Therapists often receive calls from concerned parents wondering if their child needs therapy. In most cases, it’s difficult to make that determination over the phone, but after an initial meeting, a further assessment may be possible. During that first session, a therapist will listen and watch for several things such as certain behaviors or a mention of any changes in the child or adolescent’s life.
Children most often express their emotions through their behavior. They don’t have the cognitive ability or the emotional vocabulary to express themselves as adults do. Parents may notice a sudden, pervasive, and worrisome change in behavior when a child is experiencing difficulties. For example, a child may begin to have reoccurring nightmares or become less social and more withdrawn. Despite every intervention a parent has attempted, these behaviors persist and sometimes worsen. These worrisome behaviors are unusual considering the age of the child or adolescent and are displayed at home, at school, or both. For example, tantrums or anxiety in an older child when separating from a caregiver may be of concern, but a therapist can help.
It is also important to note that subtle behaviors or changes in behavior may be missed by adults. The boy who has difficulty staying in his seat at school may be seen as “just a boy,” or the girl who will not participate in social activities at recess is told by others that she will simply outgrow it. While these behaviors alone may not indicate a psychological issue, the full picture may tell us something different. Furthermore, if your child has recently been diagnosed or the presence of a mental health disorder has been questioned by another professional, it is crucial to consult with a therapist quickly because early intervention leads to more favorable outcomes.
There are also times where further assessment is needed more urgently. If your child makes statements or gestures related to harm to self or others, it is imperative that it be taken seriously. Immediate follow-up with a professional is recommended. Very often, after the initial assessment, a child or adolescent will require continued treatment. In many cases, the child or adolescent is expressing their difficulties by making these very serious threats.
Another situation that may require a child or adolescent to enroll in therapy is any known life event or major change. For example, a child who has experienced a loss, a trauma (suspected or known), or a change in the family such as divorce may benefit from talking with a therapist. A consultation with a trained professional will help you make the best decision for your family and guide you through a difficult time.
It never hurts to have your child or adolescent assessed by a professional. Trust your parental gut, and if you think something warrants further attention, reach out to us at Better Being. We are here to help you with support and individually tailored treatment.