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Dr Susan Chantrell Child | Adolescent Psychotherapist

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

Child and adolescent psychotherapy is a way of helping a child or young person to make sense of sad, angry, painful or confusing thoughts and feelings. A child psychotherapist is trained to work with children and young people of all ages through play, drawing and talking about events and experiences. The therapist does not direct what happens in the sessions, which are for 50 minutes, but provides a consistent and safe setting where a child can begin to express their thoughts and feelings more freely. Child psychotherapy has developed from adult psychotherapy, using play and drawing as additional ways of communicating. In psychotherapy, children gradually become more able to identify and express their thoughts and feelings. Child psychotherapy treatment will usually have a beneficial effect on behaviour and relationships at home. As children become less preoccupied with worries, they can also make better use of opportunities at school.

Child and adolescent psychotherapy can help with many emotional and behavioural problems in childhood and adolescence.  For example a child might be anxious, finding it difficult to sleep, to separate from parents or to go to school. A child may be struggling at school with friendships, with bullying or with academic work. Sometimes a family is suffering from stress and this can affect the children, for example if parents are not getting along or divorcing, if there is illness, a bereavement or loss of a job. Children and young people can find times of transition and change difficult to cope with, for example from nursery to primary school, to secondary school, to sixth form college and university. Adolescence of course brings many additional challenges.

Children and young people with physical and learning disability, autistic spectrum disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome can face additional challenges in life and they are also able to benefit from psychotherapy.

A traditional model of child and adolescent psychotherapy is for a child to have regular sessions, once or more times weekly, for a period of a year or more. In this type of treatment it is helpful for the parent(s) to be seen by another therapist, say monthly, to provide support for the parent(s) who might be struggling to help their child at home. Regular termly reviews are also held with the child’s psychotherapist. It is possible for a child psychotherapist to help in different ways and I have explained this further in the My Services part of the Home page.

Sometimes people ask what the difference is between psychotherapy and counselling. Psychoanalytic psychotherapists and psychodynamic counsellors both have a training which includes study of relevant theory, supervised clinical practice and their own personal psychoanalysis or psychotherapy. However psychoanalytic psychotherapists have a longer and more rigorous training and are able to work with patients up to three times a week, as well as once weekly or less.