The meaning of the term “psychotherapy” covers all talking therapies which take place in mental health treatment. There are many different models of psychotherapy and often it can be hard to know which model will be useful for your or your child. Here is a summary of terms with a brief description of their aims:
Psychodynamic Psychotherapy – this talking therapy focuses on free association, that is, letting the clinician follow the thoughts of the child as they arise. The discussion and reflection on the thoughts allows the therapist to help the child think about their relationships, their past, their identity, and their approach to the world.
While the origins of psychodynamic psychotherapy are in psychoanalysis (Freud’s work on how our past and our relationships shape how we think and feel) it is influenced by more recent 20th and 21st century research on attachment. Read more on the description of attachment from the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – this talking therapy is highly structured in its purest form and looks at a systematic approach to understanding thoughts and feelings. The therapist will use discussion, as well as worksheets and interactive resources to help children identify their thoughts and feelings and to develop strategies to build resilience and combat symptoms.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) – this talking therapy was developed by Marsha Linehan and helps teenagers and adults develop an awareness of their feelings and their patterns of behaviour in relationships and in response to stress. This therapy is structured and sometimes can be delivered in a group therapy setting. Mindfulness is a core skill that is developed in DBT.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – this talking therapy is useful for teenagers and parents, but can be used in helping older primary school-age children. There are six key principles which are worked through with the therapist, which include examining patterns of thinking, mindfulness and staying present, acceptance, examining core values, and commitment to action.
Of course, there are more therapies which can be listed here but these are by far the most common approaches in child and adolescent mental health.
The Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has just released a summary of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry treatment, which outlines how psychotherapy fits into the picture of holistic care for children and teenagers.