Group therapy has been used to help people of different ages to solve their issues. Children and adolescents also benefit from the participation in therapeutic groups as they develop skills necessary for their effective integration into society (Lin & Bratton, 2015). The choice of the topics or activities utilized during sessions depends on the issues to be addressed as well as the participants’ age.
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Children and adolescents face numerous issues, including mood or learning disorders, that are predominantly associated with their family or school life (Coholic & Eys, 2016). Childhood and adolescence are associated with people’s gradual integration into social life. Various interventions tend to focus on children’s and teenagers’ ability to express their ideas and emotions and develop social ties effectively. One of the peculiarities of this kind of therapy is the prevalence of games. This paper addresses some characteristic features of group therapy for adolescents and children.
As mentioned above, therapeutic groups for children and adolescents are characterized by the frequent use of games. These games can be diverse including but not confined to board games, art, role play, physical movement, story reading, and sensory stimulant activities (Corey, 2015). It has been acknowledged that children learn through play, so it is but natural that the use of games is typical of group therapy for children and adolescents. The group leader structures sessions following the peculiarities of this stage of human development. Children and adolescents often use stories as a means to share their views or express emotions. Participants of the age groups in question are often egocentric, which should be considered when developing discussion questions and activities.
To make children and teens engaged, it is possible to employ a hands-on approach as such participants are very active. They often want or even need to try various activities to understand the nature of processes. The attention span of children, as well as adolescents, is also quite short, which can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of different interventions. The leader of the group should pay specific attention to this issue so that young participants could handle the tasks. It is also important to remember that children and adolescents are impulsive, and this quality becomes less pronounced with age.
Theme / Focus
One of the themes for a therapeutic group for children can be related to emotional intelligence. It has been acknowledged that humans develop different skills at certain ages (Corey, 2015). Although children can decipher some emotional states, they often fail to understand their nature and can be unable to control them. Adults have the necessary skills to operate their feelings quite effectively. These skills are formed in the natural course of human development, but sometimes this process is interrupted. Therefore, it becomes necessary to focus on this area and help the participants to handle their reactions.
Children may be asked to describe different emotional states and related situations. Again, different means can be used, and children may be asked to draw their emotions or show them using different facial expressions and gestures (Coholic & Eys, 2016). The participants of this age group can also act out some behaviors under various circumstances to train their skills to identify different emotions in others and control their feelings.
This theme is one of the central focuses of group therapy as children have difficulties with expressing their emotions, which causes certain problems in their daily lives. The failure to address these problems can result in the victimization of the child at school, their low academic performance, the development of depressive symptoms, or even more serious health issues (Corey, 2015). This theme can be specifically relevant for vulnerable groups as they have to face additional pressure due to socioeconomic or health-related problems.
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Parents’ insufficient involvement in their children’s lives often leads to problems related to the emotional well-being of the latter. The focus on feelings is also instrumental in ensuring children’s safe transition into adolescence, which presupposes the development of deeper and more complex social links. Adolescents should be equipped with a considerable knowledge base to be able to focus on their self-identification, which is a common developmental need of this age group.
Similarities and Differences
To understand the peculiarities of group therapy for children and adolescents, it is necessary to compare it to interventions used when treating adult populations. As far as the similarities are concerned, the use of multiple activities and different approaches are typical of the work with all age groups (Corey, 2015). It is essential to try various instruments to draw participants’ attention to the numerous issues they have to address.
The leader encourages the participants of all age groups to contemplate on their emotions, motivations, and actions. The leader also has to plan sessions and come up with structured or semi-structured activities when working with people of different ages. The use of games is another similar feature, but the extent to which such activities are employed differ across age groups.
As has been mentioned above, games prevail in therapy for children, but the proportion of such tools in adult treatment is lower. Adults can devote the largest part of the sessions to discussions, which can be problematic with very active children. Group therapy for adolescents can be regarded as the golden mean between the therapies for children and adults as adolescents’ psychological development enables them to gradually shift towards discussions.
Of course, the complexity of issues and concepts discussed is another difference due to the peculiarities of human development. The dynamics of sessions can be very different depending on the participants’ age. Children are very active and have a considerably shorter attention span as compared to adults, so younger participants tend to need quite a frequent change of activities. In simple terms, adults can discuss some issues during the entire session or play a single game, but children will soon be tired of one activity and lose their concentration.
On balance, it is possible to note that group therapy for children and adolescents differs from the therapy designed for adults in many ways. The major reason for these differences is linked to the peculiarities of human development. Children are more active and ego-centric; they have a shorter attention span and need a focus on less complex concepts and issues as compared to adults. The types of activities chosen for these populations are also quite different as adults concentrate on discussions while children need more games.
One of the themes that can be a focus for therapeutic groups of children is related to emotions. Children and adolescents may need assistance in managing their emotions, which will ensure their proper development. When developing interventions for children and adolescents, the group leader should consider the peculiarities of human development.
Coholic, D. A., & Eys, M. (2016). Benefits of an arts-based mindfulness group intervention for vulnerable children. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 33(1), 1-13. Web.
Corey, G. (2015). Theory and practice of group counseling (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Lin, Y. W., & Bratton, S. C. (2015). A meta-analytic review of child-centered play therapy approaches. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93(1), 45-58. Web.