Child Psychotherapy

Written by Rachel Arieff
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Child psychotherapy is a complex field, in part because childhood is perhaps one of the most intense and complex periods in human life. Children are subject to a whirlwind of changes that are physical, mental and emotional. All these changes can be confusing at minimum and traumatic at worst, even for mentally healthy children. Children with mental or emotional problems need extra help at this crucial time in their lives. Untreated psychological problems can have an detrimental impact on the rest of a child's life.

Child psychotherapy takes into account the special pressures that children face. These include anxiety over popularity, grades, and, as they become teenagers, their attractiveness. Children who come from families with financial troubles experience extra stress, worrying about basic needs such as food, shelter, and family stability. Other children may have a parent with an alcohol or drug addiction, or some kind of mental illness. Still others experience physical, mental, or sexual abuse. These all add undue stress on a child in a phase of development that's quite stressful to begin with.

Child Psychotherapy Challenges

Children's reactions to stress are as varied as those of adults. However, there are some common conditions, often arising as a reaction to stress, that need psychotherapeutic treatment. Child psychology has addressed some of these behaviors and disorders as attention deficit disorder (ADD), disruptive behavior, anxiety disorders, tic disorders such as Tourette's syndrome, and developmental disorders. In addition, schizophrenia and autism are more severe disorders that often manifest themselves in childhood.

Substance abuse and obsessive-compulsive behavior are on the rise in children today. These are often direct results of a child's exposure to psychological stress. Besides substance abuse, other self-destructive behaviors such as eating disorders, self-mutilation, and criminal activity often manifest themselves as outlets for the child's fears and other negative emotions. Child psychotherapy addresses these issues as well as others.


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