The final third of my caseload is made up of children and adolescents. This is a very different form of therapy from individual and couple counseling and requires a unique set of skills.

Younger children under about the age of ten often require a specific form of therapy called play therapy. As it implies, the primary means to communicate with young children is through their play. Children often have difficulty articulating what’s going on inside and play therapy becomes quite an effective tool to help them open up about problems and issues.

Adolescent counseling differs from adult therapy in that the initial and primary focus becomes developing a trusting relationship with the teenager. Adolescents often enter treatment very closed, unsure of what to expect, and hostile about being in therapy.

By developing a relationship with teenagers, they can begin the process of exploring their feelings and learning to express and cope with them in more constructive ways. Adolescents who are isolated from their parents and other adults usually demonstrate their unhappiness and depression through poor grades, drug use, moodiness and defiance at home and school.

When working with children or adolescents, I keep in close contact with parents. It is my opinion that as I begin to know the child it is important for me to share this information with the parents. By meeting with the parents along with the child I also am able to get feedback from them regarding positive or negative gain made by their child.

It is not uncommon that as treatment progresses it moves into family counseling sessions. This is not done at the outset due to the necessity of establishing the relationship with the child before moving into the more challenging environment of family dynamics. Without this relationship the child or adolescent will refuse to participate in the family setting thus destroying any progress.

When kids know that they can be understood if they speak their minds constructively it often leads to family counseling sessions that become very productive in addressing issues.