page contents

Aggression and Children—V  

Sometimes you may need to seek out professional help in dealing with an aggressive or oppositional child. Here are some recommendations on how to go about choosing the best therapist you can. Early on in this series I mentioned the model of therapy called Parent Child Interaction Therapy, or PCIT. Clearly, someone who is well trained in this therapy would be a good choice for helping out with behavioral problems. The problem is, there are not that many therapists who have been trained in that model. In full disclosure, I have not been trained in the model, but certainly see its benefits. On the good side, there are plenty of other therapists who can provide good help.

The first thing to look for is a therapist who recognizes that one of their main jobs is to be a consultant to you. I have run into parents who feel bad when therapy for their children focuses on them, thinking the therapist is blaming them for the problems their child has. Realistically, the best way to think about it is that parents are the best instruments of change and development for their children. While a therapist is with a child an hour a week or so, and in an artificial environment, the parent is with them most of the week and in the environments where the children live their lives. Children are developing and growing beings who change more rapidly than adults do. A good therapist will help parents understand how they need to best manage the child and the environment to help the child develop and change in the best possible way.

As you talk to the therapists you consider working with you and your child, ask them about how they conceive of problems and the way to best address them. Look for someone who talks about paying attention both to the relationship you have with your child, especially the emotional tone of that relationship, and behavioral management skills. Both are important, but one without the other is not nearly as effective. The most effective therapist is going to help you manage your relationship with your child so you both feel better about it and at the same time help you develop the skills you need to manage your child’s behavior.