YOUTH AND ADOLESCENT THERAPY
Therapy with youth and adolescent is often very different from adults. Many types of therapy emphasize talking and thinking about feelings and experiences, which can be particularly challenging for young children. In working with children, Therapists at Tree of Life Counseling often use therapies that allow children to express themselves non-verbally, such as play therapy, sand tray therapy, and art therapy. In some cases, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), which relies very little on verbalization of experiences, can be appropriate for work with youth.
There are many different developmental stages a child experiences as they age. Each developmental phase presents specific challenges for children that they tend to work through as normal parts of growing up. Mental health problems can exacerbate these challenges, though, and in many cases, mental health issues arise as a direct result of events in a child’s life, whether those events are traumatic experiences such as being bullied or ordinary experiences such as moving to a new home.
According to the National Institute on Mental Illness (NAMI) about 4 million children and adolescents experience a mental health issue that significantly impairs them at home, school, or in their social groups.
Who can benefit?
As children and adolescents grow, they are constantly in the process of developing the social skills and emotional intelligence necessary to lead healthy, happy lives. When children experience emotions or engage in behaviors that interfere with their happiness and ability to thrive, they may benefit from meeting with a Therapist at Tree of Life Counseling. Parents and children often attend therapy sessions together, as therapy can be a safe space in which to address the thoughts, feelings, and emotions experienced by all members.
As they grow, children will experience changes in their moods and behaviors. Some of these changes are relatively predictable and, though they may be challenging, most are completely normal aspects of child development. In general, as long as children are behaving in ways that are consistent with their age range, the challenges they experience should not create cause for concern.
When children reach adolescence, relationships, romantic or otherwise, can be a point of significant strife. Relationships between parents and children are crucial to healthy development, but may become strained by the many ups and downs of adolescent life. For example, most teenagers worry about romantic relationships. However, for some teenagers, worrying about relationships may excessively drain their energy and make it difficult to enjoy life.
Experimentation with alcohol and drugs is fairly common among adolescents and can lead to serious developmental, social, and behavioral issues. The CDC has estimated the following prevalence rates for problems associated with substance use among adolescents ages 12 to 17:
- Problematic illegal drug use: 4.7%
- Problematic alcohol use: 4.2%
- Physical dependence on cigarettes: 2.8%
Medication and Therapy for Children and Adolescents
Many prominent bodies of research highlight the efficacy of a combined treatment approach, or the use of both medication and therapy, when medication is prescribed by a physician or psychiatrist for a mental health issue. In fact, the American Psychological Association’s Practice Guidelines Regarding Psychologists’ Involvement in Pharmacological Issues encourages, whenever possible, to include psychotherapy when medication is prescribed. Many mental health professionals argue that medication is overprescribed as a “quick fix,” while therapy, which may teach a person long-term coping strategies and self-management, is not encouraged enough. If your child is prescribed an antidepressant, antipsychotic, anxiolytic, stimulant, or other psychotropic drug, consider finding a therapist or counselor to pair with the drug treatment.
COMMON REASONS FOR SEEKING THERAPY:
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity
- Behavioral conditions
- Parental divorce or separation
- The birth of a sibling
- The death of a loved one, such as a family member or a pet.
- Physical or sexual abuse.
- Poverty or homelessness.
- Natural disaster.
- Domestic violence.
- Moving to a new place or attending a new school.
- Being physically or emotionally bullied.
- Taking on more responsibility than is age-appropriate.