Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology

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Created on August 5, 2017. Last updated on December 13th, 2020 at 05:40 pm

Below are frequently asked questions, answered by Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychologists:

Q: What happens in therapy sessions?

A: What happens in a therapy session depends on the type of evidence-based therapy that the provider practices. Evidence-based therapies include non-drug treatments that have been proven through research to work effectively. Therapy that is not evidence-based may have very little research to support its effectiveness, and may result in children and families spending a prolonged period in therapy without seeing significant results. In evidence-based therapy sessions, therapists commonly use games or arts and crafts, especially with younger children. It is also common to spend time talking or writing about feelings. In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions, children also typically learn and practice various strategies for managing their behaviors. Then they practice using these strategies at home or in school. You can ask the therapist what they and your child will do during the sessions, what they will talk about, and what kind of activities can be expected.

Q: Should I be directly involved in my child’s therapy sessions?

A: How best to participate in a child’s therapy depends primarily on the child’s age, the nature of the problem, and whether research supports parental involvement in the type of treatment your child is receiving. In some situations, particularly with younger children, parental guidance may be critical to bring about and support behavioral change between therapy sessions. In other situations, particularly with older children or adolescents, privacy between the child and therapist may form an important foundation for establishing trust and promoting behavioral change. In every case, parents should be clear on the therapist’s goals for treating their child and should understand the milestones their child is expected to reach throughout his/her treatment. Feel free to ask the therapist at the outset about how he/she plans to work with the child.

Additionally, parents should ensure that the therapy being used is backed by science and categorized as an evidence-based therapy. For a guide to ensure that your child’s therapist is using evidence-based treatments, visit our Advice on Selecting a Psychologist page.

Q: Will my child’s symptoms change as he/she ages?

A: Childhood and adolescence are periods of significant change in a child’s life – the symptoms of behavioral health and mental disorders may look very different in a younger child versus an adolescent, and the therapies used for children and adolescents can be different, too, based on the research supporting their use.

With any effective child therapy, there should be clear expectations on the length of treatment, goals, and milestones.


Partner Sites:

Evidence-based Services Committee of Hawaii