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Mental health interventions for children (also known as child psychotherapy) vary with respect to the problem being addressed and to the age and other individual characteristics of the child. Although such interventions share some approaches, treatment methods can be quite different from each other.
Terms describing child treatments may vary from one part of the world to another, with particular differences in the use of the terms "psychotherapy" and "psychoanalysis". For these reasons, readers should take special care to consider definitions of terms in this article.
Evidence-based child and adolescent psychotherapy
There are many therapeutic approaches to address mental health concerns among children and adolescents. Some of these approaches are backed by strong scientific evidence, and some are not.
If the normal course of secure attachment between parent and infant is disrupted, parent–infant psychotherapy is one technique that can be used to restore this bond. This technique requires a three-way relationship between the parent, child and therapist. During the therapy sessions the parent expresses his or her thoughts and feelings which are based on a combination of factors including:
- The parent’s experiences as a child
- The parent’s expectations and hopes for the child’s future
- The relationships the parent has with other people
The therapist’s role is as an observer and an interpreter of the interaction between the infant and the parent. He might share some of his thoughts about the behaviour of the child with the parent and by doing so offering the parent an alternative way of experiencing the child. This technique helps the parent to resolve issues with his or her own infancy-experiences in order to restore secure attachment with the infant. And it helps lower the risk for psychopathological developments of the child in the future.
Challenges to therapists
Children entering psychotherapy have most often been exposed to family violence or other traumatic experiences. Treating traumatized children may be unusually challenging for the therapist because of vicarious traumatization. Access to reflective supervision is needed to prevent a sense of helplessness and a "self-protective tendency to view complex clinical cases as intractable".
- Play therapy
- Filial therapy
- Mental health
- Attachment-based therapy (children)
- Parent–child interaction therapy
- Parent-Child Interaction Assessment-II
- PCIA-II/MAP Modifying Attributions of Parents Intervention
- APA Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice with Children and Adolescents (2008). Disseminating Evidence-Based Practice For Children & Adolescents: a systems approach to enhancing care. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Lieberman, AF (1992). Infant-parent psychotherapy with toddlers. Development and Psychopathology 4. pp. 559–574. doi:10.1017/s0954579400004879.
- Lieberman, AF; Silverman, R; Pawl, JH (2000). Zeanah, CH, ed. "Handbook of infant mental health" (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press. p. 432. ISBN 1-59385-171-5.
- Schechter DS, Gross A, Willheim E, McCaw J, Turner JB, Myers MM, Zeanah CH, Gleason MM (2009). Is maternal PTSD associated with greater exposure of very young children to violent media? Journal of Traumatic Stress. 22(6), 658-662.
- Schechter DS, Willheim E (2009). When parenting becomes unthinkable: Intervening with traumatized parents and their toddlers. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 48(3), 249-254.
- Lieberman, A.F. (2007). "Ghosts and angels: Intergenerational patterns in the transmission and treatment of the traumatic sequelae of domestic violence". Infant Mental Health Journal 28 (4): 422–439. doi:10.1002/imhj.20145.