Child and Adolescent Services
When children do not feel good we usually try to make them feel better at home through Band-Aids, over the counter medications, chicken noodle soup, movies, and love. If the sickness is persistent we look for outside support like going to see a doctor. Symptoms of mental illness require the same approach even though they may look different than a visible wound! You may have tried to support your child at home but are finding that the symptoms are staying around. Your child may be feeling anger, sadness, worry, low self-esteem, or grief from change and loss. Although these emotions are important to express, how your child is choosing to express these emotions may be causing problems in their life.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 6 adolescents (6-17 years old) face mental health issues each year. Furthermore, 50% of lifetime mental illnesses start at age 14, and 75% by age 24. This information is startling because it is reporting that by the end of middle school/ early high school adolescents are already potentially experiencing mental illness that could affect them their whole life without receiving treatment. In addition, adolescents are at risk for experimenting with unhealthy coping behaviors in attempts to feel better. Without support, these unhealthy behaviors could continue into adulthood leading to unwanted social, physical, and legal consequences.
In our experience working with children and adolescents, we tend to see clients show either more externalizing or more internalizing behaviors. Externalizing behaviors that you might see could look like a child fighting with others, disobedient to rules, has a hard time understanding other people’s emotions, teases others, or frequently blames. Internalizing behaviors may be harder to observe. These behaviors may include feeling sad, hopeless, down on self, excessive worrying, or seeming to have less fun.
Both externalizing and internalizing behaviors can cause the child to have a hard time paying attention. As adults, we can relate to this by thinking of having a lot to do, but being forced to sit through another work meeting. Children who have a lot on their mind and heart may struggle to focus. This could look like a child having higher than normal amounts of energy, daydreaming, or getting distracted easily. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has been a hot word in the medical and educational system in recent years. Although it is a real disorder, you can see that there are many other explanations for children having a hard time paying attention.
Prevention and Treatment
At Uplift Counseling Center, we think that it is important to support children and adolescents through therapy. We view this as prevention work to help adolescents adapt resilience and healthy coping skills that can be utilized into their adult lives!
It is common for parents to be apprehensive when bringing their children to counseling. Your child is the most important thing to you, and when they are showing concerning behaviors it is easy for parents to blame themselves. At our practice, we do not view you, or your child, to blame. We view the problem as the problem! Our job is to work with your family to name the problem, figure out how this problem is affecting your family relationship, and come up with solutions to get the problem out of your life. We do this through both family and individual session depending on your needs.
Parents also frequently ask about medications to help their child manage mental health symptoms. We do not prescribe medication at Uplift Counseling Center, but can help you have a conversation with your child’s pediatrician. Our viewpoint is that there is a time and place for medication use to treat symptoms, but that it is important to treat the underlying mental health concerns that cause the symptoms in the first place. Parents have varying viewpoints on medication use, and we respect that this is a very personal choice. Instead we can provide information and community resources that can support you in what you think is best for your child.
Here is some further information about what to expect when bringing a child to therapy:
- It is important for us to meet together with you and your child during the intake session. We want to explain to your child what they can expect in counseling, and help them feel safe in our care. There will be time in the intake session for the parents to talk with the counselor alone, and for the child to talk with the counselor alone. This allows everyone a chance to share any personal concerns they may have.
- After meeting with your family, we decide the best treatment approach for your child depending on their needs and strengths. Treatment may be based on a talk-therapy approach, a play therapy approach, or combination. We develop a treatment plan and meet with you in the start of the second session to go over this plan.
- The amount of therapy sessions needed depend on a variety of factors. However, it is our goal to get your child back to feeling their best as efficiently as possible. We will frequently check-in with you to get a better idea of how treatment is affecting your family outside of sessions.
- Unless you are looking for family therapy, most sessions will be individual with the client and child. Parents are invited to schedule individual appointments if they would like more assistance with incorporating therapy techniques at home. The counselor will reach out to you after every few sessions to share themes they are noticing. The counselor may also contact you to recommend family sessions later in the treatment process.
- Under the state of Wisconsin, parents and legal guardians hold the confidentiality of their child until 18 years of age. That means that you are able to access their treatment notes without their consent. However, we strongly feel that children have the right to privacy. Just as you would want your counselor to protect vulnerable conversations, children do as well. This understanding also allows the child to trust their counselor and prevents the child from holding back potentially harmful information. We want parents to know that we will keep them in the loop through sharing themes that emerge from sessions, but may not share direct conversations or play behaviors. We will report any concerning or dangerous behavior as well as anything that falls under our mandatory reporting requirements. This will be discussed in detail during the intake session.
- It is very common for people to feel worse before feeling better when going to counseling regardless of age. Sharing vulnerable stories can resurface bad memories or thoughts about self. The benefit of going on this challenging journey is feeling healed and healthy in the long run. This is something that we will help you prepare your child for. However, if you notice that your child is struggling with increased behaviors before or after therapy, or states that they do not want to go, please let us know. We can help you decide if counseling is still the best option at this time, or change our approach to help your child reconnect with the counseling process.
If you have any further questions about taking your child to therapy, feel free to call us or send an email! We look forward to helping your child succeed and your family connect even stronger.