Not very long ago, children were perceived as miniature adults with bad table manners. Eventually, their uniqueness was acknowledged, and the main pathways of childhood development were mapped out.
Yet often times, when parents come to my office, they ask for ways to mold their child into a more academically and socially acceptable, family-tolerable being (all of the above as measured by the adult’s standards). And I do it: by the end of successful therapy, a child does become more acceptable by those standards. But I also consider therapy a success when parents start to use more complicated criteria when looking at their children. These criteria include an enhanced level of understanding and communication between a parent and a child, and an increased sense of self-worth, confidence, and initiative on the child’s part.
Therapy with adults is by no means a straightforward enterprise, and therapy with children is even more multi-dimensional. Often, it includes talking, role-playing, doing art projects, singing, dancing, or simply sitting quietly and being present while the child is grappling with a difficult issue. All of that does not sound too scientific, does it?
Well, that’s because child therapy is not science by nature, but rather art. Even psychologists and educators who work in one of many strict paradigms will tell you that, without frequent departures from working by a manual, no progress is possible with children. Therefore, when looking for a therapist to treat your child, search for the one who does not have all the answers ready for you from the start. We, the experts, love to feel all-important, but that is never what child therapy is about.
You have to look for a therapist who is willing to explore together with you and your child all possible routes of development, while keeping in mind that the ultimate destination of this journey is not a specific achievement, but a better adjusted and happier child and a more content family. Dr. Irina Volynsky