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Integrative Therapy Institute

of New Jersey

Our Approach to...

Therapy for Preschool Children

By Edward Callaghan, Ph.D.

Early childhood is a time of newness and change when the child is expected to adapt to an array of different physical, emotional, sensory, cognitive, and social changes all at the same time.  This period (roughly from ages two to six) is very challenging.  The child is still extremely dependent on parents, teachers, and other caregivers, but must also learn about the world and about herself/himself, develop new skills for managing moods and frustrations, and understand and adapt to rules---all while trying to fit in socially.

This stage of a child’s development is marked by very rapid physical, cognitive, and emotional growth.  Between ages two and six the child undergoes a remarkable transformation from having just acquired the skills for talking, walking, and controlling bodily functions to being able to function in a school setting for up to six hours a day, use a computer, work out mathematical problems, read books, write stories, and participate in a variety of other endeavors.  Because the demands for adaptation are so rapid and so numerous it is easy for the child to become stressed and overloaded.  This is especially true when the child is forced to adapt to outside stresses and strains in addition to the typical ones.  It is common, for example, for young children to become emotionally overwhelmed when confronting parental conflict, a loved one’s death, or bullying.

In order to manage these challenges it is important for the child to have the requisite coping skills, social skills, and problem-solving skills for addressing them.  A child with social skills deficits, anxiety or mood problems, learning disabilities, or attention deficits will meet with added stress and challenge when facing problems at home, in school, or with peers.  When problems in these areas are not adequately addressed early on, they tend to worsen and lead to additional problems with self-esteem and poor socialization as well as the possibility for more serious difficulties later on (e.g., poorly controlled anger, major depression, generalized anxiety, etc.)

In providing treatment to young children, whether

on-site or via a teletherapy video conference chat, we start by scheduling a meeting with the parents and the child

together.  During this meeting the therapist interviews the parents and either talks to, or plays with the child to try to develop a better understanding of the problem(s) confronting the child, the challenges the parents are facing in assisting the child, and the various stresses and obstacles that are impacting the situation.  By meeting jointly with the child and the parents the therapist is able to observe the child “in action” and get a sense of the child’s personality, social relatedness, patterns of emotional expression, and patterns of relating with the parents.  The parents, in turn, are able to provide an in-depth description of the child’s strengths and challenges, temperament and developmental history, social functioning and progress in school, and information regarding the child’s difficulties.  

After meeting with the child and parents for a couple of sessions the therapist will recommend a course of treatment to address the difficulties.  Depending on the specifics of the problems the therapist could recommend play therapy (e.g., for a young child who is coping with stresses outside of her/his control), behavior modification and social skills enhancement (e.g., for a child with ADHD or Asperger’s Disorder), parent education and support (e.g., for a young child with behavioral issues in the home) or any combination of these (e.g., play therapy, behavior modification, and parenting support for a child with severe ADHD-related difficulties in the home and at school).  The therapist also provides guidance and support to parents in collaborating with the child’s school (if there is one) to address problems in the school setting and to make sure that the child’s academic, emotional, and social needs are being attended to appropriately.

The Integrative Therapy Institute of New Jersey offers psychotherapy on-site in one of our four office locations, as well as Online Therapy video conference chat though-out New Jersey, also known as Teletherapy.  The Institute has seven offices, our headquarters and satellite office in Metuchen in Middlesex County, our offices in Montclair and Upper Montclair in Essex County, our Red Bank office in Monmouth County, and our Skillman/Princeton office serving Somerset and Mercer Counties.

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