You may have been asking yourselves for awhile: “When is it time to think about taking my child to a therapist?”
Children are constantly “on-the-grow!” THAT makes it easy to try to wait-and-see. When the wait-and-see gets long, that’s when I get the call: “I think my child needs to see a therapist!”
Does your child:
• Cry often or hit and yell at peers at school?
• Express fear at bedtime and miss important hours of sleep (as do you)?
• Get nattered at by teachers to “Pay attention!”…”Finish your work!”
• Strongly prefer isolating activities, such as video-gaming, to real-time interaction with friends and, especially important, you?
• Express through behavior need for control (e.g., through perfectionism, poor sportsmanship, avoidance of risk, challenge of rules, etc.)?
THERE IS THERAPY FOR THAT!
You may come across professionals who are trained as adult clinicians, but who see “all ages.” Consider the benefit of working with a clinical psychologist whose primary training and focus is with the children you entrust to her care.
My approach is child- and family-friendly. I do not ascribe to a particular technique, but I try to tailor my interventions to the needs. What I value for you is better communication, understanding, and collaboration between you and your children.
So, typically, how I work is a first appointment with one or both parents and your youngster. It often is quite enlightening for each of you to hear what the other knows and believes. Generally, this session is followed by a series of individual therapy sessions with your child, along with a family component, so that we can explore and understand the underlying issues and help your child develop skills for Life. In all things, however, I try to model flexibility – this is a most important end-goal in all the work I do.
Flexibility in the way we see situations, in our expectations for the outcome, and in our response is a key feature of a resilient way of being in the world!
Your teen is designed to constantly evolve into the independent resilient hunter/gatherer he/she is meant to be. Sometimes this goes off without too many hitches. If your child is lucky enough to move through childhood securely attached and consistently experiencing a trusting, protective relationship with parents, then we have a teen who we can be pretty certain will “return to base” (parents!) for help with stress at school or with friends FIRST.
For reasons often out of our control, children are growing up these days more anxious and more isolative than that trajectory assumes! Perhaps because their parents also are wrestling with a more complicated life than ever before and experience/express their own stress, our children often grow into their teens “deciding” that they should take care of their own problems and anxieties and not “burden” us with their stress!
So, you might encounter one of the following experiences:
• one where your reasonably relational teen begins to be more assertive/challenging as they approach “launching” – as if to “leap” into adulthood without acknowledging the poignant passage away from your nurturant care. (Hah! And saving you from that sadness as well!)
• one where your teen is secretive, isolative, and sometimes managing stress in unhealthy ways, again, rather than coming to you for help!
• one where your teen who seems to be moving through high school on a normal trajectory toward independence takes a nose-dive around 11th grade and, suddenly, seems to be sabotaging that effort!
All of these patterns, and others related to becoming one’s own “self” cause dilemmas in the family and can be an appropriate point of contact for individual and family therapy with a Clinical Psychologist! When your teen works with me, we are exploring and documenting the range of feelings – known and anticipated – and building skills for resilience in tackling new and challenging tasks, where failure and “do-overs” are a given, and where stress management strategies are learned and practiced. When we have an opportunity to add in family therapy, we build the emotional bridge between the gaps in your growing up-and-out experiences and your ability to support your teens as they grow “up-and-out” in healthy and resilient ways!