Children's first language is play. Long before the brain develops the ability to speak, children use play to explore the world and communicate with others. Children will play out important events over and over again until they have made sense of the event and gained some level of mastery. It’s what gives children a sense of power over themselves, their thoughts and feelings, and the world around them. This offers an opportunity to gain understanding and mastery of life's difficulties with the support of a play therapist trained to help the child throughout this process. This often leads to an improved ability to cope with frustration, decreases in anxiety and depression, improves behavior, and facilitates a greater understanding of thoughts and feelings.
Being a parent is one of the most challenging tasks life can ever hand you. It doesn’t come with a manual - and figuring it out is an ever-evolving process unique to each parent. Some common areas of parenting difficulty include: tantrums, sibling rivalry, lying, aggressive behavior, refusing to eat or eating too much junk food, and digital device addiction. When children present these revolving issues, it can bring about self-doubt in a parent. It’s easy to blame yourself for becoming angry or frustrated with the difficulties that raising children inevitably occur. If any of the above areas have given you cause for worry, working with a therapist can support your growth as a parent and build rapport with your little ones. This can pave the way for a much more effective and satisfying parenting experience.
Social anxiety, panic attacks, and general panic disorder present symptoms of overwhelm, racing heart, changes in digestion, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, or restlessness of varying severity. Anxiety is one of the most common disorders for which people seek therapy. Therapy is the first step to externalizing the thoughts and feelings causing anxiety which helps to calm the physical symptoms of unrelenting hypervigilance. Anxiety for an upcoming exam, job performance review, or first date are normal, demonstrate a level of concern for a situational outcome, and dissipate once the event is resolved. When anxiety is ever-present and begins to interfere with work performance, relationships, and social life for more than a few months, it’s time to seek help.
Depression presents itself with a variety of symptoms such as low-energy, a vague sense of impending doom, lack of interest in formerly enjoyable activities and can affect normal daily activities such as working, eating, and sleeping. If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it's time to seek treatment. Depression can stem from life events such as death, divorce, or loss of a job but often arises and persists with no specific catalyzing event. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Postpartum Depression are other forms of depression that are effectively treated with therapy. Therapy plays a crucial role in unpacking any hidden causes of depression and gives clients the tools needed to cope with and alleviate ongoing symptoms.
Blended Family Issues
The movies make it look so easy, but the reality of “instant” families isn’t always so storybook. Things like sibling rivalry and step-parent disciplining are challenging to navigate. Dealing with exes, scheduling conflicts, and making sure everyone gets enough attention are just a few of the unexpected issues that can arise in a newly formed family unit. With communication, time, and effort, integration is possible. The challenges that blended families face present just as many options for solutions. Exploring new bonds, boundaries, and relationship dynamics through therapy sets the stage for the best possible experience a recently blended family can embrace.
Low self-esteem manifests itself in a myriad of ways, including feeling bad about oneself which leads to lack of confidence. Symptoms can include sensitivity to criticism, social withdrawal, preoccupation with personal problems, and even physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and insomnia. Negative self-talk is an ongoing reel riddled with self-deprecating thoughts that feed a loop of negative feelings. Sources of low self-esteem can range from childhood trauma to present day circumstances such as bullying, a demanding boss, or over-exposure to unattainable ideals presented in daily social media consumption. Therapy can improve self-talk and calm the critical inner voice.
All children and teenagers go through periods where they are defiant in an effort to define themselves as separate from the world around them. But when this behavior is consistent and includes vindictiveness, anger, frustration, irritability, arguing, refusal to comply or compromise on issues, it can be beneficial to seek help. The “Terrible Twos” or early teen years are hallmarked by these behaviors. However, when it lasts for more than six months, there are tools that can help. If a youth is displaying oppositional defiance and it is affecting their home and school performance, you don’t have to do it all on your own, therapy is here to find the root of the problem and develop working techniques for addressing these issues.
Children all have areas of study where they excel and where they struggle. If the areas of struggle are preventing a child from having confidence in their overall academic performance, they may be overwhelmed and in need of help from an outside source. Every child learns differently. Proper evaluation of a child’s skills, aptitudes, and learning style can offer a new outlook on learning. Identifying a learning disability early on in a child’s academic experience helps with acquiring promising skills to navigate schooling. Other areas of concern that can be addressed are bullying, lack of proper attention from school officials, underachievement, boredom, time management, and procrastination.
Autism Spectrum Disorders
The more we learn about autism, the more we find that it is a three-dimensional spectrum. There are several markers on the autism spectrum, and each of those markers can vary in severity. Evaluating where a child identifies on the overall autistic spectrum is the first step to managing symptoms arising from the disorder. Autism spectrum behaviors can include restricted and limited interest to certain subjects, missing social cues, difficulty making eye contact and connecting with others, and hypersensitivity to external stimuli such as light and sound. Counseling can help both parent and child to develop awareness of the strengths and weakness common to this disorder and how to proceed effectively.
