Child behavior counseling is generally led by trained clinicians with a masters or doctoral degrees. Child behavior counselors might be licensed counselors, psychologists, clinical social workers or family therapists. These counseling services might take place in private practices, schools, hospitals or in the family’s home. Generally, child behavior counseling lasts from several months to several years, depending on the severity of the child’s problems.
Child behavior counseling can be effective in addressing a range of typical and abnormal child behaviors, including lying, fighting, stealing and talking back. Additionally, behavior counseling can address separation anxiety, phobias, depression, insomnia, attention issues and academic problems. Furthermore, child behavior counseling might be useful for children whose parents have divorced or who have experienced a significant loss, such as a death in the family.
Individual child behavior counseling can include several approaches, including play therapy, behavior modification, role playing, and talk therapy. During the initial assessment, the counselor might simply watch the child play and observe the troubling behaviors. In subsequent sessions, the counselor will generally take a more active role and might help the child learn new behaviors or modify troubling ones through a combination of age-appropriate conversations, play and behavioral redirection. Additionally, a therapist might take a cognitive behavioral approach and help the child explore the way her thoughts and feelings affect her behaviors.
In addition to individual therapy, child behavior counseling might take place in a group format. Generally, group counseling brings together children of similar age with a common presenting issue such as aggression, anxiety or depression. In the group format, children practice new behaviors with their peers and learn about their behaviors or concerns from both their counselor-facilitator and fellow group members, according to the American Academic of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Group behavior counseling might be used either as a primary behavior therapy or as an adjunct to individual therapy.
Counselors often ask parents to take part in their children’s therapy and ask the caregivers to act as partners in the child’s treatment. For some issues, such as defiant behaviors, counselors might want to have family counseling sessions to evaluate family dynamics and improve the quality of caregiver-child interactions. For other issues such as panic, anxiety and depression, counselors might teach parents strategies that they can use at home to help modify troubling behaviors at home. Likewise, child behavior counseling might involve teaching the parents about the child’s diagnosis or symptoms.
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