Doing what is in the best interest of your children is always a priority as a parent. If you notice them struggling, it is instinctual to do everything in your power to fix it. So what do you do when your child is struggling emotionally? Therapy has always been a great option and an obvious choice, but of course it’s a little more intricate than just sending your child to any therapist. In order to make sure your child is receiving the most beneficial help they can get, you need to know how to choose an effective child therapy that will take their specific needs into consideration during treatment.
How to Choose an Effective Child Therapy
One issue that is often brought to Dr. Jacob Boney, Owner and Clinical Director of Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services, is that of parents seeking therapy recommendations for their child. When a parent initially calls, Dr. Jacob will hear some version of:
“My child doesn’t seem happy. They seem really anxious or it seems like they may have some depression symptoms. You’re a behavioral therapist, so, what type of therapy would be good for my child? How do I know what kind of therapy to get? How do I know what to look for in a provider?”
In order to understand and answer these questions, it’s essential to know more about the different types of effective child therapy and how depending on your child, certain ones will be more successful. We’ve laid out three general types of therapy for children, and how to decide which one will be the most beneficial for them considering aspects such as their age, skills, and behaviors.
Types of Child Therapy
There are three general areas of therapy for children:
- Play Therapy
- CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Intensive Behavioral Therapy
Each has its own strengths, and each fits a specific patient population really well. There are several different factors you should take into consideration when choosing a therapy that will best fit your child’s needs. Each general area of therapy caters to certain needs, and what works for one child might not be in the best interest of another. Doing your research is an important step in the process of selecting which path will lead to the most successful outcome for your child.
What is play therapy?
Play Therapy uses the language of play to assess, analyze, and treat children’s issues. This method is based on the premise that children know how to best express themselves and understand the world through actions of play. This form of therapy is very experiential and everything takes place “in the moment”. It is especially good for younger children without more developed vocabulary and language skills, and is recommended for emotional types of issues, like anxiety and depression. Adjustment issues, like how a child is handling divorce of parents, trauma, abuse or neglect, can be very effectively addressed through play therapy.
What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) analyzes and assesses cognitive and behavioral patterns. This method determines maladaptive patterns and comes up with more appropriate behavior replacements. CBT is commonly referred to as “talk therapy” and does involve a lot of languages, considerably more than play therapy, which is why that method is considered more effective child therapy for younger children. This type of therapy is not just process oriented but involves inside and outside awareness, meaning that things that happen outside the session are also discussed. Children who are highly verbal, have more advanced insight, and the ability to self-correct tend to do well with this method.
What is intensive behavioral therapy?
Intensive Behavioral Therapy, the method used by Dr. Boney, is based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), which as we have discussed before, is not a type of therapy but rather a field of science. This method can be used for any age group, although when there are significant behavior issues before the age of 2, there is often a bio-medical component that needs to be addressed first. Patients are treated on the basis of behavioral excesses and behavioral deficits, without there being the need for a lot of talking or insight. Dr. Boney believes this to be the best treatment method to change behavioral issues, although not necessarily for those related to trauma, abuse, and neglect. While it can be effective for those also, children need a form of expression and outlet for those types of issues.
ABA selects a target behavior or group of target behaviors and focuses on implementing environmental interventions to increase and sustain changes in positive behavior, and decrease and sustain changes in the negative behaviors. This method is great for kids with significant skill deficits and significant behavioral excesses.
Parents should take age into consideration when deciding what type of therapy to choose. For younger children, play therapy or ABA-based may be the best choice. If your child is insightful and has considerable verbal skills, then cognitive behavioral therapy might provide the most benefit. Then, ask yourself how serious are the behavioral issues. If there seems a reasonable cause for having difficulty adjusting to something, then play or CBT may be more appropriate. If, however, there are a lot of excesses and deficiencies, then behavioral therapy is going to be the most effective choice.
There are obviously various options when it comes to choosing the most effective child therapy, including a combination of those discussed. For example, some parents consult with Dr. Boney to learn behavioral options while their child is also involved with play therapy or CBT. Utilizing evidence-based practices and the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, the Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services team provides assessment, treatment, and consultation for a wide range of behavioral issues. We work with a variety of children, families, schools, hospitals, mental health agencies, and local community organizations to provide these services. If you have any questions about what would be the most effective child therapy for your child or to benefit from a free consultation, please feel free to contact us by phone at 480.410.4040, email us at [email protected], or click here for our convenient online form. We also encourage you to come tour our facility today to see how you and your child can benefit from our spacious individual therapy rooms, training and multi-purpose room, and more.