Behind the Scenes: What Therapists don't see

I'm sure most of us reading this are therapists who work with children and if you aren't, you might have asked yourself, "Why does this child behave this way?" "What is happening in their home that I'm not seeing?" "What has happened in their young life that makes them think this way?"

I'm always so curious as to why children do the things that they do. I see many children on a one-on-one basis and get to know them very well throughout the school year. As the child and I get to know each other and figure each other out, I often ask myself the above questions. 

I have two children of my own and I didn't realize until having children that many people influence their lives. Some of these influencers are parents, teachers, family, and friends. Growing up, it was only my mother and myself, and I didn't understand that she had such an important role when it came to the person I was becoming. As I child, I was angry and still to this day, I'm not sure what I was so angry about. As an adult in my early 20s, I was still angry. I was better at controlling my emotions, but I could still sense that I was angry. When I had children, my life changed for the better. I was less angry and realized that a lot of my anger came from my mother. She was always so angry at the people at her job and would come home and be angry at me. I didn't understand until later that this was a learned behavior that she had witnessed from her parents. Now that I have children, I know to watch my actions and facial expressions. I don't come home from work and take my day out on my children. I try to stay calm around them as much as possible. 

My point is, when therapists treat children we don't always know what is going on in their home life. We can help them talk about their problems while in therapy. Some of the ways that I incorporate behavior problems into their therapy is by: 

  • Building rapport
  • Drawing pictures
  • Using clay to show how they are feeling
  • Using putty to get any bad feelings out 
  • Kids yoga
  • Help them build their confidence (simple words and phrases such as, "I'm so proud of you.")
  • Talking about their feelings and your feelings to let them know they aren't alone. (We all have problems, hiding feelings isn't good. We shouldn't share all our problems and not major problems that puts more worry into their world, but to let them know they aren't alone in the world.)
  • Don't ever give up on the child
  • Always put your phone down and give the child all of your attention
  • Let them know they are important

Every therapist will find out what is the best approach in order to help children talk about their feelings. I think this is a trial and error approach. One approach may help one child and not the other. The main purpose is to understand why the child that you are treating is acting a certain way which is leading to the unwanted behavior. Before reacting to the behavior, get into the child's head and understand what they might be going through, be a friend, someone that they can count on to go to if they have a problem, give them resources (handouts, websites) that they may learn from or help them with their behaviors (age permitted of course). 

In closing, I wanted to write about this topic because not all of us completely understand what a person is going through. We all might seem like we are on the same path, but that is not true. While treating children, try to understand how they are growing up, what their background is, their religious views, and try to understand how they might be feeling that day. Children are very emotional, and we adults are too. 


Author: Melody Gurrere, COTA/L, BA in Psychology, Certified Kidding Around Yoga Instructor

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