Children have unique needs when it comes to therapy and counseling.
At different ages, we pass through distinct developmental phases with specific tasks, capabilities, and limitations.
It’s vital for therapists to understand these developmental phases in order to create effective treatment for children and to meet them at the level they’re at.
At My LA Therapy, we have special training in developmental psychology and we always use therapeutic interventions that take a child’s unique developmental phase into account.
In other words, we’re trained to speak in a language that children understand.
Often, kids don’t express their feelings in words.
Young children especially tend to demonstrate their feelings and conflicts through art, play, or acting out.
That means counseling looks quite different when children are involved since they have such varying abilities and needs based on their age and cognitive ability.
ERIKSON’S STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
We utilize Dr. Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development in order to assess which stage a child is in.
For children ages 0 to 12, this can be divided into four different stages of development:
Infancy, which is from birth up to 18 months;
Early childhood, which represents 18 months up to 3 years;
Play age, which is when your child is between 3 to 5 years old;
And finally, school age, which spans from 6 to 12 years old.
During the infancy phase, it is extremely important to place a “big emphasis on visual content and touch.”
Throughout this stage, your infant learns to place their trust in the world.
That means if their needs go unmet, they might develop a sense of mistrust towards the world.
CHILD PARENT PSYCHOTHERAPY
This is why Child Parent Psychotherapy can be a vital and important way to approach your child’s mental health needs.
Throughout the early childhood phase, your child masters some of the basic actions of life, including talking, walking, eating, and learning how to use the toilet.
Your child gains autonomy in this stage as they learn how to complete tasks themselves.
However, if your child does not receive the proper support during this time, they can end up developing some negative traits, like self-doubt, and low self-esteem.
During the play phase of life, your child mainly experiments by playing and tries to understand the role that adults hold in the world.
They will also begin to question almost everything they see and hear.
So parents, stay on your toes!
It’s also important to recognize that children generally create their own situations when playing.
However, during this stage, there can be a point where children are confused or do not understand their “natural desires and goals,” which can lead to feelings of guilt.
Finally, throughout the school age, your child will “[develop] a sense of industry” by acquiring novel skills and gaining new knowledge that they will use throughout their lives.
Most of their interactions and time will be spent with their peers at school.
Due to these outside interactions, they could potentially develop feelings of inferiority compared to their fellow classmates, which can give rise to issues surrounding self-esteem.
In addition to these developmental theories, we must think about the impact of external factors such as a child’s home environment, community, and school setting.
These outside factors impact the framework of a child’s personality, symptoms, and behaviors.
At My LA Therapy, our therapists have extensive training in child and adolescent development and we customize our approach to your child’s specific needs and gifts.
When working with youth, we implement a range of research-based, empirically proven techniques, specific to your child’s developmental phase, in order to ensure that their therapy will be the most effective for them.
Let’s take a further deep dive into our therapeutic techniques.
AGES & STAGES DEVELOPMENTAL ASSESSMENT
Two of the most common questions we get from parents are “Is my child normal?” and “Should I worry?”
In order to help ease anxiety and provide insight into these questions, we use an important tool called the Ages and Stages Developmental Assessment.
This assessment can be performed in 1-2 sessions and will give parents a detailed analysis of their child’s level of functioning across five domains: Communication, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Problem-Solving, and Personal-Social.
The communication domain evaluates the child’s ability to express how they feel, what they are thinking, and how they talk with others.
The gross motor domain includes physical skills such as walking, jumping, and running, hand-eye coordination, riding a bike, or swimming.
The fine motor domain involves reaching for and grasping objects, using pencils, and any other skills that use the fingers and hands.
The problem-solving domain encompasses ways that children think about and understand the world around them, and how they solve problems and make important decisions.
Finally, the personal-social domain includes any skills that children use to take care of themselves, including washing their hands, and skills they use to interact with people around them.
This is a fun and interactive assessment that will examine how your child is functioning and additionally identify any areas of concern.
If we see any areas of concern pop up on the assessment, we will formulate a detailed treatment plan for you.
This plan will give you tools and at-home play assignments to help strengthen your child’s functioning in that particular area.
ART AND PLAY THERAPY
You’ve probably noticed we mention the word “play” a lot in this section.
But it’s important for you to know that this play has a purpose.
We incorporate lots of art and play into children’s therapy because young kids communicate better this way.
Quite often, young children don’t yet have the ability to verbalize abstract emotions through standard talk therapy.
Integrating art, play, behavior, verbal, and non-verbal body language also allows us to take a multi-faceted and comprehensive view of the child’s psychology in order to provide the most effective treatment.
Learn more about our empirically based therapy modalities by visiting our Methods page.
WANT TO TALK? SPEAK WITH A CHILD EXPERT NOW
If you have any questions, contact one of our child therapy specialists for a free consultation any time.