What is a Child Behavioral Therapist?

Anxiety, behavioral, and mood disorders are some of the most common mental health problems children face these days. Unfortunately, parents often find it hard to notice a problem and rely on situational factors to explain changes in their child’s behavior. However, it’s vitally important to determine your kids’ problems and seek professional help from a child behavioral therapist to avoid difficulties in their everyday functioning and in the future.

Child behavior therapists are mental health professionals trained to work with children and their parents. They help the kids deal with their problems at school, overcome social issues or conflicts with their family members. As the CDC states, 1 in 6 children aged 2–8 in the US is diagnosed with mental, developmental, or behavioral disorders. But only about 13.6% of them have received counseling or therapy, which is definitely a low number.

However, getting professional help from child behavioral therapists helps children develop adaptive coping skills and prevent more serious conditions in the future. In this blog, we’ll explain the responsibilities of child behavioral therapists and help you understand how they can work with your children.

Who Are Child Behavioral Therapists & What Do They Do?

A child behavioral therapist is a mental health counselor who specializes in providing treatment to children in need. They are professional counselors who have already earned masters’ degrees in their field and have specific training and knowledge to help children, teenagers, or their parents with a variety of psychological, developmental, academic, or health-related difficulties.

After obtaining a counselor or therapist’s license, child behavioral therapists can identify and diagnose mental health illnesses and provide specific types of therapies, such as trauma-informed counseling, emotion-focused therapy, EMDR therapy, etc., to help the children fix their problems and function effectively. Based on the problem and context, they use different types of therapy and aim to help kids and teens develop into healthy and well-adapted adults.

Interestingly, there is no specific certification for child behavior therapists, as the American Psychological Association (APA) proves. Still, all the professional therapists who work with children at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids have their licenses in counseling and are trained to work with children who are suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, trauma-related disorders, or other mental health issues.

Types of Behavioral Therapy with Children

As the field of counseling rapidly develops, counselors and therapists use plenty of different types of therapies with children. Here are some of the most frequently used types of therapies that child behavioral therapists can provide for your kids:

  • Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy focuses on helping the children reduce their problematic behavior and replace it with more positive behaviors. Child behavioral therapists generally use this kind of treatment with kids who suffer from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), defiant or antisocial behavior, or other types of behavioral problems. They use specific strategies to improve their maladaptive behaviors at home and at school to avoid further difficulties.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is the most common form of psychotherapy that is found to be effective in treating 3- to 7-year-old children with anxiety and other psychological problems (e.g., Minde et al., 2010). This type of therapy aims to reveal maladaptive thoughts and behaviors of children that might be slowing down their progress at school or leading to problems in social relationships. Child behavioral therapists focus on changing the kid’s negative thinking and behavior patterns during therapy sessions.

Child behavioral therapists who use family therapy not only with children but with three parents too. They focus on the patterns of relationships between family members and try to improve their interactions. The main purpose of using family therapy, in this case, is to reveal and overcome children’s problems by strengthening the entire family.

According to NCSL, about 30% of children have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which interfere with a child’s psychological and emotional well-being and often lead to trauma. As a result, child behavioral therapists at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids use trauma-informed counseling to help these children overcome trauma and get over PTSD and its related symptoms.

  • Emotion-Focused Therapy

Child therapists who work with emotion-focused therapy focus on strengthening interpersonal relationships between parents and children. This type of therapy relies on attachment theory, according to which parents are responsible for children’s feelings of security. The goal of this therapy is to promote better emotion regulation skills in children and help parents support their children.

How Does a Child Behavioral Therapist Help Children and Parents?

Common psychological problems in children, such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, or disruptive behavioral disorders, often contribute to misbehavior and conflicts at home or in school. As a result, children often get punished, which negatively affects their self-esteem. Therefore, the root of the problem of children’s poor psychological health isn’t related exclusively to their problem. Instead, the way their parents behave, their parenting style, and their communication patterns with their kids also play a huge part in the well-being of their children.

Child behavioral therapists use their theoretical knowledge and practical experience to work with children and parents and help them develop healthy patterns of interaction. During the therapy, they make sure that parents understand the importance of using adaptive parenting styles such as authoritative parenting. This style focuses on setting clear rules and expectations, having open communication, and solving problems together.

Besides, therapists help both children and parents deal with stress and anxiety, overcome feelings of anger or sadness, and resolve their emotions caused by a traumatic event. Moreover, if problems regarding a child’s or parents’ self-esteem are also revealed, therapists use specific strategies to help them normalize their self-esteem.

Behavior Therapy & Parent Training

Providing parent training is an integral part of child behavioral therapy. The reason is that most of the time, a child’s maladaptive behavior or unhealthy emotions are related to the way a parent responds to the problem. Therefore, even if the counselor manages to help the child cope with its emotional or behavioral problems, the results of the treatment heavily depend on the parenting skills.

Consequently, child behavioral therapists often engage parents in specific training to ensure that they understand their role in a child’s well-being. For this, therapists teach the parents to establish adaptive house rules and structure, express emotions in a proper way to their kids, use appropriate directions and commands, and have clear communication with their children.

Reach Out to a Child Behavioral Therapist

As you can see, signs of psychological problems in children might be a potential threat to developing mental health disorders. So, if you notice that your child is experiencing emotional or behavioral problems, ask them how they feel, listen to them, and show that you understand. However, if the problem remains, think about getting help as soon as possible. Contact our child behavioral therapists at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids to receive professional treatment to improve your child’s psychological well-being.

Learn more about the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids

Learn more about Counseling and Therapy services at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

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