Child and Family Services
Working with children and families is one of our favorite parts of the job! It is with great pride, honor, and enthusiasm that we accept the responsibility of joining families during a difficult time, with the goal of creating and reinforcing hope. We realize that parents are trusting us with the most important part of their lives, their children. Watching children reach goals, working together with parents to address difficult behaviors, and being a part of the happiness that therapy can nurture is truly fulfilling.
Working with families will frequently encompass individual sessions with children, family sessions with multiple family members, and/or parenting or co-parenting sessions to improve family functioning and address a wide range of issues. Sessions may be provided in the safe, convenient and comfortable environment of our office or your home.
Does My Child Need Therapy?
According to the CDC, one in six children between the ages of 2 and 8 years old has a behavioral, mental, or developmental disorder. The most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders in children are behavior problems, ADHD, anxiety and depression. As a parent, it can sometimes be hard to know what is “just part of growing up” versus when your child may actually need extra treatment and support. Regardless of diagnosable difficulties, we feel that all families can use a little help sometimes. A trained and experienced clinician can understand how issues can present differently depending on age, gender and developmental level, and provide children and parents with a clear road map for moving forward with effective interventions.
Common Issues Addressed in Child/Family Therapy include:
Depression and Anxiety
Child Tantrum Behaviors, Whining, Defiance, Oppositionality
Child Self-harm Behaviors and Statements
Family Communication Patterns & Styles
Differences in Parental Disciplining Styles
Family Power Dynamics
Death of a Family Member
Blended Family Adjustment
Adjustment to a New Family Member
What to Expect During the Initial Meeting
After your complimentary phone consultation, family members will meet with us during an initial meeting, also referred to as an intake or diagnostic evaluation, to review concerns, gather information, develop treatment goals and discuss how therapy works. Weekly sessions are frequently recommended to provide the consistent opportunity to nurture the development of a therapeutic alliance of trust and security with your child and improve the overall efficacy of the treatment. Depending on the age and needs of your child, weekly sessions may be 45 or 90 minutes.
Because parents play a critical role in the success of therapy, it is important that they are involved in the therapeutic process throughout, which may include joint child-parent sessions, family sessions and/or separate parent meetings. Additionally, throughout treatment progress, observations and feedback will be discussed periodically.
The Role of The Therapist in Forging Healthy New Dynamics
In addition to a behavior modification program, a trained therapist can help a family understand how they have transmitted messages within the system to deal with or not certain kinds of feelings. This allows the family to have more access to certain feelings and make decisions about how the family wants to respond, react, and speak to various feelings within the family.
This dialogue is a complex one that unfolds over time and allows the family to learn how to become a resource for each other in times of need and crisis. This gives the family a sense of togetherness in the face of whatever challenges may be facing them over the developmental lifetime of the family.
Individual therapy with children consists of non-threatening, fun methods to tackle big problems with your little ones. Common methods used include games, role-playing, art, stories, play therapy, and activities to put children at ease, build rapport and reduce the sense of "being in therapy". The goal is to make it fun and, we must admit, it’s a lot of fun for us too!
Therapeutic issues include anxiety, depression, trauma, dealing with loss/divorce, stress, problematic behaviors, and more. The most important components of successful therapy is an appropriate match between the patient and therapist, and parental involvement. We invite you to read more in the “Children and Family Therapy” section.
What is Play Therapy?
A therapeutic approach typically used with children ages 3 to 12 years old to explore and express feelings, experiences and thoughts. The process is free from extensive, rigid rules or limitations and allows for the child to freely explore, make choices and play. Play therapy aims to help children communicate their inner world, express themselves in healthy ways and discover new ways to solve challenges. The play therapist is specially trained to engage with the child through play in such a way that is supportive, empathic and open.
Why Play Therapy?
There are many reasons why parents seek out play therapy for their children. Play therapy can help a child improve communication, modify behaviors, develop problem solving skills and learn ways to relate to peers and loved ones in a more positive manner. Play therapy is helpful for children who are currently experiencing trauma or have experienced trauma in the past. Play therapy allows the child to share and work through trauma that might feel too scary to talk about. Witnessing stressful events in life, for children, can be particularly traumatic and cause them to get “stuck” developmentally, regress to an earlier age or experience somatic symptoms. When this happens parents might see changes in their child’s patterns of sleeping or eating or their child’s behavior might drastically change. It can be hard for parents to make sense of and to know what to do.
