Psychotherapy and Your Special Needs Child

September 26, 2013 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Yesterday was National Psychotherapy Day according to After doing some research, I discovered that it was the 2nd annual celebration and was founded by a group of clinicians, graduate students and supporters of psychotherapy in California ( The designation was designed to spread awareness about psychotherapy and reduce the stigma of seeking mental health treatment.

What is Psychotherapy?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, psychotherapy or "talk therapy", is a way to treat people with a mental disorder by helping them understand their illness. My own definition of psychotherapy is that it is a way to help others talk things out. For the kids I work with, it is a way for them to express feelings and thoughts that they keep to themselves. Bob used psychotherapy to work out his feelings about ADHD and understanding why his father and I weren't together anymore.

What are the Benefits of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy allows kids and teens the chance to express themselves. Sometimes, kids don't feel comfortable talking with their parents. Bob wasn't always too keen on talking about why his father and I ended our relationship.

I ended the relationship when Bob was around 7 years old. At the time, I did explain to Bob why it happened and that it was not his fault. I also let him know that I knew what he was feeling because I went through the same thing with my own parents. But, sometimes a conversation (or several conversations) with a parent isn't enough. Bob needed extra support after misbehaving in after-school and was referred for on-site therapy with a community-based program.

Another benefit is that the entire family has a new person supporting them. Bob's therapist at the time was very supportive of me and was there to help me deal with Bob's father (who was still very angry that the relationship was over). Not only does the child benefit, but everyone does.

Also, psychotherapy allows kids to get to what's bugging them. Bob talked about his biggest concern - that Mom & Dad wouldn't be together anymore. He needed to mourn the loss of his family as he knew it. Many of my clients come from single-parent families and also experience this along with other challenges such as bullying, exposure to domestic violence, homelessness, etc. And all of those in addition to having a mental illness.

Why is Psychotherapy So Important?

Why is psychotherapy such a big deal in treating your special needs child? Medicine doesn't fix everything. Medication helps with some symptoms, but not necessarily with emotional problems. While Bob did have ADHD, he misbehaved due to being upset about the end of my relationship with his father. Bob couldn't fully describe it. So psychotherapy was needed to help him talk about and explore his feelings. Today, Bob is able to talk to me about difficult things. I feel this is due to his work with the therapists. He's more mature now (that was 5 years ago) and better able to express himself.

So, when you feel that psychotherapy may not be helping - think about how you and your special needs child can benefit. Think about the fact that this person can not only support your special needs child, but your entire family.

photo credit: Banalities via photopin cc

APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2013, September 26). Psychotherapy and Your Special Needs Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 28 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

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