What is talk therapy?
All kinds of people go to therapy. Therapy can be a big step to living the best and healthiest life possible. Mental health counselors help their clients resolve challenges with their behavior, beliefs, feelings or relationships. Clients have meetings with a counselor to talk about these problems and more. The counselor will ask questions and listen to you. The goal of therapy is to learn to cope better, communicate better, and live better. The objective of therapy is about personal growth rather than a diagnosis of what is ‘wrong’ with the client.
People of all ages go to therapy to live happier, healthier, and more productive lives. A lot of people prefer to go to therapy because they want a neutral, supportive and non-judgmental person who is “on their side.”
But a counselor is more than just a good listener. All of our pre-licensed therapists have the skills and professional training to use research-based strategies to help their clients develop more effective habits, work through problems no matter the size, and cope with challenges in your child’s life.
Therapy can have many different purposes. Sometimes counselors help their clients become more aware of their thoughts and feelings. Together, the client and counselor may consider the feelings neutrally in order to decide whether the thoughts and feelings are rational and determine their origins. Then they can evaluate strategies to change their thoughts or develop healthier reactions to them. Note that therapy is not about dismissing your child’s feelings, but rather helping them feel better as they navigate their feelings.
Why go to therapy?
People from all walks of life go to therapy. It is not true that something is inherently wrong with a person if they go to therapy. People go to therapy to fulfill their potential and achieve success as they define it.
People often choose to go to therapy when life gets overwhelming. Teens and children can have problems that affect how they feel, act, and learn. Things don’t always easily get better on their own and it helps to talk about feelings, particularly if they are feeling alone. Therapy is a type of treatment for your problems that helps you work through problems and learn new skills. When your child spends time with a counselor, he/she can start to communicate better and feel better.
Often young people feel depression or anxiety. They can suffer from low self-esteem or struggle with relationships with their family or friends.
Parents of students in middle or high-school may also wish to help their child improve their attention, learning and focus. Or they may want them to decrease their anxiety, worries, or fear. People can use therapy to encourage healthy behaviors and habits, process painful emotions, improve relationships, and more.
In the process, your child will find their strengths and be able to see the good inside them.
A healthier and calmer mind is possible. Help is available for your child.
Therapy can help kids and teens cope through challenges like:
- Problems with family or parents
- Problems at school
- Problems with bullying, friends or relationships
- Problems with your health
Therapy can help your child resolve feelings like:
- Low self-esteem
What happens in therapy?
Your child’s counselor will be someone who listens to them, supports them, gives them feedback and models a healthy connection. The therapy profession has specific ethical guidelines that all counselors follow, including privacy requirements.
Your child will talk through feelings and solve problems with their counselor. The counselor will help them find their strengths and build healthy habits and thinking patterns. One of the benefits of having a counselor is that it is an example of a positive relationship model in their life and you can expect your child to feel encouraged by their counselor.
Meeting with caregiver
Before meeting with your child, the counselor will talk with you, the caregiver, about the needs and challenges that the child has. Then they will learn more about your child and the problem. They will share how they can help.
First meeting with child
After meeting with the caregiver, the counselor will meet with your child for the first time. All counselor appointments at Hopebound take place remotely through SimplePractice, our online counseling software. For the first meeting, the counselor will ask questions and listen to your child in order to learn more about their interpretation of their strengths and challenges.
After the first session, your child will continue to meet weekly with the counselor, through SimplePractice, throughout the remainder of the school year. The counselor will also meet with you, the caregiver, monthly.
During the sessions, your child will:
- Talk: They will practice putting feelings into words and talking about their experience. Using words instead of actions to express feelings will help your child act and feel their best. Practicing turning feelings into words helps people better understand how they feel.
- Solve problems: As they talk about your child’s feelings, the counselor can strategize with your child about how to solve problems that may be affecting them at school or home.
- Practice new skills: The counselor may help your child practice what they learned during the session such as through role plays.
- Do activities: Your child may learn activities to lower stress such as calm breathing techniques or fun games to better express themselves and break the ice.
Everything your child talks about during the therapy sessions is private and confidential. This information will not be shared with the caregivers, school or anyone else. There are some exceptions to this, particularly if the child is a threat to themselves or someone else or if the child talks about child abuse. The counselor will be required to share this information with other people who can provide a higher level of care
Does my child need therapy?
Counselors can help people with many different problems. For example, kids may be facing difficult challenges with:
- Family problems
- School problems
- Health problems
- Peer pressure
Of course, there does not need to be a specific problem before considering therapy. Some parents in our program say they simply would like their child to have someone to talk to outside of the family.
Some Common Reactions to These Problems:
There are several warning signs that can tell a caregiver that their child could benefit from therapy:
- Sleep changes
- Appetite changes
- Hygiene changes
- Losing interest in socializing or other activities they used to enjoy
- Not communicating as much
Symptoms of anxiety include feeling worried or nervous, being irritable or on edge, becoming easily tired, or struggling to concentrate. It can also lead to other problems like difficulty sleeping, headaches, stomach aches, and more.
It is normal for all people to feel anxious or worried sometimes, including children and teens. Often, anxiety helps people get their tasks done, like last-minute studying for a test and playing their best in a game. Anxiety can also keep people safe by helping them think about a risky situation they are in.
But for some young people, their anxiety is so intense and distracting that they cannot live their life to their full potential. Maybe anxiety gets in the way of their ability to maintain healthy relationships or to complete the everyday activities they would otherwise enjoy. At this point, outside help with a resource like a counselor can help.
Depression is feelings of sadness or loss of interest that lasts at least two weeks. The average age of onset of major depression is early teens, about fourteen or fifteen years old. The teen years are a time of change but extreme changes in behavior are a cause for concern. Children struggling with depression may show poorer performance in school, lose interest in friends and activities, and demonstrate strong negative emotions such as anger or guilt. Some warning signs of depression are less obvious such as acting sad or unenthusiastic, showing poor self-esteem, or losing concentration.
It is important to confront symptoms of depression early because depression is a large risk factor for thoughts and attempts of suicide. If you or your child is having suicidal thoughts, please call your nearest emergency center.
Some people react to stress in their lives with anger. Of course, adolescence is a time of great physical, developmental, and emotional change and anger is a healthy emotion in some circumstances.
However, anger can be a problem. Anger can often mask other problems and be symptoms of anxiety or depression. A person feeling sadness, fear or shame may react with anger. When your child is verbally abusive or getting into physical fights, therapy may be a good option to help them work through their feelings.
Kids respond to difficult situations in a lot of different ways. Even if we didn’t discuss your child’s exact reaction and challenges here, therapy can often be a healthy response to life’s challenges.