Part Two: Therapy at Different Developmental Levels

October 22, 2023

Therapy can have a lasting impact on a child’s well-being. As they talk about their feelings and engage in therapeutic activities, children can gradually build emotional resilience and develop a deeper understanding of themselves. Our therapists understand the specific challenges children face as they grow up and are able to give appropriate support for your kid(s).

Cleo Chalk, Resident in Counseling

To provide effective therapy for children, it is important to understand the stage of development that the client is currently in.

School-aged children (e.g., 6-12 years) often respond well to structured sessions. Typically, these sessions incorporate art therapy and storytelling to facilitate therapeutic dialogue. Additionally, utilizing play therapy can help establish rapport and serve as a tool to reinforce learned coping skills and calming strategies. I encourage the use of creative outlets to help children share their thoughts and feelings.

Adolescents (e.g., 13-18 years) may require more respectful dialogue and validation as they explore their identity and independence. Empowerment is a key component when working with adolescents. By setting goals together, respecting their autonomy, and validating their feelings, the client becomes more engaged in the therapy process.

Therapy with children at different developmental levels is an evolving process and offers unique experiences. This means that each therapeutic approach should reflect this beautiful diversity.

Tiffaney Knight, Resident in Counseling

As a therapist who works with children of different ages, it is important to educate yourself on what is appropriate for these developmental levels. For instance, how you speak with a 6-year-old may differ from how you speak with a 16-year-old. Your vocabulary is different along with the way you discuss topics. An older child will be able to handle more information whereas a younger child may require smaller doses and simpler language. Ensuring you have identified the norms for that age is important in building your relationship and being able to relate to your client.

Wedad Omer, Resident in Counseling

Meeting children where they are developmentally is crucial for therapists to establish effective therapeutic relationships and facilitate meaningful progress. Children’s cognitive, emotional, and social capacities evolve at different stages, influencing their ability to comprehend and express themselves. By tailoring interventions to a child’s developmental level, therapists can communicate in a way that resonates with them, ensuring comprehension and engagement. This approach fosters trust, encourages active participation, and enables therapists to address concerns in a manner that respects the child’s unique perspective and needs. Ultimately, meeting children at their developmental stage enhances the therapeutic process, leading to more impactful outcomes and better emotional growth.

Katie Thompson, Supervisee in Clinical Social Work

We can’t apply full compassion and empathy to children if we do not take the time to understand where they are in their development. Without context of their developmental stage, it can be easy to categorize their worries, fears, and behaviors as childlike, which can be extremely invalidating of their experience and feelings.

As caretakers, parents, therapists, and guardians, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on where they are developmentally in order to provide understanding and care. If you’re not sure where to start in educating yourself, please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to provide you with resources and support.

Ready to chat about therapy for your child/teen? Connect with The Wise Family today!

Until next time, Be Wise!