression
Kids with extreme anxiety can gain a lot from the proven coping skills CBT experts recommend to the children. Evidence proves CBT radically reduces the chances of kids suffering from constant and intense panic attacks. For children who suffer from Social Anxiety, the CBT expert helps them identify social cues and appropriately respond to them. The ability to initiate and maintain positive interactions is vital for escaping psychological ruts that kids and adolescents often find themselves trapped in.
Kids who need more attention and care are given step-by-step directions on how they can control their emotions and reactions, becoming a master and not a slave to their instincts.
CBT practitioners craft a sheltered, non-judgmental atmosphere in which children can perceive the self-detrimental nature of their eating disorder. Using logical and practical dialogue, the real issues behind these disorders are addressed.
The Common Sense Census (2016) led a deep study into the negative impacts of technology/cell phone addiction on teenagers. 50% of the surveyed teens said they were addicted to their mobile devices, with 72% of teens stating they felt an immediate urge to respond to social-networking notifications, text messages, etc. With a seemingly new and unprecedented world being opened up for children due to their cell phones, CBT experts have had to devise new technology-based treatments for such addictions. Cyberbullying, social anxiety, and a host of other symptoms are common with this type of addiction.
The root of drug use in children and adolescents does not lie in the drug itself. In most cases, children don’t like their perceived reality which influences them to create an alternate state of reality in their mind. This leads to substance abuse after drug experimentation.
The goal of these sessions is not to demonize their habit or pass judgments on them. The only way in which children and teenagers can successfully give up an addiction is if they themselves make an informed free-choice. The role of the CBT practitioner in such situations is to provide them with the right guidance, evidence and facts about the issue of drug abuse and ask them to speak honestly on how they feel about this self-destructive practice.
The Goal of Child Therapy: Empower Kids
The most beneficial aspect of CBT and other forms of child therapy is the introspective nature of all communication. The goal of a skilled CBT practitioner is to treat the child like a logical adult and use evidence and data to convince them of their misperceptions. All of these sessions are embedded in an ambiance of total compassion, encouragement, and consideration to steer children and adolescents to make decisions and adopt behaviors that are constructive and good for their physical and mental health. For all intents and purposes, CBT helps convert destructive thought patterns into constructive ones. Here are the proven improvements from CBT and other forms of child therapy –
Accepting the need for Well-Being
Well-being is a state of life. Physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually, children need to feel comfortable and willing to improve. Essentially, children are encouraged to understand the importance and urgent need to adopt a healthy lifestyle. However, this approach has only been researched in CBT and other forms of therapy. Not much research is dedicated to exploring the well-being of children and adolescents.
Optimistic children have better self-confidence and are less susceptible to depression. Therapy provides children with a positive and reassuring support system, contributing immensely to their perception of self-respect.
CBT with children and families investigates the inner strengths of a child. Resilience to negative thoughts is a quality that needs to be nurtured. Children who have not been taught to be resilient are more prone to self-harm. CBT helps children identify these weaknesses and address them appropriately.
CBT therapists encourage parents to communicate with their children in ways they feel comfortable and safe. For instance, if parents feel that their child is becoming socially disconnected, irritative and addicted to the cell phone, the best way to keep an eye on them whilst still respecting their privacy is to implement technology-based parental supervision techniques.
MMGuardian, for instance, is an app which can help parents detect whether or not their child is facing any form of internet abuse and is a great tool for parents who want to keep their children mentally healthy. It offers a feature called ‘Priority Alerts’ which scans all the data (text messages, internet searches, etc.) on a child’s phone to detect possible bullying or other such threatening information. In 2019, the app recorded 1.5 million such alerts. MMGuardian also provides an expansive list of other features such time limits, reports on SMS texts and messages in select social media apps including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram, screen locking, contact blocking, web filtering, location, and much more.
To get started with MMGuardian and receive a 14-day free trial, click here.
Consider also joining our Facebook group “Tech-Savvy Parenting” to discuss raising kids in the 21st century with other parents.
Parents are advised to be open to taking such steps and share all the data with a therapist so that a well-thought-out approach can be taken towards the problem.
Therapy at Home
Child therapy is a continuous process. The treatment does not end as soon as you leave the therapist’s chamber. Most CBT therapists assign certain tasks to both the children and their parents. Adopting these family-supportive measures is critical. A child undergoing mental trauma needs to understand the fact that he or she is dealing with a problem and on the other side of the problem is an unconditional support system that is waiting for them to improve and be cured. For instance, a ‘homework task’ for a child may entail “pay attention to how your mother reacts when you start studying without being told to.”
Although psychological therapy has helped countless children, it is not a quick fix. The sad aspect of depression in children is that there is no easy answer. Child therapy is a complicated and intricate procedure that, with patience, can definitely alleviate symptoms, provide awareness, and improve a child’s outlook on life.