A Guide to Understanding Therapy For Children
When should you go to therapy or counselling?
Everyone has trouble at some point in life. No one escapes
You might be experiencing a situation you cannot solve on your own, you
might have had something happen to you, and/or your family may have had to deal with a crisis.
As a child or teen, you are also learning how to become an adult. You have
to make more complicated choices, defend your choices with peers, and learn to work through difficult relationship
There are many reasons for problems and it is sometimes difficult to deal
with them on your own. At times like these, therapy might be helpful.
Therapy might help you work through some of the situations you are facing.
It may also help you learn the skills which will help you face future problems.
Oh, yes, there will always be problems but you can learn to become a very
good problem solver.
Below are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you gain some idea if therapy may be
Have you felt sad, frustrated, and/or lonely for more than two
Have you felt angry, annoyed and/or restless for more than two
Have you noticed changes in your sleep or eating patterns?
(i.e. eating less or eating more, sleeping less or sleeping more)
Have you experienced a major problem or event at home, at school, or in your
Are you having trouble talking about difficult thoughts and feelings with
your family or friends?
Are these difficult thoughts and feelings affecting your schoolwork, and/or
your relationships with family or friends?
Are these difficult thoughts and feelings affecting how you think about
*If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then it might
help to talk with a therapist or counsellor.
What is a
Therapist or Counsellor?
One of the questions I hear a lot is “What is a therapist?” There are many types of
therapists or professionals who work with teens and/or their families.
A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.) who has graduated from
medical school with extra training in psychiatry.
A psychiatrist in New Brunswick sees teens when medication is needed to help solve
Such medications, for example, help teens deal with depression, anxiety, attention,
aggression, and/or mood changes. Sometimes teens need more than just therapy to solve their problems.
A child and adolescent psychiatrist works with you, your family, and your therapist
to assist you in dealing with the problems you are solving.
Psychologist is an individual who has graduated from university and graduate school with a master’s degree or
doctorate in psychology and are licensed to practice. He/she will have “L. Psych. or Licensed Psychologist”
after his/her name.
A psychologist is well trained to provide therapy and, if required, qualified to
give special testing to understand certain problems.
Worker is an individual who has graduated from university and graduate school with a bachelor’s degree or
master’s degree in social work and are registered to practice. He/she will have “MSW", "LSW" or "Registered
Social Worker” after his/her name. A social worker provides counselling.
often have a degree or graduate degree and it can be from many different fields. Many counsellors belong to the
Canadian Counselling Association or the CCA.
There is no legislative body in New Brunswick who governs counsellors so it is best
to ask the individual counsellor about his/her education and experience.
What type of questions
should you ask a therapist before you decide ‘who’ to see?
You and/or your family want to solve a problem so you should see a therapist with whom you feel
It is a good idea to make a list of questions you want answers to before making a
decision of who your therapist will be.
Before committing do not hesitate to ask your potential therapist a few
questions such as:
Do you feel comfortable treating the problems I am
What is your experience in treating these
What is your therapeutic
How does your approach work?
What kind of outcome can I
It is important to ask these questions since it is very normal to feel a bit
uncomfortable in the first few sessions.
You need to know that any sense of anxiety, nervousness, and/or self-consciousness
is a result of starting therapy and not the therapist you have chosen.
*These feelings will decrease and you will become more relaxed as you work
with your therapist.
Therapy is a safe place for you talk about the problems you are having and learn to
solve them. Your therapist will listen, observe, ask questions, teach skills, and help you decide how you can
solve your problems.
Your therapist will not judge you and will not look down on you. You and your
therapist will build a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Like in any good relationship, there will be
times you agree and do not agree with your therapist.
There will be times you will not like what your therapist says. You may not even
like your therapist during these periods. These ups and downs in therapy are very normal. Your therapist is not
involved in your problem to agree with you but to help you solve your problem.
What does therapy look like?
1. Your therapist will welcome you and your parent or guardian to your first session. During your
first session, your therapist will talk with you and your parent/guardian, explain confidentiality and its
limits and he/she will ask questions and collect any required forms.
Therapy sessions usually last 50 to 60
minutes. It is important to have a parent, a family member, or guardian with you as you begin therapy. Many
unsolved problems involve family. Family members can also provide a lot of support to you during your time in
2. In the beginning, your therapist will ask lots of questions so he or
she can understand the problems you are trying to solve. During this stage of therapy, your therapist may or
may not give you some psychological assessments to fill out. These assessments may be needed to help you and
your therapist understand the problems you are experiencing.
3. Your therapist will talk with you about what he or she thinks is wrong, what approach may be taken
to work on the problems, and will decide if any other family members or friends need to be included in the
4. One very important step in therapy is goal setting. Your therapist will work with you to create
your goals for therapy and help you to visualize what your life will look like when you have reached those
Examples of goals may be, “feel happier about going to school,” “feel more comfortable in social situations,” “feel
more confident in talking to family,” or “going to more school outings and feeling comfortable.”
5. In the therapy session you will talk about your problem, learn skills to solve your problem, and
decide what you will work on in the coming week or two. You will also review your goals as you continue
to work in your sessions to see if you are moving closer to reaching them. Remember, solving problems takes
How Long Will Therapy
Usually, you will see your therapist once a week for the first few sessions. As you
start to reach your goals, the time between your sessions will become longer.
When you reach your goals, it will be time to stop therapy and try your skills on
In almost all situations, therapy is not
Just because you need therapy today does not mean you will need it tomorrow, next
week or next month.
Talk with your therapist to decide on the number of sessions. In certain
situations, some problems need a specific length of time and in other situations, it will depend on how quickly
you are able to reach your goals.
How Can I Find a
There are many individuals who can help you find a therapist. Speak with your
parents, guardian, doctor, nurse practitioner, guidance teacher, coach, youth leader, or pastor. They can help
you with a referral and begin the process.
If you have read this guide and you feel like you
need help with your problem please do not hesitate to ask for help.
You can email Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org or call
If you feel your
problem is an emergency please go to your local emergency department.