From time to time, I will invite Dallas-area professionals who work with children to be guest bloggers. Amy Sheinberg, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who works with children, adolescents, and adults who struggle with ADHD, anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, behavioral difficulties, depression, eating disorders, emotional trauma, NVLD, relationship difficulties, and stress management. Dr. Sheinberg has been in private practice for over seventeen years and offices in the Preston Center area. I had the opportunity recently to ask her some questions about therapy with children and here are her answers.
Why would you send your child to therapy?
Just like adults, children can benefit from therapy. However, for some parents considering therapy for their child conjures up feelings of intense anxiety. It’s easy to jump to the worst-case scenario, instead of understanding what therapy truly entails. Rest assured, taking your child to a psychologist doesn’t mean she has significant issues that will plague her for the rest of her life. Instead, think of therapy as a tune-up, meant to help your child develop problem-solving skills that will help her in all areas of her life.
It’s not uncommon for children to need help dealing with school stress, such as homework, test anxiety, bullying, or peer pressure. They also may need help discussing their feelings about family issues, particularly if there is a major transition, a school change, a geographic move, a divorce, or a serious illness. Therapy can help children and their families cope with stress and a number of emotional and behavioral issues. It also teaches children the value of seeking help.
Emotional and Behavioral red flags
The list below, though not exhaustive, identifies issues that can be helped by a licensed psychologist or mental health professional. Realize that it is not uncommon for a child to have a brief episode of sadness or change in appetite, say if there is a death in the family, or some other circumstance. However, when a symptom persists or is severe, it is time to seek help.
Think about getting help for:
• Developmental delays • Learning or attention problems • Behavioral problems (such as excessive anger, aggression, acting out) • Regressive behavior or an eating disorder • A significant drop in grades • Episodes of sadness, tearfulness, and depression • Social withdrawal or isolation • Bullying or being bullied by others • Decreased pleasure or interest in previously enjoyed activities • Appetite changes (particularly in adolescents) • Insomnia or increased sleepiness • Excessive school absenteeism or tardiness, mood swings • Signs of alcohol or substance abuse • Difficulties with transitions • Bereavement (grief) issues • Custody evaluation and trauma (abuse or following a traumatic event)
How will I know if my child needs to see a therapist?
As adults, we take it for granted, but identifying a feeling and then sharing it with someone else is a sophisticated skill. With many years’ experience, some adults can talk openly about sadness or stress. However, younger kids simply react to stress – and you as a parent will not get a heads up. A child can seem withdrawn, worried, stressed, irritable, and tearful.
So trust your instincts! If your child is having trouble coping or seems to have an emotional and/or behavioral problem, seek help. Much like you might turn to your pediatrician to help diagnose and treat a physical illness or even corroborate your intuition, a psychologist can help determine the severity of the emotional and behavioral disturbance and offer suggestions and treatment. We live in a time that is much more open to counseling than our parents’ generation. There is no stigma associated with getting professional help for your child. In fact, you could be doing more harm by NOT getting help.
*More about types of therapy and how to select a therapist coming next week.
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