Understanding the Major Types of Therapy Used With Kids

The realization that your child may require more care than you can give is terrifying and stressful. When you first learn that your child is experiencing mental health problems, it might come as a shock. No one is to blame, despite the fact that it’s human nature to look within and question what went wrong or what you could have done better.

The objective, as with any medical diagnosis, is to locate the type of treatment that will improve your child’s quality of life. Yet, how can you decide which therapy is best for your child when there are so many options? Keep reading to learn about the benefits of therapy for children and adolescents, the different forms of treatment that can help, and how to locate the most suitable therapist for your child’s needs.


Choosing a therapist for your child should not be put off, since mental, emotional, and behavioral difficulties in childhood, if left untreated, can result in long-term problems that damage their health and wellbeing. They will have an easier time at home, in class, and with their friends if they can get care for their mental health problems.

Your child will benefit from a solid set of lifelong skills that can be developed through therapy. Find a therapist who specializes in working with children of your child’s age and delivers the type of therapy you’re interested in.

The therapist will typically decide which therapy or therapies are best for your kid, but you will have input into this process. Nonetheless, before beginning therapy with a child, it is crucial to learn about the different forms of therapy that are utilized and the advantages of each. Treatment options for kids and teenagers are listed below.

Applied Behavior Analysis

Analysis of a child’s behavior and its consequences is at the heart of applied behavior analysis. This method can be helpful for early interventions with children who have autism spectrum disorder, but it is applicable to a wide range of ages and problems.

According to Justin Schrieber, DO, MPH, FAAP, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “generally, this form of therapy is employed specifically with autism spectrum disorders.” “An antecedent is what we focus on in applied behavior analysis; this is the factor that sets in motion the chain of events that culminates in the behavior and the subsequent response.”

In other words, according to Dr. Schrieber, if a child enters a noisy room and immediately begins to yell and scream because of the volume, the therapist would look for alternate methods of dealing with the noise’s antecedents in order to change the child’s behavior. The jarring sound is the antecedent here.

By providing the youngster with ear protection, such as noise-cancelling headphones, you are setting them up for success. As an alternative, you may congratulate them verbally whenever they ask for a break, so reinforcing the behavior.

In this style of therapy, children practice their responses in authentic social settings. Communication, self-management, and thinking skills are common areas of focus for therapeutic interventions. The employment of this method with younger children helps them develop the ability to express themselves.

Dr. Schrieber claims that “strong evidence” suggests that their therapy is among the most effective in improving both frustration tolerance and the ability to communicate with others. Self-care, play and leisure, motor skills, and academic skills are just few of the areas that can benefit from applied behavior analysis.

It may not be the best course of therapy for your child, so talk to your doctor first.

Art Therapy

The purpose of art therapy is to help people express themselves creatively while also working through problems or difficulties. Therapists in this mode help young clients use creative expression as a means of introspection and growth.

“Kids can have a hard time verbalizing what they’re thinking or experiencing,” explains Beth Tyson, MA, a psychotherapist and parenting consultant. One of the benefits of art therapy is that it provides a means of expressing and processing one’s emotions.

Tyson argues that the use of art in therapy can make abstract concepts more tangible. A second skill they pick up is the ability to imagine an outcome and adjust their actions accordingly.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

Particularly effective for youngsters dealing with anxiety or sadness, this form of treatment is widely used. Children in treatment develop an awareness of their own thought patterns and their role in creating their current difficulties. They also learn how to alter their ways of thinking and acting to become more positive and productive.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Although dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was initially established to treat people with borderline personality disorder, it has since been found to be effective in treating older adolescents who often entertain suicidal thoughts or feelings or participate in self-harming actions. It could also be utilized with young people experiencing anorexia or bulimia.

Dr. Schrieber explains that while dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed with borderline personality disorder in mind, it has since been proved to be beneficial for those who struggle with mood instability as well. “DBT can help with suicide ideation and self-injuring behavior, as well as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and eating disorders in children.”

The primary goal of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is for the child or adolescent to develop a sense of personal agency by becoming aware of and accepting responsibility for his or her responses to stressful situations and unpleasant emotions. So that they can learn to control their emotions, therapists employing DBT may pair mindfulness with other abilities.

Exposure Response and Prevention (ERP)

A sort of cognitive behavioral therapy, this approach involves gradually exposing the child to whatever it is (thoughts, experiences, objects, or circumstances) that causes them worry or terror. Although this kind of treatment has a wide range of applications, it is most commonly employed with children who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Dr. Schrieber believes that this method of treatment is frequently employed for OCD. They figure out ways to deal with their anxiety or stress without giving in to the compulsion.

Various forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety and phobias, may also respond to this treatment. A child who suffers from social anxiety, for example, may be progressively introduced to new social situations. Your child’s therapist will help shape this experience in a way that is helpful rather than traumatic.

Family Therapy

Obviously, with family therapy everyone in the family is involved. Family therapy is utilized not only to help the therapist learn more about the child from the family members, but also so that the family members may discover strategies to aid in the child’s healing.

When family members have difficulty communicating with one another, disagree strongly, or argue frequently, therapy may be beneficial. When youngsters or teenagers are exhibiting negative behaviors, this technique can be quite beneficial. By working through issues together in therapy, family members learn to communicate better and solve conflicts more effectively.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

Therapists provide live, in-the-moment guidance to parents participating in this modality of treatment. The therapist encourages constructive parent-child interactions throughout the session. When children have trouble behaving or communicating with their caretakers, this form of treatment can help.

When a child has undergone trauma, is extremely aggressive in their conduct, or is having attachment issues, this therapy may be helpful. In order for a child to feel comfortable and have a stable attachment to fall back on, “PCIT helps strengthen the bond and attachment between the child and the adult in the child’s life,” explains Tyson.

Play Therapy

In play therapy, the therapist observes the child during play in order to get insight into any problems or difficulties the child may be having. The therapist can also guide the kid through processing any trauma or unresolved concerns. As a result of their immaturity, children often benefit from this type of therapy.

Children benefit from this form of therapy because it helps them develop new ways of dealing with difficult situations. They might also gain insight into their experiences and develop skills to redirect negative behaviors. Play Therapy International reports that play therapy is beneficial for up to 71% of referred children.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Child psychodynamic therapy seeks to identify and explore the underlying causes of the child’s problematic emotions, beliefs, and actions. The therapist learns about the child’s regular defenses and behaviors through conversation. It is also possible to employ this method of therapy to assist a young person in becoming aware of their own internal struggles and conflicts.

For instance, according to Dr. Schrieber, the goal of this sort of treatment is to help patients use their past experiences to shape their perspectives on the future. For instance, if a kid is used to not being heard at home, they might think their instructor doesn’t care either.

Relaxation Techniques

Breathing exercises, meditation, guided imagery, and muscular relaxation are all examples of complementary and alternative therapies. The acronym TIPP, which stands for “temperature, intense activity, timed breathing, and paired muscle relaxation,” is another technique that kids may pick up.

Children are taught TIPP techniques to help them cope with challenging situations and control their emotions. These strategies are given to children to help them cope with difficult feelings. They can utilize these techniques to calm down, giving them the headspace to employ additional coping mechanisms.