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Just like adults, children often struggle with their mental health. There are also times when parents need support in caring for their children. A child psychologist can help. Here we look at child psychology and the treatment available.

What does a child psychologist do?

A child psychologist is a licensed professional with knowledge and experience of children’s psychological, emotional, and behavioural challenges. They help children from early childhood to adolescence deal with issues such as anxiety, depression, behavioural problems, and school-related difficulties. Such problems are not rare. A 2023 NHS report on mental health showed 20.3% of eight to 16-year-olds had a probable mental disorder.

Child psychologists offer therapy and counselling, but also give support to parents and family when needed. They also collaborate with schools to help create positive conditions for the child. Lavendla has experienced child psychologists available to help.

What set our therapist apart was her genuine empathy and personal insight. Not only did she possess a deep understanding of neurodiversity, but she also shared personal experiences that resonated with us, creating an instant connection and fostering a sense of trust!

Benedetta Osarenk


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What are the signs that a child is unwell?

Detecting that a child is unwell is crucial to providing the right support and help. Children often show subtle changes in behaviour and emotional expression when dealing with psychological difficulties. Here is a summary of signs to look out for:

Behaviour

  • Mood swings: Rapid changes in mood.
  • Irritability or aggressiveness: Acting-out behaviours.
  • Social withdrawal: Loss of interest in friends and activities.

Emotional signs

  • Anxiety or worry: Excessive worrying about different things.
  • Sadness or depression: Prolonged sadness or loss of enjoyment in life.
  • Low self-esteem: Feelings of worthlessness.

School and concentration

  • Difficulty concentrating: Difficulty focusing on school work.
  • Falling grades: Sudden drop in school performance.

Physical signs

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits: Irregular or changing habits.
  • Unexplained physical symptoms: Headaches or stomach aches without clear cause.

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Social signs

  • Problems with peers: Difficulty maintaining friendships.
  • Avoidance of social activities: Reluctance to participate in group activities.

Risky behaviour

  • Risk-taking: Dangerous activities without concern for consequences.
  • Substance abuse: Use of drugs or alcohol.

Thoughts and feelings

  • Hopelessness: Negative statements about the future.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide: Such statements should be taken very seriously.

If these signs are observed, start by talking to the child and acknowledging their feelings. Seek professional help from a child psychologist if necessary.

What can I do if my child is unwell?

Dealing with situations where your child is unwell can be challenging and emotionally demanding. It is important to approach the situation with understanding, patience and support. Here are some steps you can take to help your child:

Listen and validate: Start by listening to your child without judgement. Validate their feelings to show you take them seriously.

Seek professional help: Do not hesitate to contact a psychologist or therapist if your child continues to feel bad.

Open communication: Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and reassure them that you are always there to listen.

Joint activities: Spend time together doing activities that strengthen your bond and provide positive experiences.

Healthy lifestyle: A balanced diet, regular exercise and enough sleep are important for mental health.

Pay attention: Notice changes in behaviour or mood and act if you see signs of child needing support.

Create a safety network: Make sure your child knows who they can turn to besides you, such as other family members or teachers.

Remember you are not alone: Support is available, we can help make the difficult easier. In an acute mental health crisis, call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk immediately.

This summary offers a practical guide to supporting your child through difficult times, with a focus on being responsive, active and supportive.


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Treatment with a child psychologist

Seeking help from a child psychologist is an important step when a child is experiencing mental health difficulties. Depending on the age of the child, different treatments are available.

Treatment is adapted to the child’s individual needs and may include methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), play therapy, family therapy, and group therapy. The aim is to improve the child’s emotional well-being and develop coping strategies. The child psychologist works closely with the child and his or her family, and sometimes also with the school, to create a safe environment where the child can learn to manage emotions and behaviours effectively.

It is important to remember that each child is unique, so treatment may vary. Working with a child psychologist can give your child the tools they need to manage their emotions and behaviors in a healthy way.


12 frequently asked questions about child psychologists

What is a child psychologist?

A child psychologist is a licensed professional with knowledge and experience in promoting the well-being and mental health of children and parents.

What does a child psychologist do?

Child psychologists offer therapy and counseling, but also work with families in parental support and the whole family when needed. They also work with schools to create good conditions for the child.

What are the signs that a child is not well?

There are several signs that a child is not doing well, which can be manifested in behaviors and emotional expressions such as anxiety. It can show up in social relationships or in physical symptoms. It can affect school performance and lead to risky behaviors. It can affect the thoughts and feelings of the child in different ways.

My child is unwell, what to do?

Dealing with situations where your child is unwell can be challenging and emotionally demanding. It is important to approach the situation with understanding, patience and support. If necessary, you can seek professional help.

I am having difficulties in my parenting, how can I get help?

Child psychologists also work with parents in parental support. If you are having difficulties, you can seek professional help to get more support.

Can children receive psychological treatment?

It is possible for children to receive psychological treatment, but it is adapted to the child’s age and the problems that need to be addressed. Common methods are talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based therapy that helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to ill health.

How can young people get help?

If you are over 13 years old, you can get help through the youth clinic, school counselor or child and adolescent psychiatry. At Lavendla, we also have experienced psychologists who can help.

Can I see a child psychologist privately?

It is possible to see a child psychologist privately. At Lavendla we have several psychologists who have extensive experience of working with children and young people.

How long is a treatment?

The treatment is adapted to the problems the child or parent has. It can be anything from a few sessions to a longer treatment over a couple of years.

Can I see a child psychologist online?

It is possible to receive treatment online via video. We have several child psychologists who work digitally at Lavendla.

Where can I go if I or my child needs help from a child psychologist?

Depending on how old your child is, you can turn to different services. For children under the age of 6, the Barnavårdscentralen (BVC), over the age of 6, you can seek help via your medical center. Over the age of 13, you can go to the youth clinic or the school counselor. You can also contact child and adolescent psychiatry (BUP). At Lavendla we have experienced child psychologists who can also help.

How does treatment with a child psychologist work?

Seeking help from a child psychologist is an important step when a child is experiencing mental health difficulties or if you are having difficulties as a parent. Here is a brief overview of what treatment can look like:

First step: Initial consultation where the psychologist assesses needs through conversations with the child and parents.

Treatment plan: An individualised plan is developed, based on the child’s specific situation and needs.

Types of therapy: A common approach for younger children is play therapy, where play is used as a tool for expression and processing. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is useful for older children. Theses focus on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. Family therapy is another method which is helpful.

Parental counselling: Parents receive guidance and support to help their child better at home.

Monitoring and adjustment: The treatment plan is continuously evaluated and adjusted as needed to ensure the best possible outcome.

It is important to remember that each child is unique so treatment may vary. Working together with a child psychologist can give you and your child the tools they need to manage their emotions and behaviours in a healthy way. At Lavendla, we have child psychologists who can help make the difficult easier.

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Written by dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.