Children and Psychotherapy
Children as young as 5 years old can be helped by psychotherapy. Families contact me because their child has begun acting up: more temper tantrums, not wanting to go to sleep (“One more glass of water, mom!”), regression in toilet training, etc. Young children act up when they are afraid or under stress.
I begin by meeting with the family. Then, based on our discussion of the situation, I either work with the parents alone or I meet with the child in individual sessions and with parents separately to provide guidance and support.
Children can benefit from psychotherapy even though, unlike adults, they cannot always speak of what bothers them. Instead, they will play out their fears. A child who has just been to the doctor will often cope with his or her anxiety by taking the role of the doctor with a favorite toy animal. When I work with young children, I use toys to help me understand the source of their difficulty. I speak to the child via the toy play.
I am trained as a child psychotherapist and psychoanalyst but not as a child psychiatrist, so I cannot prescribe medication for children. I will refer to a child psychiatrist if, based on my evaluation, medication would be useful in treating the child.
Adolescence is probably the most difficult time of life both for the adolescent and his or her family. Adolescents are in the process of detaching themselves from their families. This leaves them without the external guidance provided by the parents they used to admire and rely on. At the same time, the adolescent is feeling the pressure of having to negotiate a future career and relationships.
When I work with adolescents, I generally meet with them individually before meeting with the parents. I proceed this way because it is crucial for the adolescent to feel he or she can trust the therapist and that the therapist is not an agent of the parent. After I meet with the adolescent a few times, I meet with the parents to get their point of view and provide my ideas on how to proceed.