We provide caring and professional assessment services and therapy for children and compassionate support to parents. Click on the image to learn more about our Child Therapy services.
Sometimes children can benefit from therapy.
Therapy can help children to increase their problem-solving skills and learn the importance of asking for help.
Child Therapists can help children and families cope with stress and a variety of emotional and behavioral issues, and increase resilience for future challenges.
Many children need help dealing with school stress such as homework, test anxiety, bullying, or peer pressure. Others need help to discuss their feelings about family issues, particularly if there’s a major transition, such as a divorce, move, or serious illness.
Children may have been traumatized by transitioning into protective care, experiencing abuse, neglect, or grief.
Should My Child See a Therapist?
In some cases, it’s not as clear what’s caused a child to suddenly seem withdrawn, worried, stressed, sulky, or tearful. But if you feel your child might have an emotional or behavioral problem or needs help coping with a difficult life event, trust your instincts.
Sometimes children may have experienced significant life events that may increase their need for therapy such as:
- Parental Separation.
- Abuse or Neglect.
- Transitioning, such as a move.
- Grief following the death of a family member, friend, or pet.
- A major illness in the family can cause stress that might lead to problems with behavior, mood, sleep, appetite, and academic or social functioning.
Symptoms that may indicate that your child could benefit from therapy:
- Delay in achieving developmental milestones such as walking, talking, and potty training, and developmental disorders.
- Changes in behaviour, mood, sleep, appetite, academic, or social functioning.
- Sudden periods of withdrawing, anxiety, stress, anger, aggression, tearfulness, or sulky behaviour.
- Learning or attention problems (such as ADHD or FASD).
- Behavioral problems such as excessive anger, acting out, bedwetting, or eating disorders.
- Victimization or bullying other children.
- Decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities.
- Mood swings (for example extreme highs and lows)
- Increased physical complaints (such as headache, stomach ache, or not feeling well) despite a normal physical exam by their doctor.
- Signs of alcohol, drug, or other substance use.
- Poor self-esteem, relationship skills, job skills, and an inability to maintain personal safety.
- Self-injury, cutting, and suicide attempts (Go to your local health center).
Trauma – Focused CBT for Children:
When children experience trauma it can be difficult to know where to begin to help them begin to trust again. Trauma-focused CBT has been studied for its effectiveness in helping children who have survived trauma to feel less shame, depression, and anxiety. Studies showed that after CBT behaviours were better for over two years.
We use trauma-focused CBT with the family to keep the parents connected and involved in their child’s care. We focus on the parents’ concerns for their child and on how to talk to the child about what has happened, and how to go forward. Studies show that parents who were treated with CBT have less depression, grief about the abuse, and more confidence in how to support and relate to their child after therapy. We can build resilience in your family to plan for and bounce back from future stressors together.
Symptoms of Trauma in Children
Emotional Trauma Symptoms such as fear, anger, depression, and difficulty managing mood changes are common in child trauma survivors.
Children may generalize their trauma and feel unsafe and on guard resulting in anxiety and appearing to grow up quickly, and be described as “old beyond their years”.
They may distrust people and show little hope for the future and feelings of little worth.
Behavioural Trauma Symptoms may include avoiding trauma reminders to protect themselves from pain which may be shown in refusal of situations or paces and it can be generalized to other stressors, until normal development may be interrupted. When avoidance is ineffective in relieving their pain, a child may become emotionally numb.
Another behavioural symptom of trauma may be poor coping behaviours such as using anger or violence to get their way, or eliciting sexualized behaviours if they have been sexually abused.
Children who have been abused may bond with those who in control in an effort to protect themselves and gain favour with those who may be in a position to abuse them.
Poor attachment may continue throughout the child’s life and children at an increased risk of substance abuse and self-injury.
Cognitive Trauma Symptoms may develop from irrational beliefs such as blaming themselves for the trauma, or for not foreseeing the trauma and protecting their sibs. They may also justify abuse by believing they are not worthy of a safe home, in an effort to preserve their idea that the world should be fair. Blaming the perpetration for the trauma may be painful for children who love the ones who abuse them. Sometimes children may believe that no one is trustworthy so attachment is further impaired. Unhelpful thoughts put children at risk for anxiety and depression.
