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Child Behavioral Issues: Counseling Before Pills


All parents struggle with their children’s behavior from time to time, but some behavioral challenges are more difficult than others. Any change in a child’s life can cause episodes of “acting out,” but some developmental changes are indicative of a larger problem. It might be tempting for parents to talk with their doctor about medications, but we can often remedy these issues with counseling. Learn what might be causing your child’s new behaviors, and how counseling can help.

Rethink Medication

We live in the world of modern medical intervention, which is a wonderful thing. A hundred years ago, we couldn’t give children antibiotics for infections and we lost people to diseases that are preventable today. But this has also created a mentality that we can prescribe a medication for almost anything. This is especially true for ADHD, which came onto the radar in the 1980s and has been diagnosed in children ever since.

Parents of preschoolers, who feel judged by schools for not being able to control their children, desperately seek alternatives to alter their children’s behavior. In fact, around half of preschoolers diagnosed with ADHD end up taking pills for it.

Counseling Works

Many of us who work in counseling believe in treating the cause, not the symptoms, and new research supports that idea. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology found that children diagnosed with ADHD fare better with some sort of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), followed by medication, not the other way around. Treatments that involve simple instructions, rewards, and consequences rooted in building basic social skills are more effective than interventions that focus on pharmaceuticals alone.

Which Counseling Approach is Best?

Behavioral counseling works by teaching your child about how their actions play out in the real world. This may involve teaching coping mechanisms, self-regulation, and other valuable life skills. While medication may be effective in the short term, it only shows promise as long as a child is taking it. Behavioral approaches, on the other hand, help your child cope in the long term.

A counselor will work on developing an appropriate strategy for your child based on their unique behavioral needs. Some children may still need medications to successfully adapt – for example, psychiatric medication is recommended for children with psychotic disorders.

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