Therapy at Different Developmental Levels

October 9, 2023

Starting therapy is a big deal for kids. Therapy can provide a supportive and empathetic environment where children are encouraged to explore and articulate their feelings through activities and discussions based on their developmental stage. By recognizing and understanding the different levels, our therapists effectively guide their clients through emotional growth and self-discovery. Read on to hear from a few of our clinicians!

Lydia Hatcher, Resident in Counseling

Clients enter therapy at various stages in their development. Each stage of development has its own unique cognitive characteristics. Depending on the age of the client, the therapist must engage that client in a way that connects with them so the client feels understood.

Being able to effectively address the client’s specific needs based on the developmental stage of the client, challenges the therapist to be knowledgeable as well as creative when creating a treatment plan and approach. It is also important for the therapist to be able to educate and inform parents and caregivers about some of the challenges that arise at the various stages of development.

Babies, toddlers, pre-teens, and adolescent stages all have very different cognitive abilities. The goals of therapy, regardless of the stage of development, should involve gaining an understanding of the issues and then coming up with interventions that support the client and family as well as provide symptom relief and improvement.

Miguel Alcantara, Resident in Counseling

Working with children means working through the challenges of development. Development comes with many new experiences, feelings, and challenges. While children grow, their brains develop and their social and emotional capacities ebb and flow.

When in therapy, the therapist and the client are fostering a relationship that requires lots of trust. This trust helps build a foundation so the client can learn to understand who they are and what they are going through. This process looks different depending on the developmental level, but in the end, all therapeutic journeys with kids are fruitful and inspiring.

Deedra Everett, Supervisee in Clinical Social Work

Children come to therapy at different ages and development stages, and every age offers unique needs and challenges. Tailoring the transformative power of play therapy to meet those needs and challenges requires knowledge of the client and thoughtful planning – as each child is on their own singular path and it is the goal to meet them where they are.

Play Therapy with Different Ages

Play therapy with preschoolers is often geared to their curious and imaginative nature, involving symbolic play using toys, art, and storytelling aimed at developing problem-solving skills and increasing self-expression. This continues with school-age children but may also incorporate more structured play and begin psychoeducation using board games, drawing, role-playing and increasing coping strategies.

Adolescents often struggle with identity formation and play therapy may also include journaling, music, or drama in addition to psychoeducation, and provides a safe place for them to explore their feelings, navigate conflict and build resilience. More traditional “talk therapy” may also be added as older teens are more self-reflective and able to hold more lengthy and insight-oriented conversations.

It is essential for clinicians to be flexible with their therapeutic interventions, be able to adapt to the age and stage of each child to create rapport, and develop trust to help the child initiate and implement change.

Interested in learning more about what type of therapy is right for your child? Connect with The Wise Family today!

Stay tuned for part two.

Until next time, Be Wise!