You’ve probably heard the expression—mental health IS physical health.
In recent years, more attention has been paid to the impact of our mental health on our overall health and wellness.
And, this increased awareness has shed light on the vital role our mental health plays in our holistic wellness landscape.
But mental health and wellness isn’t just for grownups.
Children also have mental health needs and capacities.
As a parent, you know your child feels big feelings. And, sometimes, they don’t have the ability to understand or manage those feelings on their own.
You try to help them untangle and process the feelings and behaviors you know won’t serve them well in the world if they continue, unmanaged.
But, for many parents, providing the right kind of support to help your child address and deal with their behavioral issues and the feelings behind them is a tall order.
After all, you’re not a trained mental health professional. And, on top of that, it can be really difficult to see the proverbial forest for the trees when it comes to our kids’ feelings.
You’re not only too close to the issue, but it’s no secret that being a parent stirs up a LOT of things from your own childhood—some of them still unprocessed and raw.
If this sounds like you—it’s ok! No parent is alone in this struggle.
If your child is having difficulty effectively managing their behaviors and it’s impacting their mental health (and the overall wellness of your family unit)—there is help and support available.
Behavioral therapy is a powerful, proven, positive tool, used to help children who struggle in this area of their development.
Because we work to keep our fingers on the pulse of what children and families truly need in your school-based therapy and educational support services—The Loop is proud to share we’ve added behavioral therapy to our list of learning support services. This wonderful service is now available to you.
But what is behavioral therapy? How does it work? And how can it help your child to reach their fullest potential?
Let’s explore all these questions in detail, as we take a deep dive into behavioral therapy and all its facets.
What is behavioral therapy?
Kids are people. And all people experience highs and lows, ups and downs.
As childrens’ lives gain more complexity, their emotional landscapes become equally diverse—containing peaks and valleys and sharp turns that weren’t evident before.
Sometimes, a major event or change in a family can cause a child to experience emotional upheaval that leads to noticeable and persistent changes in their behavior.
While you can’t protect your child from the unexpected things that make life—LIFE—You can respond to these incidents by helping them successfully navigate any bumps in the road.
And, sometimes, that means reaching out for a little extra help and support.
Because there’s nothing wrong with not having all the answers yourself.
As parents, we sometimes feel like we’re supposed to possess all the skills and resources to help our kids with any obstacle they face. But this isn’t realistic. No one is an island, and that goes double for parents.
Plus, being a parent is the most important role you can play. Too often, parents of children struggling with behavioral issues feel they must “fix” this issue all on their own. Some feel a sense of shame—that these issues must somehow be their fault.
The fact of the matter is—everybody struggles now and then. And we all need help from time to time.
If your child is experiencing behavioral issues or mental health struggles that aren’t resolving on their own—behavioral therapy may offer a positive path forward for you.
Behavioral therapy is a type of mental health therapy that seeks to understand and reframe thought patterns that lead to outward behavioral challenges.
Also known as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, this is a type of therapy that looks at thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to better understand their roots.
CBT seeks to modify outward behaviors that are not serving an individual’s best interest, through addressing the underlying emotions that inform and drive them.
The goal of CBT is making lasting behavioral changes by understanding and healing underlying thoughts and feelings, and replacing them with more positive, proactive and empowering versions.
What issues can behavioral therapy be used to treat?
Children with learning difficulties often contend with mental health challenges like anxiety and depression.
This is partly due to the known biological differences in the brain that underpin many of these conditions in the first place. But, a bigger reason for this comorbidity likely results from the struggle of navigating the educational system as a child with learning and thinking differences.
For the estimated 20% of people who experience learning and thinking differences—mental health issues can create additional challenges and barriers to enjoying a successful educational experience.
Common types of learning and thinking differences includes conditions like—
All of these issues present obstacles to the children and families who experience them—and the struggle can understandably lead to the development of negative thoughts and feelings that impact a child’s mental health and self perception.
These thought patterns and difficult emotions can act as the fuel for behaviors that further hinder a child’s educational potential. Talk about a vicious cycle!
