The Unique Challenges and Rewards of Working in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

Child and Therapist sitting at a table playing with dinosaur toys.

Becoming a psychotherapist offers an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. However, specialising in child and adolescent psychotherapy has unique challenges and rewards that differ significantly from working with adults. This field requires not only a deep understanding of the general principles of psychotherapy but also normal child development and behaviour as well as childhood psychopathology and psychotherapeutic techniques. 

When working with children and young people, and their families, to treat a wide range of psychological problems, child and adolescent psychotherapy training is crucially important. Below we have explored the intricacies of working in this sector and the courses provided by the British Psychotherapy Foundation in more detail. 

The Unique Nature of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

It’s crucial to recognise that children aren’t simply small adults. Their psychology is distinctly different, shaped by ongoing developmental processes which influence how they perceive, react to and recover from life experiences and challenges. This distinction requires a different therapeutic approach. Child and adolescent psychotherapists (CAPTs) use a variety of creative methods, including talking, drawing and playing, to meet the needs of their clients. 

The Challenges

One of the main challenges in child and adolescent psychotherapy is establishing communication. Younger clients might struggle to express their feelings, if they don’t yet have the vocabulary to do so or the emotional insight. Psychotherapists often use alternative strategies to talking, such as art or play therapy, to facilitate therapeutic work. Another challenge is the complex dynamic of involving parents in the therapeutic process, balancing confidentiality and a child’s autonomy with the need for parental engagement and support.

In today’s modern world, therapists need to navigate the mental health challenges caused by technological advancements and societal changes too. How these mental health issues manifest in children and young people can differ significantly from adults, underscoring the necessity for specialised training. Psychotherapists must have the knowledge and skills to engage effectively with young clients on their own terms.

The Rewards

Despite these challenges, the field of child and adolescent psychotherapy is intrinsically rewarding. Therapists have the unique opportunity to intervene at a pivotal stage in a child or young person’s development, potentially altering their life trajectory. During psychotherapy sessions, CAPTs can witness their clients’ confidence and self-esteem grow too, and playing a role in their recovery and growth can be gratifying. 

When compared to adults, children and young people can be more responsive and willing to learn. They want to know how to recover from mental health difficulties and cope with new challenges they face, enabling them to reach their full potential in life. Many psychotherapists find that working with different age groups provides constant learning opportunities and the chance to see the world from fresh perspectives.

The Need for Specialised Training

Recognising the unique nature of child and adolescent psychotherapy, it’s clear that therapists require more than just a general psychotherapy background. Specialised training programmes are essential. At the British Psychotherapy Foundation, we provide a Doctorate in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy funded by Public Health England This comprehensive course is designed to provide trainees with excellent clinical training as well as the research skills required to work in the modern NHS. Once complete trainees will be awarded a DPsych and become a professional member of the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP) and the British Psychotherapy Foundation (BPF)

In addition to our four-year full-time programme, we also provide a part-time course for therapists currently working with children and young people. This course is designed to help attendees develop and enhance a psychoanalytic approach to working with children and young people, enhancing their current work. The training and courses we provide at the British Psychotherapy Foundation acknowledge the evolving landscape of mental health care and the increasing emphasis on evidence-based practice. So, therapists can ensure they’re prepared to meet the unique needs of their young clients.

Looking for Child Psychotherapy Courses in London?

Choosing to specialise in child and adolescent psychotherapy is a career path filled with both challenges and rewards. The complexity of working with young minds demands a dedicated approach to training and continuous professional development (CPD). Wherever you are on your learning journey, our training will help you progress your career and you can find out more about what each course entails on our website. 

At the British Psychotherapy Foundation, we make it easy for you to develop your knowledge and we are one of the largest psychotherapy training organisations in Europe. Our child psychotherapy courses in London are designed to thoroughly prepare you for the reality of being a practising therapist and our teaching team are respected specialists in the field. By choosing us for your training, you can trust we will support you on your career path.