Child psychotherapy is a psychodynamically-based assessment and treatment approach that works with children and adolescents who experience difficulties in their emotional, social, and behavioural development. A child psychotherapeutic focus is on children’s inner feelings and understandings, and how they see and experience their environment. Through careful observation and direct respectful dialogue with the child, patterns that are interfering with healthy development are identified. The underlying meanings of these patterns of behaviour are sought and clarified.
The aim of child psychotherapy is to develop the child’s capacity for growth and development by establishing more appropriate ways of coping within their environment.
The work of child psychotherapy occurs within the context of the family and the wider environment, and uses a variety of approaches.
Child psychotherapy offers children a safe and trusting environment within which they are able to explore strong feelings such as fear, sadness, hurt, anger, anxiety, or confusion about themselves, their family, or other aspects of their lives.
Whereas adults find relief in talking over problems, children often cannot express their thoughts and feelings in words, so play and art forms are used. The therapeutic work takes place in a space well-equipped for this purpose. In order to facilitate this experience, the therapist, the room, and its contents remain consistent. As children become secure in the use of the playroom through their special relationship with the therapist, they gradually share their good and bad feelings through play, and come to understand their difficulties. In work with adolescents where language plays a larger part in communication, the environment is structured towards this difference.
In individual work, a secure, trusting relationship is established where confidences are respected. In this situation young people can gain understanding of their feelings and relationships and work towards personal change.
Psychotherapeutic work with parents is aimed at supporting the development of their understanding of family and child interactions and the need for change.
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