By Dr. Courtney Cotter, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Senior Director of Children’s Mental Health

Seeking therapy for your child can feel scary or overwhelming. Many parents have shared that they worry that something is “wrong” with their child if they need therapeutic intervention. Stigma around mental health concerns continues to be very common, but just as we periodically need medical intervention to care for our physical health, we also periodically need psychological intervention to care for our mental health.  

Children sometimes experience periods of worry or sadness, and sometimes these emotions can start to feel heavy or overwhelming to deal with. Seeking therapy to understand these emotions and ways to cope with them can be a very empowering experience for a child. Often, through the therapeutic process, a child learns that they are not the only one who experiences these emotions and that they have the power to manage emotions rather than feeling overwhelmed by them.  

People with autism and developmental disabilities may also have specific needs that therapeutic intervention can help with. Increasing flexibility with unexpected changes, addressing social challenges, and creating adaptive routines for self-care are all things that are commonly addressed in therapy.  

What should I expect as my child begins therapy?  

For young children, therapy may begin by working directly with parents to learn about what is happening that feels concerning and ways they can support their child at home to address these concerns. The child will likely participate in the therapeutic process periodically, based on their specific needs and age.  

For older children, therapy may include an initial session in which the child and parents talk together with the therapist about what is happening that is concerning, followed by a time for the child to speak privately with the therapist about their concerns and needs. At times, the session may conclude with the child and therapist summarizing together for parents any important points that were discussed in therapy. To support development of a therapeutic relationship between the child and therapist, it is important to be able to offer confidentiality to the child, which will be discussed with the child and parent at the start of the therapeutic process. 

What should I say if my child asks why they need therapy 

It is important to normalize that talking to a person about the things that are bothering you is a healthy way to cope with emotions and experiences that are hard. The more we can normalize seeking support for mental health when needed, the more we will reduce the stigma that currently surrounds mental health needs.  

If you’re interested in learning more about how therapy can positively impact your child’s life, consider exploring the services offered by Aspire Living & Learning. Our therapeutic interventions are designed to meet the unique needs of children, with a particular focus on supporting those with autism and developmental disabilities. Through personalized care and expert guidance, we aim to empower children to thrive and reach their full potential.

To contact Dr. Courtney Cotter, Ph.D., BCBA-D directly, please fill out the form below.

Thought Leadership

Supporting Your Child’s Mental Health: The Role of Therapy