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An Example of How Child Therapy Works

A young boy comes to his child therapy session very upset and crying. We have already established a relationship over time. He has pushed another child off a swing at school and is being suspended from school for a day. He is worried that his mom will yell and not let him go to a friend’s party. In child therapy first we talk about how upset he is, and I try to help him feel that as terrible as he feels now, he will feel better if he talks about his feelings and why he pushed the other child so he can understand himself better. We talk about danger to the other child’s body. We talk about how angry he was when he pushed, how he felt betrayed when the other child took possession of the swing after he told him he would be right back when he left for a minute. We discussed how he could have asked the teacher for help and used his words instead of force, and how he could speak to his mom about his anxiety that he will have to miss the party.  As part of his  child therapy session he participates in our discussion and he gradually stops crying.

He then asks for the puppet theatre to be put up and he dictates the dialogue to me. He asks me to play 2 scenes with him. I am to play both boys in both scenes. The first scene depicts him in all his fury. Two boys are arguing, one gets rough and knocks the other one down. Then, he says, “let’s do the scene where I do better, control myself and talk.” He suggests one boy puppet( him) ask the teacher to help and to intervene . He becomes the teacher who mediates the problem during this extended play, no one gets hurt, he gets the swing back and he goes to his party and does not get yelled at.  It is a happier ending for him that is expressed in his child therapy play.

What this vignette illustrates is this:  In his child therapy session, this little boy is not only getting support and understanding from his therapist, he has also learned how to “play out” his conflict, which is how children very often use child therapy . In playing out 2 different scenarios, he is integrating a new solution to his conflict. He has had difficulty controlling his impulses and in this session he has become more aware of the consequences of this lack of control. Consequences are one important way that a child learns discipline and restraint.

He also says to me that the teacher should have been watching and helped him without his having to ask. This wish might reflect his feeling that he is not as protected as he should be, or it could reflect a fear of asking directly for help lest he be seen as weak, or that help might not be forthcoming if he did ask.  It might also reflect that he was too angry to think about other possibilities and that he wanted to punish the other child when he lost control of his angry impulses.  We hope he will see there is an advantage to self-control.  Self-discipline and self-control are developmental achievements. In this area, he has been slow to develop. Child therapy will help him to think before he acts and put his feelings into words.  This weakness in the area of impulse control likely has many possible determinants  which will become clearer in due course of his child therapy experience.

Child Therapy NYC, Rosaleen Rusty Horn

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I have been in private practice on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, NYC, for over 25 years. I provide individual psychotherapy, couples counseling, marriage therapy, child therapy, adolescent therapy, and support and guidance for parents struggling in relationship with their children. Please contact me for more information on my practice.