Here is October’s second installment of “Ask Shelby” with Chester County’s own Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley:
A therapist can help provide treatment for his issues. For a child under the age of twelve, you want to find someone who is trained in play therapy. There are many different kinds of therapists, and I know it can be confusing, so here is a brief synopsis of some of your options:
A child psychologist is trained in specific testing that might be helpful in determining what is going on with your son. They can often provide a psychological evaluation to help determine an appropriate diagnosis. Some are trained in providing therapy as well, but always ask about their training and experience to make sure.
A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) is well trained to help you navigate the community support systems available to your son. They can help find programs and services he may need. Some are trained in providing therapy, but always ask to make sure.
A licensed professional counselor (LPC) is trained to provide counseling to individuals and may have some general training in providing therapy to families with young children. Always ask about their experience and background to be sure.
A licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) is trained to work with the entire family system (individuals, couples and families). They have specific training to help determine how each family member can help your son and identify any family interactions which may be contributing to the problem. They can address how his issues are impacting your marriage and the larger family dynamic and they can work with your son and the rest of the family to develop healthy ways of dealing with emotions, expectations, and behaviors. Not all licensed marriage and family therapists are trained to work with young children, so make sure you ask about their experience and background to make sure.
Again, any therapist working with your son should be trained in play therapy, as most young children don’t respond well to to traditional “talk therapy.”
It may be that your son’s behaviors all fall within the range of “normal behavior” as most six- year-olds exhibit some difficult behaviors from time to time. Even so, working with a therapist to help you all deal with difficult emotions and situations can be extremely helpful! And if his symptoms are significant and part of a more serious problem, working with a trained professional can help you give your son what he needs to better cope with his issues.
Good luck to you and your son,