Research has repeatedly shown that the most effective therapy for children, regardless of the presenting problem, has two key qualities:
- The child’s parents or caregivers are actively involved in the therapeutic process and learn new ways of interacting with their child to address the presenting problem. The child’s relationships with primary caregivers are vital to healthy development, and are often significantly impacted over time as problems develop. Therefore, the empirically-based therapeutic approaches utilized at the ICFE are those that actively include parents in the process not only as experts on their children’s histories, needs, and strengths, but also as vital agents of change for their children. The therapist will work to establish a relationship with the entire family in order to understand the context in which the child lives, and work with parents to modify the child’s environment in ways to facilitate the desired changes for the child. ICFE therapists strive to form a collaborative relationship with parents to understand and achieve their goals.
- Therapy utilizes developmentally appropriate means for understanding and communicating with a child. Children are developmentally limited in their abilities to verbalize their needs, experiences, fears, and goals. Developmental research has long demonstrated the critical role of play in child development- children use play to both make sense of their world and to express their experiences and needs to adults. Play therapy involves using these natural functions of children’s play to achieve the therapeutic goals. ICFE therapists are, therefore, trained and experienced in utilizing play within child therapy. As a part of therapy, the therapist will often educate parents to better understand their children through play. Parents also frequently express a desire to better understand their child’s level of development and how normal developmental processes may be impacting the child’s presenting problem.
What parents can expect of the therapy process:
The first session scheduled will almost always include time alone with the parents to gather background information, developmental history, and understand parents’ goals and concerns. Parents may also be asked to complete assessment questionnaires about their children, their family, and/or themselves.
The therapist will also spend time individually with the child, typically on a regularly basis. Individual time with children under the age of 10 will almost always include some type of play.
As a part of developing an understanding of the child and the child’s relationships, the therapist may invite the parents to engage in play activities with their child/children during sessions.
After gathering information from parents, interacting with the child, and observing the child in interactions with family members, the therapist will develop a diagnostic assessment of the child and/or a relational assessment of the child’s family interactions. A treatment plan based on the nature of the presenting problem, developmental level of the child, family context, and goals for the outcome of therapy will then be formulated and updated as needed.