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Exploring the Different Types of Child and Teen Counseling

Exploring the Different Types of Child and Teen Counseling

Life is not easy and it is not uncommon for children and teens to struggle with processing and managing complicated emotions. Fortunately, therapy (also known as counseling) are significantly more accessible than ever before, and the stigma surrounding mental health and wellness is continuing to fade rapidly. If you suspect your child would benefit from therapy or counseling, then here is everything a parent or guardian needs to know in order to choose the right type of therapy for their child. 

What is child therapy?

Child therapy or teen therapy is therapeutic counseling for children under the age of 18. The goal of child or teen therapy is to support children who are struggling to process life challenges and communicate complex feelings in a healthy way. These life challenges are typically emotional, physical, or psychological in nature and are most often caused or influenced by life change, trauma, a crisis, or difficult experiences. Because each of these examples can leave deep, emotional scars on children’s mental wellbeing, getting compassionate care from a child counselor or child psychologist can have a powerfully positive impact on a child or teen’s psychological health. 

At what age can a child benefit from counseling or therapy?

There are many reasons why children and teens may need therapy, and thanks to the multiple types of counseling available, children can benefit from therapy at any age.  

  • Babies, toddlers, or young children who are experiencing developmental delays, behavioral challenges, or who may be at risk for mental health issues can often benefit from play therapy or sensory therapy techniques. For very young children, therapy is done with the parent present, such as attachment-related or filial therapy between parents and their infants.
  • Pre-teen children at risk for learning disorders, social disorders, or anxiety find therapeutic care with many types of counseling such as Art Therapy, Family Therapy, or other cognitive counseling method. 
  • For teens ages 13-18, some of the most common and serious concerns include bullying, depression, stress, social peer pressure, eating disorders, and puberty changes. All these challenges can seem life threatening to young minds, and for such instances, teen counselors are trained to provide teens with healthy coping mechanisms in a judgment-free and safe environment.
  • Children or teens at any age who might have been exposed to or experienced trauma, grief, or a major life change often find therapy to be a positive environment that is supportive and healing. 

Types of child therapy

When people consider types of counseling, they might think of different approaches or methodologies to child therapy such as Behavioral, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Play Therapy, Art Therapy, Music Therapy, etc. There are many different approaches to child counseling, and it is common for a child or teen therapist to utilize several therapeutic methods to administer treatment.

Regardless of what approach or combination of methodologies your therapist or counselor utilizes, chances are the therapy will be administered in one of these three ways. 

  • Individual Therapy
  • Family Therapy (sometimes called Filial Therapy)
  • Group Therapy

Therapy can be a private, individual experience, or it can include the parents or even the whole family. It depends on the need and circumstance of the child. For example, blended families, divorced families, families who have experienced a significant life change or loss, or families who want to improve their collective dynamic may benefit from Family or Filial therapy. Teens struggling with depression, anger, or grief might best benefit from group therapy where healthy relationships with other peers can be forged. 

Individual Therapy 

Individual therapy is when the therapeutic treatment or counseling session is administered privately between the therapist and child. Parents, guardians, siblings, or any other person besides the therapist and the child patient will not be present, but the therapist will often give parents high-level overviews from the one-on-one sessions to keep parents informed. The most common type of individual therapy for kids is Play Therapy, a type of therapy for children utilizing toys as a way for children to communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Family Therapy (or Filial Therapy)

If the child or children are babies or toddlers, the family therapist will guide and supervise the parents or guardians through a therapeutic play session where the parents are engaged as partners in the therapeutic process. If the child or children are older, Family or Filial Therapy may be formatted a bit like a group session, with the therapist filling the role of moderator – at least at first. 

There are many methods and techniques that a therapist might use in a Family Therapy session with older aged children such as Child-Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT), Theraplay, and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). Family therapy may also involve working with just the children in the family (siblings) to help with connection and harmony. Family therapy can also be beneficial in stepparent families and adoptive families.

Regardless of the methodological approach, the purpose of Family Therapy is essentially to train and empower parents on how to take leadership in the family dynamic. Family Therapy has been highly researched, and evidence from the studies done on family/filial therapy have shown that the relational dynamic of family members can be drastically improved through consistent family Therapy. 

Group Therapy

Community can be a very healing medium, and there are some instances where children and teens are best supported in a group therapy session. 

Counselors may offer therapy groups addressing different needs, such as social skills development, depression, or bullying. There are also groups related to eating disorders, grief and loss, and groups that utilize specific types of therapy, such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) groups.  These sessions are typically led by a qualified counselor or therapist and can benefit children by helping them feel validated and understood. Additionally, group therapy helps children and teens learn and practice healthy relational skills as they form supportive social bonds with others.

With the advancement of technology, group sessions can even be delivered through a HIPAA compliant virtual platform. For example, many schools in the U.S. offer weekly group therapy sessions specifically just for children who are experiencing anxiety or children who are experiencing grief.  When these children are at different campuses, the therapy session can be delivered virtually.  Who provides therapy for a child or teen ?  Child therapy, teen counseling, group therapy, and Family or Filial Therapy is generally provided by a licensed mental health therapist in the state the child/family resides or by an associate/intern under supervision of a licensed therapist. 

Clients may participate in virtual treatment in the privacy of their own home or at school, wherever privacy can be ensured.

What type of therapy is best for my child? There are many different approaches and theoretical orientations to choose from, and depending on your child’s circumstance, niche therapy or a specialized counselor might be ideal. Ultimately, the child’s developmental age and needs will determine what type(s) of counseling or therapy might be needed. For example, if your child is young and struggles with conversational skills, then play therapy  is likely going to be the most beneficial treatment solution. 

Generally, the therapist will first meet with parents during and initial consultation or a more formal intake session and gather more information about your family and your goals for seeking treatment.  From that assessment, the therapist will recommend the best course of treatment-individual, family, or group therapy, or a combination of one or more types of therapy.  For example, it's not uncommon for a school-age child to participate in both individual therapy (play therapy) and filial therapy with one or both parents. How much does child or teen therapy cost?

Prices will vary based on provider, their location, institution, insurance coverage, or other eligible benefits pertaining to victim’s assistance funding or post-adoption services. In most instances, treatment can be paid via insurance, private payment/cash, HSA, or in some cases state funding. Some therapists or clinics may offer one or more  "pro-bono" or "sliding-scale fee" openings for families with limited financial means.  How to find the right therapist for my child? It is important for parents or guardians to note that there are many certifications and/or additional training in specific therapeutic methodologies that a child or teen therapist may or may not have. Many therapists and counselors may practice certain therapeutic approaches and techniques, but not all therapists and counselors may be certified for that specific technique. For example, parents with children in need of Play Therapy may want to specifically search for a therapist designation of “Registered Play Therapist.” This means they have had advanced training and supervision beyond graduate school in the delivery of play therapy.

Find Help

You can search our directory at KIDSTherapyFinder.com to find the right therapist for your child or teen today. 

If you are not sure what type of therapist specializations might best support your child’s specific needs, Contact Us. We would be happy to see if we can help you find the right expert for your child. 

More Questions?  

Check out our other helpful article on Finding A Therapist For Your Child or Teen.

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