When to Bring Your Child to Therapy

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It can be difficult to tell when to bring a child into see a therapist; when to know if their reactions are normal, a result of a developmental “phase,” or something that would benefit from clinical attention. It is difficult to know whether or not a therapist will be able to help.

In his book “Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship,” Garry Landreth, a children’s therapist and international leader in Play Therapy, notes that parents often wait until the child’s maladaptive behaviors are so frustrating that the parent feels they can no longer handle the problem and have reached a breaking point.

Signs to Watch For

On that note, there are a few good markers to gauge whether or not therapy will benefit you and your child.

  • Any uncharacteristic and/or problematic behavior that persists after six months of a loss or traumatic event or major transition including divorce, new family members.
  • Persistent nightmares, clingy behavior, pretend or social play or drawing that seems out of character.
  • Withdrawn or anxious behaviors with or without an identifiable cause.
  • Socially unacceptable aggression, consistent failure to cooperate with house rules or an inability to calm themselves down.
  • In conjunction with a medication for ADD or AD/HD.

What to Look For in a Therapist

Landreth also noticed that often parents doubt their abilities to help their child through a hard time, or struggle with healthy behaviors because they themselves were not taught healthy behaviors. Meeting once a month or so with your child’s therapist can help with this.

In order to choose a skilled therapist for your child, here are a few helpful questions to ask:

  • Do they have experience in play therapy or a certified play therapist?
  • For children 3 and under, do they have knowledge of or experience with an attachment based therapy like Theraplay?
  • What parenting theories or guidelines do they use when recommending parent responses?

You can involve yourself in the process by requesting to meet with the therapist once monthly (usually in place of your child’s regular appointment) and discuss with the therapist your child’s progress, concerns, and what you can do to help them at home.

It is also good idea to make an appointment with your pediatrician to rule out any medial issues, especially if as the parent you cannot identify a precursor to their behavior change.


Raelene Fraught, M.A.  Parenting Coach
Clarity Clinic NWI

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