4/24/23 blog post
three ways therapy can help children move forward from past experiences
When children or teens go through hard things, they can have a lasting impact on their functioning. Traumatic events can cause children and teens to feel a lot of different emotions, and may lead to different mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. When these hard things happen, it can feel overwhelming to move on and recover from this, and it may feel scary to figure out a way to navigate life afterwards.
Therapy can be a helpful resource for children, teens and families as they work towards moving on from past experiences. Dayton Children’s pediatric psychologist, Carly Schweier, PsyD, has outlined three ways that therapy can address concerns and help children and teens build skills to move forward.
- Therapy can help you process your experiences: Often children and teens may feel “stuck” or “trapped” in the past and feel like they can’t move forward when they have had negative life experiences. Engaging in treatment with a mental health provider allows the child to process the events they experienced with a trusted, safe person. A counselor or therapist will help them understand why they feel the way they do and can provide empathy and understanding for their responses and struggles. It can be helpful to speak to someone who is not directly connected to the event, as this allows them to take a different perspective and discuss emotional and cognitive reactions to the event.
- Therapy can help you stay present: As mentioned before, when difficult life events occur, it can feel hard to be able to move on from them. Sometimes people report feeling mentally stuck in the time when the event occurred. Therapy can help children and teens learn mindfulness and grounding techniques that help them comfortably stay in the present through use of their five senses, and through other imaginative techniques as well. Therapy also provides a place to learn adaptive and healthy coping skills to manage flashbacks or dissociative symptoms that might be related to the past event. Learning coping skills can help children and teens manage emotions and behaviors in more effective ways.
- Therapy can also help children and adolescents identify, define and manage emotions more effectively: When children and teens go through something hard, they can experience a lot of different emotions. They may find it difficult to communicate their emotions to others or regulate their emotional responses when upset. Guilt and shame are two emotions that are often experienced by children and teens in the aftermath of a difficult event, and they can be hard emotions to process. Through engaging in therapy, kids and teens can have a safe and supportive space to process their emotions and learn methods to communicate and manage their emotional reactions in ways that are more helpful and benefit their relationships as well.
Ultimately, therapy provides a space for children and adolescents to process their experiences, thoughts, emotions and behaviors in a safe and judgement-free place with a trained professional.
Therapy helps people identify areas of concern and can be a supportive place for people to gain insight into their patterns of functioning and increase awareness of how past experiences are impacting them currently.
If you think your child could benefit from therapy, contact our Mental Health Resource Connection. This program is a service that connects patients and families to available mental health services in the community. The service is administered by social workers experienced in evaluating pediatric mental health needs and the services required to meet those needs. If you’re looking for connection to mental health resources and services, click here.