Child therapy is a dynamic process between the child and the therapist in which the child explores – at their own pace and manner – the past and present events that have consciously or unconsciously affected their lives. The main tool is a dialogic therapeutic relation between therapist and child. Using play, the child’s most natural activity, the therapist encourages children to become aware of and express their own needs and develops their inner resources. The child is living through, and coming to terms with, the past or current traumas. The inner resources of the child, activated in the relationship with the therapist, bring about personal growth and changes. An important part of the therapy is the use of projective and play techniques which the therapist uses according to the child’s age and their cognitive and emotional development, possibilities and abilities. The purpose of play and projective techniques is to deal with an unpleasant experience, to dissolve the tensions which had appeared in the past or are currently present. More on therapy below in “Therapeutic process”.
Recommendation: It is inadvisable to discontinue the therapy prematurely before the child has managed to resolve their internal issues. Dealing with a traumatic experience can be painful for the child. It is therefore desirable that the parent actively cooperates, motivating and supporting the child. Only a trauma-overcoming process that has run its course leads to the renewal of the child’s inner resources and recovery. The interruption of and failure to finish the process may harm the child and prolong the period of conquering the trauma in the future.
Children under eleven years of age are brought to the session by their parents. A child above eleven years may come alone unaccompanied. The transport and safety of the child during the journey to the session is the parent’s responsibility. If the parent sends a child below eleven to the session unaccompanied, it is the parent’s responsibility. They must inform the therapist about this decision in advance.
The duration of one therapeutic session with a child is 50 minutes. Sessions with small children (about 3 to 5 years of age) may be shortened if the child is tired, in low spirits, or wishes to stop for other reasons.
The parents’ cooperation is also part of the therapy. Once every four to five sessions with the child it is suitable to consult with a parent (the duration of the consultation is determined individually according to the immediate need).
Establishing a therapeutic relationship
Your child and I will spend some time getting to know each other. The time serves to establish and strengthen the feeling of safety and trust between us and set the boundaries and limits. This relationship is essential for future therapeutic progress.
Contact implies the ability of the child to be fully connected in our interactions. If the child finds it difficult to maintain contact, the therapy concentrates on helping him to make contact and maintain it. Contact is at the same time restored and assessed during each session. If the child is unable to keep up contact with me, I respect it and regard it as a sign that the child is currently faced with some kind of difficult and painful issue.
Contact functions denote the use of senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste), the awareness and functioning of the body, the expression of emotions, the use of language and intellect. Children who are anxious and worried will be suppressing their natural life functions. The development and improved use of these functions of the organism are an important part of the therapeutic process.
This area includes helping the child to build her inner strength through self-expression. The strength comes when the child begins to know and define herself through expressing her wishes, wants and needs and also through the realization of what she likes and does not like, her ideas and opinions. ‘The child’s self-support is thus built up by the therapeutic experience, where she can make her own choices and manage any given situation.; the child learns to accept the support for her strength. We engage in a number of games and activities which are intended to develop self-support.
Expression of emotions
Self-support is a prerequisite for venting unexpressed or suppressed emotions. Work with the expression of emotions means helping children to understand what emotions are, to learn and recognize accompanying physical manifestations of emotions, to display unexpressed emotions which are an obstacle to healthy functioning and to learn the skill of how to display emotions, for example anger, in a safe and effective way. Work with emotions makes use of a whole range of creative, expressive and projective techniques, such as painting, modelling with clay, using puppets, work with the sand tray and figurines, story-telling, music, creative drama, and others.
The aim of this part of therapy is to help the child change her negative opinion of herself which she may have acquired at an early age. These negative self-assessments are brought to light and revised; or the child is taught to be more caring about the parts of herself which these self-assessments relate to. This is vital for the goal of the therapy, which is to boost the full integration, allowing the child to cope with the demanding task of growing up to be emotionally healthy, effectively and without unresolved life issues.
Being engaged with the process
Generally it is possible to change the undesirable modes of behaviour through the above work and techniques. However, even though the problems may disappear, the child may often continue using inefficient strategies to achieve their needs. During the therapy the child can experiment with and discover new ways in which to behave in life. She can also acquire new tools which are more suitable for gaining support from her close ones and the environment when she needs it.
Final meeting/ending therapy
In order to draw conclusions from our joint work, it is necessary to go through several sessions. The child needs to learn to let some things go and be able to carry on. The last meeting is the time for evaluation and the planning of how to proceed with the future in mind, including techniques that will help the child cope with it. During this journey the child may show phases of stagnation (plateau) and later also new symptoms or forms of behaviour that will indicate that she is mature enough for further work. We will cooperate and join forces to find the best time for the child to bring our collaboration to an end.
Work with the family and educating the parents It is essential to work hand in hand, as a support team. We will share the goal perspective and experience and watch for the child’s progress. We’ll be meeting on a regular basis both with and without the child. In the course of the therapy I may ask you to try new ways of parenting and new parental tasks which may aid the therapeutic process even outside individual therapy.