Counseling for Kids

Kids deserve to grow up to be healthy, confident, thriving adults.

Growing up isn’t easy. In childhood, emotions can run high and children don’t always have the skills to articulate what they are feeling. Regulating emotions and understanding why they think and feel the way they do is often challenging for kids. This may cause problems in relationships, family dynamics, friendships, school performance, and more.

Through therapy, children are given a consistent, safe space to talk about what they are going through with a trusted adult. We provide a non-judgmental space where kids can open up about family relationships, school experiences, friendships, personal growth, and all of their big questions as they learn, grow, and discover the world around them.

Having this safe outlet to speak openly about their experiences and frustrations helps to de-escalate the intensity of difficult feelings during childhood and also enhances one’s ability to communicate effectively. Therapy also allows children to learn healthy coping skills which they can directly use in their everyday life.

Further, it’s important to remember that childhood experiences are often the foundational building blocks for one’s future development. For example, low self-image and confidence in childhood can negatively impact future mental health, potentially leading to adult anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. The best way to prevent mental health challenges in the future is to address any concerns early on.

Therapy can help kids by:

  • Allowing for a consistent, non-judgmental space
  • Creating a positive connection to a trusted adult
  • Increasing feelings of interpersonal trust and protection
  • Building confidence and self-esteem as kids grow up
  • Helping to understand challenges within a family
  • Exploring friendships or learning skills for making friends
  • Developing skills and strategies for handling school challenges
  • Confronting issues such as bullying or peer pressure
  • Talking about sensitive issues like puberty in a safe space
  • Overcoming school challenges such as academic concerns
  • Fostering a healthy grieving process after experiencing a loss
  • Addressing emotional challenges such as temper tantrums
  • Creating behavior plans to help a child control behavioral impulses
  • Assessing for early signs of anxiety or depression developing
  • Improving communication skills and learning how to speak up
  • Confronting shyness, insecurities, or difficulty in social settings
  • Adjusting to changes in routine, such as after a family divorce

We can help kids answer:

  • Why are my parents fighting all the time?
  • Why is it so hard to get along with my siblings?
  • Why is it so hard to make friends?
  • Why does it feel like I don’t fit in?
  • Why are there bullies at school?
  • Why don’t I get along with my teacher?
  • How can I find more fun activities?
  • Why do adults tell me I’m too young to understand?
  • Why don’t I get to stay up late like my older siblings?
  • Why don’t my parents understand me?
  • Why am I not interested in things I used to like?
  • How can I be more social and less shy?
  • Why is it so hard to trust people?
  • How can I like myself and my body more?
  • Why did someone I love leave me?
  • Why did someone hurt me?
  • Why do I have to go to school?
  • How come growing up is so confusing?

How do I know if my child needs therapy?

For most parents, it can be confusing to understand how or why your child may benefit from counseling. Most parents wonder, is therapy really necessary? We recognize that making a decision about therapy for a child can be daunting, but we are here to help. Most commonly, we tell parents that every child can benefit from therapy even in the absence of a “problem” that you’re noticing. In other words, therapy can be helpful for every child simply because it increases their support system and provides another adult role model in a child’s life. There is no need to have an identifiable behavior problem or emotional issue to benefit from counseling.

Therefore, if you are debating whether or not therapy is necessary for your child, remember there is no need to reach a certain unhappiness threshold in order for therapy to be helpful. Sometimes, therapy can be helpful for a child simply to maintain positive mental health or to encourage the continued use of healthy coping skills.

Some signs that may indicate a need for counseling include:

  • Frequent emotional breakdowns
  • Frequent yelling or screaming
  • Fighting with siblings, parents, or other family members
  • Difficulty getting along with peers or classmates
  • Difficulty listening to rules or instructions from parents/guardians
  • Difficulty listening to school teachers or other adults
  • General behavior concerns at school, home, or other environments
  • Feeling upset about life changes (family divorce, a new home, a new school, etc.)
  • Signs of abnormal developmental progress
  • Difficulty monitoring for body needs (bathroom issues, etc.)
  • General problems with learning or maintaining focus
  • Difficulty adjusting to puberty

Kids and Telehealth

Telehealth is often a great choice for kids age 8 and older. If your child is younger than 8, our services may not be appropriate, but we welcome an open conversation with you to determine how to proceed. Depending on social skills, attention span, communication style, attachment patterns, and other factors, some young children thrive on telehealth. We rely on parent/guardian information to help in the assessment of whether or not telehealth is suitable.

