Approach to Child Psychotherapy
Childhood is a formative and magical stage of life. Children face the significant task of moving through developmental challenges that expand their world, deepen their relationships, and build the foundation for creativity and play. So much change can be exacting but, thankfully, children rarely face these trials alone. With the support of family members, kin, teachers, friends, and community coupled with an innate drive to grow and flourish children find themselves up to the task of growing up.
The process is hardly smooth and sometimes children (and families) feel stuck. This is where therapy may be helpful.
I respect caregivers’ deep drive to be involved in their children’s growth. I use my expertise in child development and caregivers’ expertise in their children to foster a collaborative treatment environment. Together, we can identify your child’s, family’s and community’s strengths and create a plan to best utilize them to support your child.
My approach is grounded in psychodynamic, attachment, and family / community systems theories. This means that I see the bond between parent and child to be an essential component of the child’s growth. Where stressors, traumas, or misunderstandings strain that bond, I endeavor to facilitate its restoration. My approach also attends to the many systems that impact a family and a child’s development (school, neighborhood, state, country, and world). I can be helpful in assisting children to gain a deeper appreciation of their inner emotional life, fostering clearer communication and understanding between the child and family members, assessing for developmental challenges that may require outside support (such as assessment or occupational therapy), and (perhaps most importantly) promoting the child’s capacity to play.
Play, especially for pre-teen children, can be an invaluable means for the child to communicate and understand their feelings, to practice interpersonal interactions and gain a better understanding of relationships, to process frightening or traumatic events, to experience a sense of agency in their world, and to feel joy. It is therefore an essential experience in child development and the bedrock of my therapeutic work with children.
What to Expect
My work with children and families begins with an initial assessment phase. I typically meet caregivers for a few sessions before beginning work with the child. This gives caregivers and I the opportunity to get to know each other, to understand what they are seeking from therapy and how I may be able to help, to learn about the child’s history and development, and to discuss possible directions for treatment.
After initial consultation with caregivers I will meet with the child for one or more clinical interviews. When caregivers and I feel we have a clearer sense of what is happening for the child, I can then offer recommendations and we can develop a plan for treatment.
I will request weekly sessions with children in my practice and, in some instances, may recommend the child meet with me twice a week. Therapy sessions with children typically make use of expressive arts, talk, and play. This helps to build trust in the therapy relationship and allows the child to address challenges in a context familiar to them.
I find therapy is most effective when there is ongoing collaboration between caregiver and therapist. For that reason, I ask the caregiver(s) to meet with me once or twice a month. During these sessions, we review the child’s progress, discuss areas of concern, and fine-tune plans to support the child.
When to Seek Therapy
Childhood development is not a linear process and, for nearly all children, moves in fits and starts. It is normal for a child to progress rapidly one day only to regress on a later day. This reflects the child’s natural process of tackling new challenges, seeking security when overwhelmed, and consolidating gains in development at each step.
Still, caregivers may feel concerned that a child’s behavior or presentation reflects a larger problem or setback. As experts in their children, caregivers’ feeling of concern may be the first sign treatment is warranted. My training and professional experience have positioned me to be helpful with the following:
- Traumatic or adverse event
- Aggressive behavior (kicking, hitting, verbal aggression, suspension)
- Tantrums, emotion regulation, coping
- Parent-child conflict
- Persistent sadness, low self-esteem, lack of pleasure in play and relationships
- Social / emotional distress related to learning or developmental disability
- Neurodiversity (ASD, ADHD, giftedness, e.g.)
- Anxiety, fearfulness, nightmares, phobias
- Sleep disturbance, enuresis (bedwetting)
- Difficulty separating from caregivers or school refusal
- Isolation from peers, bullying
- Mismatch between child and educational environment
- Immigration, bilingualism, acculturation
- Impact of bias or discrimination related to race, class, ability, gender identity / expression, or sexual orientation
- Identifying and strengthening talents, coping skills, goals for future
My private practice is in Berkeley, CA and I am able to conduct therapy in English and Spanish. I am an out-of-network provider which means I am not a member of insurance panels. I can provide you with a bill to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. You will want to consult with them to understand your coverage benefits and the amount your insurance will cover for out-of-network providers.