Children are vulnerable to various types of mental health problems. Emotional and behavioral problems such as depression, anxiety, or developmental disorders are very common in children. In fact, based on the statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.4% of children aged 3-17 have behavior problems, while 7.1% have experienced anxiety disorders. Considering this, sometimes receiving professional treatment is important for kids.
However, the type of counseling your child requires varies based on their needs. There are different types of therapies available for children, including Child-Centered Play Therapy, Child-Parent Relationship Therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy, Art Therapy, and more.
In this article, we’ll define child counseling, see what kinds of strategies child counselors use, and review the most common and effective types of counseling for children. We’ll also provide some research data about the effectiveness of child counseling.
What is Child Counseling?
Child counseling can be defined as a type of therapy that is focused on the mental health of children and teens. The main purpose of child counseling is to help vulnerable children who suffer from mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, grief, behavior problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), etc. (Ogundele, 2018). In fact, children usually experience the same types of mental and emotional problems as adults, although the symptoms and expression of their behavior can be different.
Unfortunately, sometimes parents fail to notice symptoms of severe mental health disorders in their children. The reason is that people believe childhood is a happy time and only adults are vulnerable to developing mental health issues. However, ADHD, Autism spectrum disorder, or eating disorders are very common in children. Due to their parents’ lack of awareness, children often have to face these conditions alone, which results in low self-confidence, emotional issues at school, or more significant mental health problems.
What Do Child Counselors Do?
Child counselors are mental health professionals that help children get free of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems that result in successful development. Usually, child counselors have specific knowledge and experience to identify and assess children’s problems and diagnose them correctly. They understand the various stages of child development and therefore, can easily identify if a child has a delay in development and needs to focus on specific weaknesses.
Generally, child counselors work with problems concerning either early childhood, middle childhood, or adolescence. In any case, they try to maintain a friendly relationship with children, express empathy and show them that they’re in a safe environment. As a result, they help children understand their emotions, handle their irrational thoughts, or change their behavior. However, the specific service a child counselor provides changes based on the type of problem.
The Most Common Types of Child Counseling
There are several types of cold-focused therapies that involve different techniques, strategies, and approaches based on the specific mental health problem. Moreover, many child therapists prefer to use a combination of various methods in order to achieve the desired result more quickly and effectively.
Here are some of the most commonly used types of therapy for children and teens:
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy – CBT is the most widely used therapy in children, especially for behavioral problems, anxiety, or depression. CBT counselors are focused on teaching children how to change their behavior and restructure their irrational thoughts or unwanted feelings. Studies prove the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy for maladaptive children (Durlak, Fuhrman & Lampman, 1991).
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – The main purpose of ACT is to help a child identify their inner feelings, understand these emotions, and accept them. Being unaware of feelings and their inner selves is very common in children. ACT therapists help kids and teens get a deeper understanding of their emotional issues and focus on them. However, ACT is usually used in combination with other child behavioral interventions.
- Family Therapy – Children are part of a family. Therefore, family problems often affect the mental health of kids. As a result, sometimes counselors use family therapy in order to reduce distress in children. During family therapy, the family members understand each others’ viewpoints and work together towards a better understanding of their emotional connections.
- Trauma-Informed Counseling – Experiencing trauma is very common in children. However, parents rarely understand how much the impact of trauma can be on their kids’ mental health. Trauma-informed counseling is focused on helping a child to develop effective coping strategies in order to process trauma and deal with related negative feelings.
- EMDR Therapy – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy is another effective therapy for children with various mental health problems. According to the World Health Organization, it’s especially beneficial for treating children with trauma-related symptoms, attachment problems, self-regulation issues, or dissociation. This integrative psychotherapy methodology incorporates elements of different therapy approaches in order to help kids deal with specific problems.
How Effective is Child Counseling?
Back in the time when counselors started providing child-focused therapies, child counseling was perceived skeptically. As a result, researchers and psychologists started conducting studies about the effectiveness of child therapies. Today, there is already plenty of evidence that child counseling actually works and helps kids overcome their emotional and behavioral problems.
For instance, according to a 2006 study, child and adolescent counseling has been effective (Pattison & Harris, 2006). Another study also proves that psychosocial treatments have a positive effect on improving children’s mental health and physiological conditions (Weisz & Jensen, 1999). The reason is that counseling helps kids explore their emotions in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Various strategies, such as playing, drawing, talking, or role-playing, help children develop adaptive coping strategies and deal with their emotional issues.
Find a Good Child Counselor
Choosing a suitable child counselor for your kid isn’t an easy task. However, if you notice that your kid is struggling with emotional issues, finds it hard to express their feelings, has a delay in cognitive development, or their behavior problems are slowing down their academic performance, then it’s time to find a good child counselor.
Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids has multiple professional therapists and counselors with years of experience in working with children and teenagers. Our licensed counselors work on common mental health problems in children such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, self-harm, ADHD, trauma-related disorders, or disruptive behavior disorders.
So, if you’re looking for a professional child counselor to help your child deal with stress, grief, self-esteem issues, anger, behavioral problems, or other types of problems, reach out to our team at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids. We’ll help you find the right therapist and choose the proper strategies based on your child’s needs.