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Psychotherapy for children and adolescences

Therapy involves therapeutic conversations and interactions between a therapist and a child or family as part of psychiatric treatment. Families and children can learn how to resolve problems, modify behaviors, and make positive changes. Psychotherapy involves a variety of approaches, techniques, and interventions. In some cases, it may be helpful to combine different psychotherapy approaches. While, it may be more effective to combine medication with psychotherapy in other cases.

Psychotherapy comes in different forms:

  • The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) helps children understand and accept their inner feelings. By understanding their emotional struggles, ACT therapists help children and teens commit to moving forward in a positive direction.  
  • The Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) examines confused or distorted patterns of thinking in order to improve a child’s moods, anxiety, and behavior. A CBT therapist teaches children that their thoughts can influence their feelings and moods, which can, in turn, affect their behavior. Children learn to identify harmful thought patterns through CBT. The therapist helps the child feel and behave more appropriately by replacing this thinking with more appropriate thoughts. Depression and anxiety can be effectively treated with CBT, according to research. Children dealing with traumatic experiences can also benefit from specialized forms of CBT.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can be used to treat older adolescents who have chronic suicidal feelings or thoughts, engage in self-harming behaviors, or suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder. As part of DBT, the person is taught to take responsibility for their problems and to examine how they deal with conflict and intense negative emotions. Individual and group sessions are often combined for this purpose. 
  • Couples Therapy is a type of family therapy that focuses on the communication and interactions between two people (e.g., parents having marital problems).
  • Family therapy includes exploring communication patterns, providing support and education, and helping the family function more positively and constructively. In a family therapy session, parents, siblings, and grandparents can participate with the child or adolescent. 
  • Group therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which one or more therapists lead multiple patients. Through group dynamics and peer interaction, mental illness is understood and/, or social skills are improved. Various types of group therapy are available (e.g. psychodynamic, social skills, substance abuse, multi-family, and parent support). 
  • A variety of clinical conditions can be treated using Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), a brief treatment explicitly developed for treating depression. IPT therapists aim to help individuals understand how interpersonal events impact their emotional well-being. Problematic relationships are addressed after defining individual difficulties in interpersonal terms. 
  • Metallization Based Therapy (MBT) aims to help children and teens cope with their identity struggles. Healthy development is the goal of MBT for children.  
  • Through real-time coaching, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) helps parents and children with behavioral or connection problems. The therapist guides families toward positive interactions between their children and their parents.
  • The purpose of play therapy is to help children recognize, identify, and verbalize their feelings by using toys, blocks, dolls, puppets, drawings, and games. A child’s conflicts, feelings, and behavior can be better understood and managed through play and talk. In order to understand the child’s problems, the psychotherapist observes how the child uses play materials.
  • There are several sessions per week of psychoanalysis, a specialized, more intensive form of psychodynamic psychotherapy. The goal of psychodynamic psychotherapy is to understand why a child behaves the way they do, thinks the way they think, and feels the way they do. Children’s typical behavior patterns, defenses, and responses to inner conflicts and struggles can be identified through this process. In psychodynamic psychotherapy, the assumption is that their behavior and feelings will improve once a child’s internal struggles are exposed. 
  • Supportive Therapy helps children and teens cope with stress, identify helpful and unhelpful behaviors, and improve self-esteem.

Psychotherapy isn’t a quick fix or an easy solution. Through this process, a child or adolescent can reduce symptoms, gain insights, and improve their functioning.

It may be helpful to combine different psychotherapy approaches. It may be most effective to combine medication with psychotherapy in some cases. Psychiatrists for children and adolescents are trained in various types of psychotherapy. They can combine these types of treatment with medications to alleviate the child’s or adolescent’s emotional and behavioral problems if needed.