For example—a child with dyslexia starts to feel like they’re bad at reading, because it’s more difficult for them than their classmates. As a result of these feelings and the self story they create, the child may begin to avoid reading, or say that they dislike it.
This behavior pattern can be seriously detrimental to a child’s literacy skill development because, as any emergent literacy expert will tell you—love of reading leads to more robust encounters with literacy opportunities and better outcomes.
It’s easy to see how negative thought patterns like this can quickly snowball—causing major impacts on a child’s educational potential AND their overall mental health and well-being.
Behavioral therapy is a proven method to nip these issues in the bud, by targeting both the outward behaviors and the feelings that inform them.
In the process, CBT trains children in powerful emotional recognition, awareness, and management skills—strategies that will take them far not only in school, but also in life.
How do I know if behavioral therapy is right for my child?
For many parents, behavioral therapy is a positive alternative to medication for their child’s issues. Many parents with children with ADD and ADHD choose to pursue behavioral therapy—both in place of and in addition to pharmaceutical interventions.
While the specifics of your child’s needs and your decisions for their care are personal and unique to you, some parents appreciate that behavioral therapy doesn’t have side effects like some medications, and that it seeks to address the root causes of outward symptoms.
Rather than focusing on what happens on the surface, behavioral therapy works not only to address unhelpful behaviors and the thoughts and feelings that drive them, but to provide a way to replace them with more positive versions—offering an alternative a child can choose instead.
That’s because behavior therapy seeks to—
Address and replace negative behaviors that aren’t serving a child’s best interests
Reinforce positive behaviors with a system of rewards and praise
Empower children with the ability to choose, putting them in control of their behaviors
Recognize and reduce the triggers for negative behaviors
Remove the attention-seeking component of negative behavior patterns, by refusing to reinforce them
The overarching goal of behavioral therapy is to encourage a child to develop new behavioral patterns, replacing their old negative patterns with more positive alternatives.
This serves to empower the child by giving them the power of choice, enhancing their awareness of their behaviors and the impact they have, and offering a clear, more positive alternative.
Positive behavior modifications are then rewarded in a way that’s motivating to the individual child, while negative behaviors are discouraged or simply ignored—depriving them of the attention and power they once commanded.
Because mental health challenges and behavioral issues amongst children are so personalized—behavioral health interventions are similarly diverse. Each behavioral therapy plan will be customized to the individual child it’s designed to treat.
Parental involvement is often a crucial component of behavioral therapy. Parents are involved in helping therapists to understand their child’s behaviors and triggers, as well as learning about their unique likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.
It’s also important to educate and train parents, throughout the treatment process—to ensure any behavioral modification goals, cues, and strategies are used throughout a child’s day, both in school and at home.
As a parent, you’re always an important part of your child’s therapy team, and this is especially true when it comes to behavioral therapy.
The Loop is proud to announce we’ve added behavioral therapy to our array of therapy and educational support services. We recognized a deep need for this service, and jumped at the opportunity to continue to offer you the very best in holistic learning support services.
Please join us in welcoming Sarah Stevenson, our new behavioral specialist! Sarah’s thrilled to helm our new behavioral therapy service offerings—and we’re thrilled to have her on the team!
With her extensive experience working in every setting of behavioral health, Sarah combines CBT techniques with other proven, complementary modalities—like mindfulness and positive reinforcement strategies. She’s also a certified yoga instructor and published author of articles detailing the positive impacts of evidence-based behavioral strategies on people’s lives.
We’re honored that Sarah has brought her passion and experience for behavioral therapy to our Loop family—and are excited for Chicago-area families to reap the benefits of this outstanding service.
If you have any questions or are interested in exploring our behavioral therapy services for your family or school—reach out today! We’d love to help your child discover a new path—one that leads to educational and personal growth and success!
While behavioral therapy is now on our menu, you can still count on The Loop to deliver you the very best in speech, language, occupational therapy, and top-quality educational support services, like—educational consultancy and advocacy, learning remediation, and executive function coaching.
Interested in learning more about our services, getting some personalized support, or seeing if The Loop can partner with your school? Reach out today! You can fill out our contact form, or shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And, be sure to follow us on all your fav social platforms for up to the minute info and happenings @TheLoopSLL.