Marriage and Family Therapist
Does your child need counseling?
It can be hard to know when to seek outside help. Maybe your child is going through a developmental phase, and his or her problems will resolve with time. When parents wrestle with the question of when to visit a professional, it is helpful to ask yourself some questions about the difficulty your child is experiencing:
Does your child have a negative, irritable or unhappy mood much of the time? If so, your child might be struggling with depression. While depression can look like listlessness and sadness in a child, it can also show itself as irritability and anger. If your child seems chronically moody, and if the moods are interfering with his or her sleep, eating, pleasure, fun, friendships or completion of tasks or homework, it is time to do something about it.
Is your child having trouble making or keeping friends or succeeding in school? There are lots of challenges kids can face. Their ability to be resilient in the face of their challenges can predict later success in life. Children who struggle with learning disabilities, social disabilities including autism, and attention or concentration difficulties need extra support to reach their goals. Therapy and skills coaching can assist children in coping with life’s challenges, making them stronger and better able to cope with future bumps in the road.
Have recent changes in family circumstances, such as parent separation or divorce, or loss of a family member, left your child hurting? While adults are often devastated by these life-changing events, children can be even more affected, as they haven’t had enough experiences to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Children generally are less able to communicate their feelings of sadness, anger or heartbreak, and may not express outwardly how they are experiencing the events. In the presence of a therapist whom they trust, they can share their feelings verbally or through play, and develop ways to handle the stress of the situation.
Has your child experienced an event that has been traumatizing for him/her? When children (or adults) experience an event which feels terrifying to them, and from which they believe they are unable to escape, they can develop emotional reactions which persist. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress reactions include difficulty sleeping, recurrent nightmares, anxiety or fears that seem out-of-proportion to the circumstance, or difficulty managing their own emotions. They can have explosive anger outbursts and may have difficulty self-soothing. It is critical that children receive treatment for past trauma, depending on the severity of the trauma, as the effects can last for years without it.
Do you struggle with ways to manage your child’s moods or behaviors? Some children have trouble calming themselves, or they may over-react to being told "no" for example, and then stay extremely upset for a long time. They may seem to be fine at one moment and inconsolable in another. While all children go through changes, if their moods and behaviors are significantly affecting their schoolwork, friendships, or homelife, it is time to consider therapy.
Does your child/teen have self-destructive or suicidal thoughts or impulses, or are they in any way a danger to themselves or others? If you suspect your child is struggling with thoughts of hurting themselves or others, they need immediate help. An assessment to determine the risk of them taking destructive action, a plan to keep them safe, steps to address their depression, and skill building to decrease future risks, all need to occur to prevent them from taking destructive action.
I believe that all children are innately good and try to do their best. When they shut down or have behavioral difficulties, it is an indication that they are overwhelmed, discouraged or are lacking skills or strategies to handle the situation. Counseling can help them understand their feelings, sort out their options and develop skills to handle the challenges they are confronting. Utilizing therapy techniques to fit the developmental level and needs of the child, including play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family systems theory, I will partner with you to help your child.