Sometimes, we may begin telehealth services with a patient and after thorough evaluation determine that the patient may not be a suitable candidate for telehealth services given their clinical needs. If this occurs, we will assist with a smooth transfer to face-to-face treatment outside of River Oaks Psychology.

For kids 8+ who are comfortable with technology and who are good candidates for telehealth, there are many reasons why telehealth can be a great choice:

  • Online therapy allows kids to feel more comfortable in therapy. For many children, going to a traditional office setting brings anxiety and discomfort. Going to an unfamiliar location, waiting in a waiting room, and then entering a small office to talk with a therapist is usually not the best way for a child to feel comfortable. In contrast, virtually bringing therapy into a child’s home environment usually makes the process easier. When kids feel comfortable online at home, we are able to gain a clearer understanding of who they are and how we can help them.
  • Online therapy allows kids to “show and tell” about their homes and lives. It can be very therapeutic for kids to show their therapist around their home or let the therapist see their special toys, bedroom posters, school projects, the family living room, Christmas tree, Halloween pumpkins, and so on. It helps to feel “seen” and “understood,” building stronger trust in the therapeutic relationship.
  • Online therapy can provide kids greater independence without having to rely on a parent or guardian to drive them to a traditional office. Many kids are tech-savvy enough to log on to a computer, tablet, or phone and access a link to their therapy appointment. This increased independence and ability to take ownership over their wellness can help improve their confidence and self-esteem. It also helps to foster a lifelong commitment to taking their mental health and wellness into their own hands.
  • Online therapy also allows kids to grab a favorite pillow, stuffed animal, cozy blanket, or any other personal comfort items. Need low-lighting or a bright-lit space? Your choice! Want to stay in pajamas? Totally fine – we never judge. This type of personalization is not possible when visiting an office. We encourage kids to gather whatever they need to make sessions feel as comfortable as possible.

How does Informed Consent work for kids?

For all minors under 18 serving as “the patient” – whether for individual therapy or family therapy – we require informed consent from a designated parent/guardian with custodial rights. This means the designated parent/guardian with custody will be signing our electronic paperwork prior to the onset of treatment.

In addition, the designated parent/guardian will be listed as the patient’s Emergency Contact, and will also be considered as the one financially responsible. The credit card provided in the patient portal must belong to the parent/guardian.

If circumstances suggest that custodial rights may be in question (including but not limited to, if a minor has divorced parents/guardians, if a minor is not living with parents/guardians, if a minor is in foster care, among other circumstances), documentation of holding custodial rights must be provided (uploaded to the patient portal) prior to the onset of treatment. In a case where custody is split 50/50 between two people, consent to the minor’s therapy is required from both people. Proof of custody includes, but is not limited to: a custody order or affidavit of parenting agreements.

Can parents/guardians receive updates on how therapy is going?

YES. Parents/guardians with custodial rights are legally entitled to some information about their child’s therapy. At the same time, some children may need to discuss sensitive information with their therapist that they do not want their parents/guardians to know about. We will inform you of the information which may be provided to parents/guardians and which issues are more appropriately kept confidential between the patient and therapist.

It is common for some parents/guardians to worry about conversations happening between their child and the therapist without their knowledge and some parents/guardians fear that “secrets” will undermine their relationship with their child. However, we ask that parents/guardians remember how critical it is for a child to feel safe openly disclosing their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to a therapist without fear of consequences. When children can openly share personal experiences in therapy, their relationship with others, including their parents/guardians, will likely improve.

At River Oaks Psychology, we do our very best to respect what children feel most comfortable with while simultaneously honoring parents/guardians and their right to know general information about treatment.

Can parents/guardians participate in sessions?

YES. While some children prefer to have therapy without parents/guardians present, others would like their parents/guardians to be present, and we are happy to include them. We may also ask parents/guardians or other adults responsible for a child’s welfare to become involved the treatment process with or without the child present if we feel this is necessary for effective treatment. Sometimes this is necessary to gain further information and perspectives regarding behaviors, living arrangements, parenting styles, school experiences, and other matters.

Most importantly, we want all parents/guardians to know that we are accessible and happy to communicate with you at any point during the treatment process. We recognize how important your child’s wellness is to you, and we are committed to making this process as positive as possible for your family.

If you have any questions, concerns, or general thoughts about the process, we encourage you to contact us.