Panic attacks can seemingly come out of nowhere. With no apparent warning or triggering event, a panic attack can include multiple physical symptoms such as any one of the following: sweating, shaking, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, dizziness, tingling, numbness, nausea, and fear of dying. Panic attacks are frightening and can take a while to recover from fully; they are physically and emotionally depleting. Typically lasting only a few minutes, panic attacks are such an intense experience that once having experienced one many live in fear of experiencing them again. Therapy can help you get to the root of what’s causing the panic attacks. In collaboration with a thoughtful and experienced professional, therapy explores practical ways to cope with symptoms and even prevent them.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can affect both children and adults. A new diagnosis of ADHD can be both overwhelming and a relief. Many adults belatedly diagnosed are beginning to understand themselves better, but also may be experiencing grief from the difficulties faced from going undiagnosed while navigating their educations and early professional years feeling inadequate. ADHD impacts executive function such as the ability to perform daily tasks and pay attention which can result in negative feelings and/or negative self-concept in those who suffer from it. There’s hope for children, their caretakers, and adults who deal with the ongoing effects of ADHD. Therapy offers the support and tools needed to make informed adjustments following a diagnosis.
Children can develop behavioral problems at any time during their childhood. A certain amount of general issues during different growth stages are reasonable, but when behavior problems last longer than a typical phase and impact a child’s school performance or ability to get along with friends and family members, input from a professional is needed. Common behavior issues include, but are not limited to: lying, hitting, yelling, defiance, refusal to comply with instructions, limited attention span, screen time dependency, poor impulse control, whining, and temper tantrums. Children act out for a variety of reasons, professional attention in finding the root of these issues can be important for developing effective strategies that help children better communicate their needs without the use of problematic behavior.
Trauma is a result of ongoing circumstances that cannot be remedied except through adaptation of the self or from an extreme instant during which the victim has no control over outcome over the physical or emotional fallout of an overwhelmingly negative event. Witnessing or experiencing an act of violence, ongoing domestic violence, acts of nature, premature death of a loved one are common sources of trauma. If suppressed or denied, the symptoms of trauma will lay dormant until triggered, a triggering event may cause unexpected emotional and physical reactions. If the traumatic event continues to impact the ability to function in present day, it may be time to seek relief through the counsel of a professional who can help you process and mitigate the impact of the trauma.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme ups and downs. The high times are referred to as mania, examples of which include the inability to sleep, compulsive spending, and delusions of grandeur. Manic episodes are cycled in with depressive episodes characterized by lethargy and a pervasive sense of hopelessness. It is not yet known what causes bipolar disorder; however it tends to run in families. A more mild form of the disorder is classified as cyclothymia, which can be more difficult to diagnose. Treatment outside of pharmacological intervention includes therapy to aid in self-management of symptoms and monitor shifts in moods as precursors to future episodes.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) involves having thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that recur to the detriment of the person having them. When thoughts become intrusive, triggering unwanted urges, they are considered obsessive. Compulsion enters the picture as the actions one takes to rid themselves of the anxiety caused by the thoughts and feelings that obsession brings on. Repetitive actions and rituals can consume significant portions of a person’s day who is suffering from OCD. When the condition becomes disruptive and impedes someone’s ability to function at work or home, professional help is needed. Therapy is a step that brings lasting relief by addressing the causes of OCD’s uncomfortable cycles.
Kicking, hitting, biting, and yelling are examples of aggressive behaviors in children that can be exhibited towards their peers or adults. When children have trouble identifying and regulating their emotions or communicating them, aggressive behavior can be what they turn to to get their needs met. Creating a positive reward system to develop and reinforce healthy behavior, and helping a child to understand the natural consequences of their actions can redirect aggressive tendencies. Therapy can help parents to effectively diffuse aggression in children without sacrificing their own emotional well-being. Setting reasonable goals towards an empathetic understanding of others refocuses the parent-child relationship to a path of positivity.
Social Skills Problems
Having trouble taking turns, talking out of turn, taking toys from other children, having trouble reading the meaning of nonverbal cues, listening poorly, withdrawing from social interaction, and becoming easily distracted are examples of social skill issues that can affect a child’s ability to thrive at home or in an educational environment. Deciphering the root cause of social skills problems with the help of a professional leads to more ease in parenting. Social skills problems that are more acute may point to a disorder such as autism spectrum or ADHD; and while these terms sound scary, identifying these issues early on in childhood can lead to effective lifelong coping strategies that benefit both parent and the child.
Grief and Loss
Children that experience the loss of a loved one have not yet developed the skills needed to cope with the pain that naturally arises. Delicately helping a child navigate grief and loss while experiencing your own grief can be especially challenging for a parent. It is easy for a child to feel alone and misunderstood, and as a parent it is difficult to convey the concepts of death and dying, or any abrupt change, with an age-appropriate vocabulary of explanations. Each child has a unique experience of loss based on their relationship with the deceased. Children can grow in their understanding of how the world works in times of difficulty and helping them through it can benefit the parent’s process of mourning as well. Navigating grief and loss with the aid of a therapist creates a safe space to explore thoughts and feelings during such difficult times.
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