It’s never easy to decide whether or not your child needs counseling. Oftentimes, even when there is a clear indication that a child needs therapy – trauma or abuse, destructive behavior towards themselves or others, dealing with death, grief or loss – parents grapple with the question of whether the potential benefits of therapy outweigh the negative stigma and subsequent loss of self-esteem that may manifest as a result of putting a child into counseling.
THE WHOLE STIGMA THING
Let me be clear: children are highly unaware of any negative stigma associated with counseling. This stigma is learned in adolescence and adulthood, so as long as parents do not project this awareness onto their children, the negative stigma should be a non-issue. In fact, many troubled children welcome the prospect of speaking privately with a non-parental adult, where the threat of “getting in trouble” is eliminated.
However, non-issue or not, parents should strive for a more realistic understanding of why people go to therapy. The majority of people who seek counseling don’t, in fact, suffer from a serious mental illness. Rather, most are struggling to cope with difficult life transitions, resulting in an inability to function at maximum capacity. Career-related stressors, financial challenges, health issues, divorce or separation, grief and loss, parenting – these are just a few of the circumstances in which counseling can provide support while helping individuals to develop the emotional, mental and physical tools they need to better address life’s challenges.
Data shows that up to 46% of children and teens meet the criteria for a mental health issue, but that less than 50% of children actually receive mental health services, such as therapy or counseling, for these issues. That being said, there are still both pros and cons to putting your child into therapy.
THE PROS AND CONS OF CHILD COUNSELING
1. Counseling better equips children to deal with life on life’s terms; they know that professional help is available to them when they are struggling
2. Children will be better able to communicate clearly with adults and peers
3. Children learn how to express themselves via healthy channels, especially when they engage in play therapy, art therapy or music therapy
4. Children learn to talk about and process their feelings, rather than bury and ignore them
1. Therapy or child counseling can be pricey
2. It requires parents to commit their time and resources to getting their child to and from a counselor’s office
3. If your child is introverted, or suffers form severe phobias or anxiety, symptoms may get worse before they get better, given that the underlying issues behind the presenting issue are being addressed
SO, DOES YOUR CHILD NEED COUNSELING?
Being open to the idea of child counseling is a great first step. Knowing how to determine whether your child needs counseling is next. Monitor your child for the following warning signs:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger, worry, anxiety or fear
- Anger, coupled with a tendency to overreact to everyday situations
- Obsession with an illness or physical appearance; obsessive dieting
- Sudden drop in grades or performance in school, or loss of interest in activities or hobbies
- Isolating from friends and family
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns; sleeping or eating too much or too little
- Inability to concentrate, think clearly, or sit still
- Violent acts towards self, others or animals
- Mention of suicide or suicidal thoughts
Please know that if your child does exhibit any of these symptoms, he or she is not damaged for life. The earlier a child’s behavioral issues are addressed, the better the chances that he or she will develop into a well-adjusted, healthy adolescent or adult. The thought that your child will “grow out of” their mental health issues is naive and, oftentimes, dangerous. It is better to proactively engage your child in counseling than assume he or she will change without intervention.
Your child’s issues are neither due to their own personal weakness, nor to your bad parenting. However, as a parent, offering support and care as they deal with their issues is absolutely crucial.
CONTACT CREATIVE COUNSELING CENTER
Creative Counseling Center specializes in child counseling, specifically play therapy and art therapy. If you are debating the value of bringing your child to a therapist, we are happy to answer any questions and explain how counseling may improve your child’s issues – whatever they may be. To contact us, just fill out the brief form below and a member of our team will be in touch shortly!