Children and adolescents can display multiple warning signs of distress that can take many forms including oppositional behavior, crying, isolation, decline in grades, sleeping more, lack of interest, etc. As a parent, this is often noticed without the child or adolescent bringing it up. A number of children will keep things that are bothering them inside for various reasons with some including that the issue may be too painful to discuss, they may feel that it may burden the parent, or that they do not know how to put it to words. Therapy serves to bridge the gap to allow a child the opportunity to speak to an objective party so that they can learn positive coping skills to manage their negative emotions. Parents/caregivers are an integral part of the process and are taught various parenting skills to make them a more effective agent of change and source of support for the child.
Children probably have even more fun than teenagers do. This is because most children don’t have the patience or vocabulary to sit on a couch and talk about feelings as older people with more mature brains can do. Therefore, channeling a child’s imagination and addressing emotional needs through art and play is a preferred approach to support a youngster in therapy. Emotions such as anger, fear and sadness can be effectively attended to through creatively approaches. While many parents bring their children to therapy due to behavior issues, it is important to remember that behavior is the main way in which kids communicate their feelings because they don’t know how to articulate them. On the other hand, some kids are very capable of verbalizing their emotions. The most important part of child therapy is building and maintaining trust and safety - these are fantastic ways to nurture the trust and safety necessary for the healing and growing process.
Some teenagers like to sit and talk for the full session. Some are guided through the session with questions that open the way for more in-depth conversations. While some people are quick to open up, others are more cautious. Dr. Barkey prides himself on finding creative avenues to connect with his clients in meaningful ways that open up opportunities for their growth. This type of process often leads to a deep and honest self-reflection that nurtures healing and maturity. Other times, playing and utilizing one’s imagination can usher in conversations that might not have taken place otherwise. Ultimately, therapy is often fun and something that teens look forward to. That fun is the impetus for breaking though the fear and resistance that most teens have toward therapy and it builds the trust and safety necessary for the therapeutic relationship to thrive.
Dr. Barkey prefers to utilize family therapy whenever possible to create additional support within the family. At times, families may have developed unhealthy ways of communicating and interacting that often leads to further challenges and backlash. In family therapy, all voices are heard, regardless of age, and treatment is tailored at identifying common themes that are preventing the family from interacting and communicating in the healthiest manner. Family therapy is beneficial for families that are going through difficult transitions and particularly useful for parents and children who are looking for a neutral environment to discuss sensitive issues.
You may be concerned that your child will become upset when told of an upcoming visit with a therapist. Although this is sometimes the case, it's essential to be honest about the session and why your child (or family) will be going. The issue will come up during the session, but it's important for you to prepare your child for it. Explain to young kids that this type of visit to the doctor doesn't involve a physical exam or shots. You may also want to stress that this type of doctor talks and plays with kids and families to help them solve problems and feel better. Kids might feel reassured to learn that the therapist will be helping the parents and other family members too. Older kids and teens may be reassured to hear that anything they say to the therapist is confidential and cannot be shared with anyone else, including parents or other doctors, without their permission — the exception is if they indicate that they're having thoughts of suicide or otherwise hurting themselves or others. Giving kids this kind of information before the first appointment can help set the tone, prevent your child from feeling singled out or isolated, and provide reassurance that the family will be working together on the problem.