When children witness stressful life events, a serious illness, domestic violence, abuse or a family crisis, symptoms of distress also tend to arise. We work with children through play to give them the tools to express feelings they may not be able to share or have the vocabulary to express following a traumatic experience. For many children play is the only way for them to process traumatic experiences and we quickly see progress and healing when working with young children in this way.
The early onset of some childhood mental health disorders can also start as early as elementary school. Parents and teachers might start to notice the child falling behind at school or having difficulty navigating relationships with peers at school. Some schools offer resources, but many lack the in-depth understanding and ability to work with the child one-on-one through play that is most effective for children who are struggling. At South Florida Counseling and Assessment, some of the most common childhood concerns addressed through play include social difficulties, behavioral and learning disabilities, anxiety and depression, attention deficit disorders, as well as anger and grief.
Parents and caregivers play a large role in the play therapy process. The play therapist will curate a specific play therapy approach with specific types of tools and at home interventions to be implemented between sessions. Oftentimes play therapy incorporates art therapy, music and storytelling. Depending on the age of the child, sand tray therapy is also incorporated into the play therapy.
Play is Speaking Your Child’s Language
Research has shown that for young children, play is their main method of expression, meaning-making and communication. There are two main approaches to play therapy: nondirective play therapy and directive play therapy. Nondirective play therapy is based on the belief that children can work through, express and ultimately resolve their issues and fears within the play process when given the freedom to play without specific instructions. Directive play therapy, compared to nondirective, is more structured and influenced by the clinician.
What Is Family Therapy?
Family therapy most often includes all of the members of a family, even those that are less than willing or able to participate (such as reluctant teens and extended family). Having all the players present helps the therapist understand the full scope of the patterns at play. The focus of sessions is on the multiple individuals that make up a family unit. Family therapists value observing the patterns, dynamics, and environment; all this information helps to interpret how to best help the individuals that make up your family.
To reduce conflict between family members, Family therapy aims to improve the ways they communicate. Family therapy recognizes that many personal issues affect numerous members of a family, not just one person. A skilled therapist may sit down with family members and help them talk through their issues and teach them more effective ways to communicate and resolve conflicts. Whether you are having a conflict with your spouse, parent, or child, family therapy may help you resolve your issues and become a stronger family.
What to Expect from Family Therapy
Therapy is a difficult journey for many, as their comfortable patterns and behaviors are analyzed and challenged in hopes of seeing positive change. Those that succeed in therapy are open-minded to new strategies, willing to try new methods, and dedicated to the process. The role of your therapist is to walk alongside you, at your pace, with guidance and support.
In the first session your therapist’s main focus is to get to know your family, gain a clear understanding of what you’re looking to change, and learn more about why you're looking for help. Your therapist will guide you through the expectations of therapy: both what your therapist expects of you, and what you can expect from your therapist. You will discuss confidentiality, different policies, and get your other questions answered. Next, your therapist will assist you in determining your goals and you will make a plan to achieve those together.
In subsequent sessions be prepared to laugh, cry, stretch, grow, and reach goals you thought were impossible.
Systemic Family Therapy
To understand the many parts that make up a child, a Systemic Family Therapy approach may be utilized. A Systemic approach focuses on the multiple systems that each individual is a part of, and how those systems impact the person's experiences interacting with the world, as well as how the world interacts with them. Your child is a part of your immediate family, your extended family, a member of a friend group, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, a student at a local school, and a teammate on a team. On a larger scale, he or she is a part of the systems that he or she culturally identifies with (e.g., age, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation). All of these dynamic and shifting systems make up who your child is, how he or she relates to others, and how others relate to your child. Systemic therapy is successful because the therapist is in tune with the impacts and pressures from these various dimensions of identity.
Family Therapy sessions greatly value the depth and richness of systems and harnesses their influence to create long-lasting change.
Separation and divorce is an extremely difficult time for every member of a family. Although divorce has been steadily decreasing since 2016, there is still a large percentage of families who are or will go through the end of a marriage. Separation, custody and the toll divorce takes on all family members can not only be heartbreaking, but can also feel overwhelming. Child Individual and/or Family Therapies can be very helpful in supporting families through a difficult moment of transition. Bringing in the expertise of a clinician can be helpful when you need someone who understands the unique challenges a divorce can place on each family member. An experienced therapist can help navigate the developmental abilities of a child to understand and make sense of the divorce and provide a place for each family member to safely grieve the changing family structure. Divorce can affect each family member differently and therapy can provide compassion, understanding and support.
