Colorado Natural Medicine and Acupuncture offers all of our services to adults as well as children. These services include Art Therapy for children ages 4 to 12 by our Art Therapist, Tonja Graves.
As adults, we tend to think of childhood as a carefree time of play and laughter. One may assume that children are resilient to most things or are not even aware of difficult issues that may be going on around them at school or at home.
Is my child old enough for therapy?
Yes. The CDC reported that 1 in 5 children between the ages of 3 and 17 had a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder. The number of children (under age 18) in the United States today is 74.2 million, and only about 20% ever receive treatment.
Studies also are showing that young children have much more complex emotions than researchers originally thought.
Early intervention can make all the difference for your children. Close to 50 percent of the cases of mental illness begin by age 14 (according to the American Psychiatric Association).
How to find a child therapist
There are many types of therapy or counseling for children. These include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
These, along with other types of child therapy techniques, are options if you are concerned about the health of your child. If you are not sure what type of therapy would work best for your child, set up a few consultations and see whom your child is the most comfortable around. Also, consider how your child communicates. Does your child love to talk, or do they prefer time to themselves? Many children ages 4 to 12 enjoy art (drawing, painting, scribbling, etc.) as a way to express themselves or communicate.
How do I know if my child needs therapy/counseling?
As parents and caretakers, we are keenly aware of changes in our children’s behavior. Are those changes part of growing up, or are they something different? You may need to contact a child therapist if your child is experiencing the following symptoms:
Persistent Sadness / Anger
Difficulty Sleeping / Sleep Disturbances
Changes in Appetite
Emerging Obsessive Habits
Frequent Stomachaches / Headaches
Losing Interest in Favorite Things
These symptoms can be signs of mental distress along with other changes in behavior.
How long does my child need to be in therapy?
Some children may need ongoing therapy, and others may require a limited number of sessions. Sometimes it is also the parents who need support for a child’s particular struggles. Children’s therapists often work with loving, caring parents who just need a little help as they coach their children through growing pains.
I’ve talked with my child; they said nothing is wrong.
Symptoms are hard to see, especially for family members who are closest to the children. So as a parent or caregiver, you may not notice symptoms of mental illness or distress. Children trying to cope with trauma or stress can show different signs than an adult.
Young children have complex emotions, and even 2-year-old tantrums, depending on the severity, can be an early sign of mental health issues like depression. Teen / Preteen depression often shows up as them feeling irritable rather than sad.
My child won’t go to a therapist
Therapists are neutral ground. Many times children will open up to their therapist and unload weeks, months, or even years of issues they’ve been hiding from their parents. There are a number of reasons why this can happen, but the reasons aren’t as important as the healing that can occur during those sessions.
If your child is anxious about the idea of going to see a children’s therapist, offer a simple, short meeting at first. Your child’s therapist will help you to set this up.
The stigma of children’s therapy
Our society continues to work toward erasing the stigma of therapy. In the past, there has been a cultural medal-of-honor given to ourselves and our children for hiding pain. Stop crying, no more tantrums, you’re fine, that’s enough whining, no hitting, don’t act like a baby—these are some of the statements made to others or ourselves.
Sound familiar? These days we’re all working harder to help children feel their emotions and work through them. Why? Because, as adults, we’ve learned the hard way that all of those repressed emotions grow to affect every aspect of our lives. We also see the soaring rates of mental health issues for teens, and we’re looking for answers.
Crazy, weird, mental, unhinged, weak, failure—these are some of the descriptors that can keep an individual from therapy. Judgment from other parents, peers, a partner, or from oneself can keep an individual from seeking therapy. You can see why we get stuck with our own emotional baggage and why children can get stuck with theirs.
Strong, brave, thriving, unique, bold, grit—these are some of the words society is beginning to embrace when we talk about self-care such as counseling or therapy.
I’m interested . . . and nervous
The stigma of therapy is real, but it’s changing. Giving your child the tools to cope with the world around them is priceless. Taking your child to a therapist or counselor is an act of courage—not weakness—and is an invaluable investment in your child’s future.
Looking for an alternative to traditional therapy for children? Our Art Therapist, Tonja Graves, specializes in supporting clients between the ages of 4 and 12 and would be happy to meet with you.