Children & Therapy

It has become common to discuss mental health among adults, but what about children’s mental health? Just like adults, children experience hardships and can struggle to make sense of things on their own. When children have problems, they cannot handle on their own, therapy can help because it can give them a safe place to voice their feelings and build new skills that will enable them to work out their problems. 

According to Berkeley.edu, a child’s brain operates twice as fast as an adult’s brain. This speed at which their brain operates enables them to encounter problems and begin to solve those problems. Children are also more likely to be inquisitive and experiment with things especially when it comes to learning something new.  

An extraordinary example of child development comes in the form of Einstein. When he was a child his language development was so far behind that his parents consulted a doctor. His parents gave him two tools: a compass and a violin. The compass sparked his interest in science, and the violin was another object that challenged his brain. These two objects helped to progress his brain development as a child by introducing problem solving techniques.  

Similarly, to the compass and the violin that Einstein was given, therapy can act as that tool to help children learn how to further their problem-solving skills.  

There are many methods of therapy that can be chosen for children. One of those options is a family session or parent-child interaction. During a family session various stressor that prevent a family from being able to function are addressed. Parent-child interaction is similar. This method specifically focuses on addressing a behavior that the child is expressing such as aggression by improving both the child’s social skills and communication between the parent and child.  

Another method is play therapy. With this method, a therapist uses various media to interact with the child. This media can include but is not limited to storytelling, music, drawing, and games. The main goal is to create an environment where the child can express and work through their feelings.  

It is appropriate to consider taking children to therapy when they have problems that they can’t deal with on their own and when these problems affect their ability to function from day to day.  

Anxiety and depression are two issues that children may struggle with. Changes in an environment can be the cause of anxiety or depression.  

Anxiety in children can manifest in a variety of situations. For example, a child who consistently clings to their parent when their parent is trying to drop them off at a daycare or school or a child who seems to overreact over what seems to be nothing could be displaying signs of anxiety. Separation anxiety, social anxiety, and phobias are typically the most common in children. 

Depression is a mood disorder that is typically diagnosed if symptoms last longer than two weeks, but it is treatable. Like adults, it is normal for children to experience ups and downs. Depression is different from those ups and downs. It affects how a person deals with everyday life. 

In children, many cases of depression have been linked to cases of anxiety. Sometimes cases of depression or anxiety are dismissed as a natural effect that comes with growing up; however, if there is any concern that a child has anxiety or depression it should be discussed with a health professional. 

As for anything the healing time can vary from individual to individual; however, according to the American Psychological Association, most people recover on average in 15-20 sessions.  

In research, the possibility of a mental health crisis among children consistently resurfaced. This mental health crisis is mostly due to COVID-19. According to KFF.org, there were more reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, and psychological stress during the pandemic. Students who had to move to online learning also suffered from worsened mental health especially compared to students who were learning in person. While many schools are currently back to in person learning, it is impossible to ignore the potential long-lasting effect on mental health in young people during COVID-19. 

The pandemic changed many aspects of society; one of those aspects was health care. In 2020, in person doctor visits dropped significantly. The use of telemedicine, which is the use of online health services, increased, but that was not enough to replace the amount of money that would have been made from in person visits.  

This shift in how people handled their healthcare caused a shift in the whole healthcare system. One of these shifts was the expansion of Telehealth, which helped to provide some with care they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Relief such as the American Rescue Plan Act furthers previous relief from the government by providing financial support for children to receive the mental health care that they need. Aside from monetary help, there are resources such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Child Mind Institute, and many other organizations who have websites that provide accurate and reliable information.  

While the current circumstances have definitely changed than what they were before 2020, one thing hasn’t changed: the importance of mental health even in children. Mental health is vital to a child’s development, and there are resources to do research or contact licensed professionals if a child ever shows a reason to be concerned for their mental health. 

Signs that should concern parents when it comes to their child’s metal health.  

  1. Mood changes such as extreme sadness that lasts for extended periods of time 
  1. Social withdrawal 
  1. Extreme behavior usually in the form of outbursts  
  1. Self-harm  

Written by Carissa Zaun

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