What Does Therapy Look Like With a Young Child?

Our young child therapist Kelly Jean Tucker, LCMHC developed this blog series to help guide you through the process of engaging your child in therapy. If you haven't yet read through her previous posts, please check them out! Previous posts are designed to support you in determining whether your own child could benefit from therapy (linked here), how to find a therapist who is a great fit for your child and family (linked here), and what to expect in a first therapy session (linked here).

All good therapy is individualized to each child's needs and every therapist has their own approach. In my experience as a child therapist, however, therapy with young children generally includes a few basic components: Age appropriate emotional processing, skill building, and parent support.

1. Age Appropriate Emotional Processing: The foundation of many therapies is for children to learn how to name their emotional experiences. As Dan Siegel says, “You have to name it to tame it.” So many child therapists will start out with engaging ways to teach children emotional expression skills. This can be done through many creative means like games, art, play, using puppets, or role plays. In addition to having words to name their experiences, therapy with young children provides them age appropriate ways to process their day to day stressors and past experiences. For example, a child therapist may ask a child to pick out a toy that best describes how they feel about school or draw a picture of where they feel worry in their body.

2. Skill Building: After your child has a good foundation of emotional literacy, they can begin to learn skills that help them with the concern that brought them in. For example, your child may learn mindfulness based skills that help them with anxiety or tools to help them with impulse control.

3. Caregiver/Parenting Support: Your child’s therapist will keep you in the loop of your child’s progress in therapy and give you tools to help reinforce their newly learned skills at home. For example, in my sessions I will typically reserve the last 15-20 minutes for the child to teach the parent the skill we focused on in session. I believe this gives the child ownership over their therapy and is a self esteem booster. I will then give parents time to discuss their questions about how to encourage children to practice these skills at home and school. Additionally, I will schedule times to meet with parents separately to offer support on parenting skills and ways to support your child’s social-emotional wellbeing.

Frequently Asked Questions about child therapy:

* How Long Are Sessions? My sessions are typically an hour long, with 5-10 minutes to check-in with kids about the week, 30 minutes to work on skill building, and 15-20 for parent involvement. If I am conducting an EM