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Working with kiddos, tweens, and teens

When I started as a therapist, I didn't know how important working with kids and parents was going to be. The program I graduated from at Louisville Seminary offered one class about working with children, which I loved! I worked with a family of 6 children going through their parents' divorce becoming immediately hooked by the insights, the fun, and the experiences of walking alongside kids in therapy.

In my 3yr practice at Creative Family Counseling, I have worked with hundreds of children, teens, and parents. My mentor, Lacey Ryan is a Registered Licensed Play Therapist and passed down skills through our supervision together. I love partnering with kids through Child Centered Play Therapy (CCPT), which is a lovely play focused therapy where the child leads, the therapist reflects, helping the child use their primary language of play to work through their big feelings, hard life transitions, and painful experiences. My therapy office is stocked with legos, dolls, dinosaurs, and a sand tray to facilitate play. I have worked with children who have processed all of their therapy in play and it can be magical, meaningful, and through provoking.

Besides CCPT, I also engage children in expressive arts therapy, utilizing art supplies and interventions to work through trauma, manage big feelings, and build coping skills. We externalize our anger with drawings and descriptions, we name feelings and draw where they show up in our bodies, and we use EMDR to draw our traumatic/scary memories to process. One of my favorite sessions involved drawing a client in a comic strip defeating his monster in the darkness of his room. Kids are so willing to work through their "stuff" when you find a language that they can use, with a positive and supportive presence in the therapy room. I love embodying that presence!

As they get older, I love the transition into middle school, talking about making friends, becoming more independent, and coping skills for anxiety/depression. For most of us adults, we remember the struggles of middle school. I can report, it hasn't improved much! As a kiddo who grow up sheltered and uneducated about their body, hormones, and relationships, I am thankful to be someone who tweens can talk to about those important, life-impacting topics. We talk about body image, self-compassion, and how to be a good human, even as a pre-teen.

With teens and high schoolers, therapy hits another level. We move on from actual "play" and engage in meaningful conversations about their friends, themselves, their futures. We talk about their self-worth, their goals, and their values. We may cry over heartbreak, discuss how to stay safe while being vulnerable in relationship, or process traumas/painful events together. That may be through solely talk therapy or we may use storytelling, art, and games. Walking alongside a teen coming into themselves, learning about the world outside of their small circle, and heading off to college is a beautiful journey.

I make sure parents are kept in the loop, brought into session when necessary, and are on board with the work that we are doing in the therapy room. With kiddos, that might look like a parent check in before each session, emails or phone calls scheduled between, or a parent session to talk about what is getting better, what is still a challenge. Research shows that parent involvement is important to meeting therapeutic goals, which is why we are here! Of course, that changes as kids age and are gaining more independence. Parent check-ins or sessions doesn't mean that I spill all the secrets of what has been happening in our therapy sessions, it is important that my clients know I am their confidence person. Client safety and safety of those around them come first, however, which means I will always share if my client is suicidal or homicidal.

Other people I might connect with when working with kids, tweens, and teens are their school counselors, pediatricians, psychologists/psychiatrists, and teachers. I like to think of therapy as a great collaborative support system, helping families thrive.

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