Psychobiological Impact of Trauma in Children
Trauma causes structural changes to the brain including lower IQ, poorer grades, and decreased brain size.
Traumatized children also have higher pulses and blood pressure, increased tension, and hypervigilance.
Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can reduce children’s symptoms, increase functioning, and improve quality of life.
Symptoms of Grief in Children
When children experience grief we look for the following symptoms:
Guilt about things the child believes they could have done differently at the time of the death.
Feelings that the child would be better off dead with the loved one.
Fascination with worthlessness, and a lack of personal significance.
Delays in mobility or increased response time to comply with instructions.
The belief that the child is hearing the voice of or seeing the deceased loved one.
These symptoms may become more severe if the child has unresolved grief and previous trauma.
Previous trauma may leave the child who experiences grief with additional symptoms of:
Avoidance of reminders of the loved one or the death.
Detachment and emotional numbing.
Hyperarousal such as an easy startle reflex, extreme anger, and bitterness.
When there is both trauma and grief symptoms treatment begins with trauma therapy before addressing the grief because their symptoms of avoiding trauma reminders and feeling numb may interfere with healing from grief. Later work can be done to help the child get “unstuck” and grieve the death of a loved one.
Protective Factors include parental support, community support, and the parent’s overall level of functioning can reduce the long term effects of trauma and grief.
Some children may show only minimal difficulties after trauma while others may develop overwhelming problems so treatment must be tailored to the individual.
What to expect if your child begins Therapy:
A history or profile can be completed online prior to the intake session and it will include information on the child’s history in the family, foster care, and school.
There will be questions about the child’s biological, psychological, and social factors including social support and interests. We will ask if there has been a recent physical to see if there are any physical symptoms such as changes in appetite, activity level, or sleep and if they may have physical causes. Once physical causes for behaviour have been ruled out we can begin to assess the psychological aspects that are affecting the child’s behaviour.
We will ask you to complete a consent form which explains that client confidentiality can be breached when requested by the court, when a client is in danger, or when the client may be a threat to another person.
The intake appointment will give me the opportunity to get to know the child and begin to establish a therapeutic relationship. The effectiveness of therapy is determined by the strength of the relationship which is largely built in the first few sessions. Often assessments to determine the child’s strengths and interests will be scheduled so that goals for therapy can be decided upon together. Art or play therapy will be used to help the child be comfortable, and materials will be visible when they enter the room to distract them from the awkwardness of learning to know an adult as well as to put them at ease and break the ice.
Second Meeting Assessment Phase
The assessment begins with the exchange of information between the child, their caregivers, and the therapist. Therapeutic techniques will be used to assess the needs of the child. Evaluative tools, such as written tests and clinical interviews are very important to determine the specific needs of the family. The assessment process begins with intake and is ongoing throughout the entire counseling process.
Case Conceptualization and Treatment Plan
The treatment plan is developed between the child, caregivers and child therapist to identify and rank problems in order of importance, as well as decide on short and long term treatment goals. Treatment often begins with weekly sessions for the first three-four months, then twice a month sessions. Most therapy lasts nine to twelve months and may include family members or some member of their support system.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Children Focuses on addressing the following problems:
Cognitive Problems: Negative thought patterns and distortions are identified and addressed, for example self-blame after abuse and worrying about the worst case scenario. Negative thoughts can be replaced with more positive ones.
Relationship Problems: Social skills, problem-solving, coping, healthy interpersonal relationships, and attachment are addressed.
Affective Problems: Sadness, anxiety, anger, fear, and inability to self-sooth are targeted.
Family Problems: Parenting skills, communication skills, bonding, family functioning, and relationship sabotage are examined.
Trauma Behaviour Problems: Avoiding trauma reminders, aggressive behaviours, conduct disorders, self-harm, and unsafe behaviours are addressed.
Somatic Problems: Sleep, physical tension symptoms, hyperarousal, headaches, stomach complaints and other physical symptoms are addressed.