Grief and loss is another one of the most common reasons parents seek therapy services and support. The grieving process is one that is unique to each person and the circumstances of the relationship and loss. We have a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to compassionately guiding your child and/or family through the grieving process. Therapy may use art, play, and talk therapy to allow for the most gentle, supportive atmosphere to express feelings, sadness, and to grieve. Grief is a normal human experience and one that we will all experience in our lifetimes. Rather than viewing or characterizing the feelings of sadness, anger, confusion, denial, and despair as psychologically abnormal, a skilled clinician understands that his role is to walk the path of grief with you and your child, providing a guiding light. Parents are also offered tools and resources to aid in talking to their children about death and the grieving process.
“Parenthood is easy!”- said no parent ever
We want to empower you to connect back with the times that you did feel like parenting was enjoyable. You are the expert regarding your child and family. Throughout our work together we will be looking to partner with you to better understand what you see is working and what is not. Your feedback will help us tailor research-based parenting techniques and strategies for success. At times, resources, workshops and additional supports outside of the parental coaching sessions can be provided to give you all the tools you need.
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
Every parent can use a little help sometimes. Raising kids while balancing your own adult life can be challenging. Being a parent may even feel overwhelming, impossible, or just plain joyless at times, especially when you lack a supportive community. Our goal is to become part of your village, support your family, provide recommendations and resources tailored to your family’s needs and bring enjoyment and peace back to the wild ride that is parenthood.
Parent Coaching and Modeling
An integral part of our treatment approach to working with children is parent education and training. We offer parent training to deal with a myriad of childhood issues. Parent training includes providing child developmental information and research-based parenting strategies and instruction, conjoint sessions with a parent and child, and multi-parent groups to assist parents with similar parenting issues. We work with parents of younger children on establishing behavioral modification programs, responding to tantrums, overcoming homework battles and appropriate use of discipline and rewards. we help parents of teens cope with their teen's mood swings, hostility, drug and alcohol use, lack of motivation and/or depression.
Parent coaching begins with an individual meeting focused on gathering essential information about areas of concern, as well as effective and ineffective parenting strategies previously attempted. By collectively building a comprehensive understanding of the family challenges, we provide you with a detailed plan of action. We also discuss expectations regarding how and when change might occur based on recommendations. As parents implement new techniques, we continue to closely monitor and track progress together, building on what we have learned, we continue to provide additional information and resources, empowering you to continue to integrate effective tools and evidence-based interventions.
An effective and integral part of Parent Coaching includes Practice and/or Modeling sessions with parents and children. During Practice sessions, activities are created to allow parents to practice parenting strategies, with my support and immediate feedback. This allows us to observe child responses and adjust our strategies to be more effective. Modeling sessions are an opportunity for parents to observe us while utilizing the strategies we discussed.
Divorce is incredibly stressful on the whole family and, at times, it’s difficult to co-parent while grieving the marriage, and learning how to communicate as co-parents with different parenting styles. Both parents should share the rights and responsibilities of parenting, while respecting boundaries. That’s a tall order! Co-Parenting Counseling helps you understand how your conflict and separation are affecting your children, learn to minimize your children's burdens, as well as, reduce your own stress and life disruption.
South Florida Counseling and Assessment proudly offers parent workshops throughout the year. Topics range from the most common parenting issues, such as addressing tantrum behaviors, to talking to your child about a death or divorce. Workshops are generally created and scheduled as parents express interest. Depending on the topic of discussion, workshops range in duration from one to two hours and are offered at the Las Olas office.
All workshops include time for Q & A as well as opportunities for local parents to connect with one another around common challenges. We welcome parents to participate in open discussions, which are part of every workshop, in which participants are invited to share experiences, techniques and advice. Parent workshops can be a helpful supplement to the Parental Coaching Program.
In addition to traditional office-based services, South Florida Counseling and Assessment gladly offers In-home, also referred to as “home-based,” family therapy services. In-home therapy may incorporate individual, family, and parenting focused interventions at various times throughout the therapeutic process. For example, this may include working with your child to develop healthier responses to being told “no,” psychoeducational parenting meetings with one or both parents that consist of providing parenting strategies, then family sessions where the therapist may model or coach parents during interactions with their child.
Home-based therapy offers convenience for you, and provides the therapist with a comprehensive understanding of your family system and it’s patterns. It allows the therapist to connect with your family on a deeper level and see how patterns play out. Having a more vivid picture of your family's dynamics ensures your therapist has a more solid grasp on your family's patterns and offers more attainable solutions.