Since 2003, diagnoses of depression and anxiety have increased among American children aged 6 to 17 years by 46%. (1) As a result, more children and parents than ever are living with and seeking treatment for mental illness. Visits with medical doctors, enrollment in outpatient mental health treatment programs, and working with a psychotherapist are currently the most popular methods of seeking treatment and diminishing mental disability among children. (2) However, counseling is another service, often underutilized, that can be extremely valuable to the management of a child’s mental illness. (3)
Whether you have pursued treatment for mental illness before or not, here are 5 ways that counseling can positively impact your child’s wellness and family’s overall health.
1. Assist Families Reach Common Goals
Counseling is a family-centered form of treatment. This means that the thoughts and feelings of all family members are considered by the counselor when providing care to a child. A counselor can also connect families to external resources that may improve home life for everyone. (4)
2. Shift The Child’s Outlook
As adults, we may find it easier than when we were younger to make a choice to let go of worries, accept the unknown, and find happiness. For children, who are just learning their place in a busy world, these choices may be harder or less obvious, and place a strain on their mental health. Using positive affirmations and creative activities to grasp the bigger picture, counselors can assist children in changing their perspective. Such changes in perspective can boost a child’s self-esteem, increase their confidence, and reframe problems to provoke a healthier response. (5)
3. Support During Difficult Transitions
Changes in school, routines, friends, and family can bring on symptoms and signs of mental illness in children. Because severe forms of mental illness provoked by transitions can delay or derail a child’s development, counselors will work with children on handling specific sources of distress or anxiety. (6)
4. Healing After Trauma
Children can be unable to process the complexities of trauma - be it emotional, psychological, or physical. A counselor can play a crucial role in helping children identify and discuss an underlying trauma that is preventing them from mental wellness. Children may feel more comfortable discussing trauma with a trusted adult who is not their direct parent. Turning to a counselor for support can also lift a burden from parents who may also be suffering from trauma. (5)
5. Improve Coping Skills
Mindfulness and ‘detective-thinking’ to change a child’s behavior or feelings can be used by a counselor to reduce anxiety or symptoms of mental illness. Parents, working with a counselor, can additionally learn how to help their child cope with mental illness by avoiding triggers, narrating emotions, and externalizing their thoughts. (6)
As a registered nurse, I have seen the frustration and challenges parents experience in seeking help for a child with mental illness. Episodes of acute illness can flare up easily, and wait times to see specialists can be long. Working with a trusted and well-trained counselor may not ‘fix’ every issue your child faces, but can bring a set of ‘fresh eyes’ to each new challenge and obstacle.
Crystal McLeod, MScN
Crystal is a registered nurse with over 6 years of clinical experience. During her nursing career, she has worked in both rural and remote community hospitals and urban critical care settings.
If you want to learn more about what counseling can do for you and your child, reach out to the Kasandra Wheeler PLLC team. We would love to discuss how we can help your family achieve optimal health and wellness!