While it is normal for all children and teenagers to experience some outbursts, worries, anger, or sadness at times, I will work with you to determine whether your child or teen’s emotions and behavior are developmentally-typical or outside of the norm. The biggest sign that tells me therapy would be beneficial is when symptoms or big emotions are having a negative impact on your child’s functioning at home, school, or with their friends. Below are some issues that I specialize in treating:
Outbursts: Outbursts or temper tantrums tend to be signs that a child is struggling to maintain emotional regulation. We all experience anger, but sometimes children don’t know or have difficulty using safe tools to calm themselves down. Oftentimes there are lots of other emotions under the anger, such as frustration, sadness, or loneliness. I will work with your child to learn about various emotions, ways to appropriately express their emotions, and ways to calm themselves down so they can get their message across in a way that others will actually listen.
Trauma: Trauma is “any experience that undermines a person’s sense of safety and well-being, and gives him/her a distorted or negative belief about him- or herself or the world”(Trauma-Attachment Tangle, Joan Lovett). The same event can impact different individuals in wholly different ways. During my play and discussions with children and teenagers, we often identify an event that may have seemed insignificant to others, but had a big impact on the client’s perception of themselves. Therapists talk about “Big T” traumas that we usually associate with the word trauma, such as life-threatening experiences, serious injury, or witnessing violence. There is another kind of trauma, which we call “little t” trauma, that could be an event such as the death of a pet, bullying, a significant friendship ending, a bumpy plane ride, or a distressing doctor’s visit. By resolving the impact of these distressing events, we open the door for a child or teenager to experiences themselves and the world in a new way.
Anxiety: Anxiety shows itself in children and teenagers’ lives in a variety of ways. It can look like frequent worry, repetitive questions, or physical symptoms (stomach aches, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath). We all experience fear, which is a necessary emotion to keep us safe when there is a real danger. Anxiety is the presence of fear without any real danger. I have experience working with all different types of anxiety, such as separation anxiety, social anxiety, phobias, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, panic disorders, and test anxiety.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can manifest in a variety of ways but always includes obsessions and compulsions. An obsession is an intrusive thought, urge, or image that bothers a child/teenager. They then engage in a compulsion, which is a repetitive behavior or mental act, in an attempt to neutralize the obsession. It can be hard to identify OCD in children. An obsession could be the irrational thought that “My mom is going to get sick” or an intrusive image of the child hurting someone when they don’t want to. Compulsions aren’t always visible to a parent. While a compulsion could be having to repeatedly wash one’s hands or check that the door is locked, it could also be repetitively reciting a prayer in their head or having to count up to a certain number. The point of a compulsion is to reduce anxiety and while they may help a child’s anxiety in the short-term, over the long-term they actually strengthen the fear and cause difficulties in a child’s life.
I particularly specialize in treating OCD using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) which is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that is the gold standard treatment for OCD. Click here to learn more about ERP.
Depression: Depression in children and teenagers usually presents as irritability (feeling annoyed with everything). Since depression looks so different in children than adults, caregivers often find it difficult to identify exactly what is happening with their child when depression may be the issue. Other times, depression is more obvious and presents with symptoms like frequent sadness, sleep disruptions, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, or indecisiveness. I will work with you and your child/teenager to identify the core issues contributing to depressive symptoms. When we are able to address and resolve the root of the issue, depressive symptoms tend to fade away.
Attachment difficulties: A child’s relationship with their caregivers, the very first experience of a relationship they have ever had, teaches a child whether the world is a safe place and whether they can trust adults. A child with attachment difficulties may be difficult to soothe when distressed, not seek out parents for support when they need help, actively avoid caregivers or on the opposite end of the spectrum be quite clingy with caregivers, and/or show aggression. It is common for children who have been adopted or had stressful home lives as a young child to develop attachment difficulties. A child may also develop attachment issues if their caregiver was experiencing post-partum mental health issues early in the child’s life and while doing their best to care for themselves, had a hard time meeting all the physical and emotional needs of an infant. Therapy aimed towards improving attachment involves both child and caregiver to address early deficits and build a strong relationship in the present moment.
Social Skills: When a child has difficulty making or keeping friends, it can have a big impact on their quality of life. When a child begins to experience social difficulties, they may refuse school because it is no longer enjoyable or experience big emotions related to their difficulties interacting with peers. I work with children to explore barriers to making/keeping friends, then use skill-building, reading developmentally-appropriate books about social skills, and practice in session to improve the quality of their social lives.
Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.