Children & Adolescents

Youth represents the time in an individual’s development when people move through various stages of physical, mental and emotional development. Each stage marks a unique way of cognitive development that impacts the way children or adolescents view and interact with their environment. If a child’s development differs from expected norms due to internal or external challenges, therapy can be an important part of helping the young person get back on track. If you’re interested in therapy for children and adolescents in Halifax, please reach out to the Bird & Associates Psychological Services team or explore this page to learn some of the reasons counseling for children may be beneficial.

Academic Difficulties & Assessments

For many children and teens, concerns arise first in the classroom. When young people are struggling academically, it can impact their confidence, self esteem, friendships, and relationships at home.  When a child struggles academically over a period of time, it can certainly impact their mental health. A psychoeducational assessment is the initial step to identifying the student's cognitive strengths and weaknesses. After a student’s cognitive profile is completed, we can then implement adaptations to assist with learning.

For many children and teens, concerns arise first in the classroom. When young people are struggling academically, it can impact their confidence, self esteem, friendships, and relationships at home.  When a child struggles academically over a period of time, it can certainly impact their mental health. A psychoeducational assessment is the initial step to identifying the student’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses. After a student’s cognitive profile is completed, we can then implement adaptations to assist with learning.  

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At any stage of development it can be hard to identify and process complex emotions (even for adults!), so it’s not unusual for kids to experience similar concerns. Emotional dysregulation issues involve a child struggling to register and acknowledge the impact of emotions on their thoughts and behaviours. By failing to recognize the way that emotions affect them, children may struggle to appropriately control (regulate) their behaviours in response to these complicated feelings. Therapy sessions can help children and teens develop the skills to recognize and appropriately respond to a whole range of complex emotions.

Anxiety originates in the body’s natural way of keeping one safe.  For example, feeling anxious to be hit by a car causes one to look before crossing a street.  Being fearful to fail a test leads a student to study. Anxiety becomes problematic when our body is too sensitive to our environment and our sympathetic nervous system, which is known as our body’s alarm system, is activated when no harm is present.   People with anxiety often perceive danger when danger isn’t present.  Anxiety can manifest in children’s lives in many different ways. 

Generalized Anxiety is characterized by excessive worry about various situations. When an individual processes one worry, it’s quickly replaced by another. 

Social Anxiety is characterized by feeling as though the whole world is watching you and can see all of your imperfections. An individual feels as though a spot light is on them and consequently they feel the need to hide and become invisible.  

Separation Anxiety is characterized by excessive levels of distress when separated from home, a loved one, or caregiver. Many young children demonstrate some level of separation anxiety from parents in their early years, but if children’ refuse to leave home or significant turmoil occurs during separation, it may be time to talk to a therapist. 

Performance Anxiety is characterized by high levels of stress or anxious feelings as well as negative thinking and low self-esteem surrounding performance of all kinds. From athletes to actors and musicians to academics, this experience of significant distress related to the ability to successfully complete tasks can be extremely limiting. 

Test Anxiety is a specific type of performance anxiety related to test taking. Individuals with test anxiety may have difficulty concentrating during test taking, and they may perform poorly or be unable to complete the test due to heightened emotional response and troubling thoughts.

Phobias are fears that may prevent us from engaging in specific activities. There are a long list of common phobias that one could experience. Some include fear of spiders, heights, needles, contamination, and snakes.

Self esteem and one’s broader sense of self develop when children/adolescents compare themselves to their peers. Who am I? Who is my family? Where do I belong? What am I good at? Those questions are all very common and natural throughout childhood development.  Unfortunately, at times, these comparisons can be detrimental when a child/adolescent’s critical self talk makes them believe they come up short compared to their peers. When young people feel they don’t meet some standard of comparison or fit in with other people their age, they often ruminate and struggle with feeling “less than”.  This assessment of the self quite often leads to low self-esteem. We can help children and adolescents recognize and evaluate the thoughts and emotions connected with diminished self-worth and talk about ways to accept themselves and identify their unique qualities that make them who they are.

Parental separation or divorce can be very difficult for children and teens to understand. Parents offer the stability necessary for a child to grow into an independent adult, but when this support structure is upset, kids may feel helpless, blame themselves, or struggle to feel secure as they go about their daily routines. Witnessing a parental divorce can also negatively impact the way children go on to develop intimacy bonds as adults. Counseling can be an asset for children and families navigating separation and divorce, offering a safe space to communicate and helping to normalize and stabilize the potentially turbulent process.  

Whether you struggled to bond with your child as an infant or you’re constantly arguing with your adolescent or teen, parent and child relationship difficulties are common at any age. During therapy to address these concerns, both parent and child can learn new ways to communicate effectively, develop closer bonds, and create a lasting relationship that provides support and comfort for both parent and child at every stage of life.

Oppositional defiant disorder is a condition that often develops in young children and involves a range of disobedient behaviours that last for weeks, months, or even years without improvement, including irritability, aggression, hostility, defiance, and argumentativeness. Children may develop this disorder due to a mix of genetic and environmental factors. You will usually notice signs of this disorder before the age of ten. Without intervention, children who are struggling with oppositional defiant disorder can struggle at home, school, and in their peer relationships. Individual and/or family therapy sessions can help children with oppositional defiant disorder develop better communication and social skills and process their emotions through healthier, safer behaviours.

Body image and eating disorders may also develop as your child or teen begins to compare themselves to others. Living up to the models of physical beauty set for us in the media and perpetuated within our culture can be difficult at any age, but for young people, this can be especially challenging. In order to fit into a particular standard, young people may over exercise, stop eating, binge and purge, or engage in other unhealthy behaviours. Developing self-acceptance and learning to love and honour the physical form we inhabit is a lifelong process, and for young people who are struggling with body image and eating disorders, therapy can be a helpful stepping stone along the way. 

Autism spectrum disorders, often referred to simply as autism or by the acronym ASD, are diagnoses connected to differences in neurological development that can impact communication, cognition, interpersonal relationships, behaviour, and other mental, physical, and emotional factors. Autism is a spectrum. That means individuals will experience different aspects of this condition and in varying degrees. Assessments with our psychologists can help you understand where your child’s abilities fall within this spectrum, and help you plan for necessary resources and support, including therapy services. Counseling can help young people with ASD to learn specific social and communication skills, as well as address the potential emotional struggles of living with ASD.

Many people think of physical violence when they hear abuse, but abusive behaviours can include physical violence, sexual assault, as well as emotional manipulation and abuse. Children are especially susceptible to all forms of abuse. After experiencing or witnessing  any form of abuse, children and teens should receive therapy to help them process the situation safely. Without addressing the emotional and psychological wounds left by abuse, young people may not develop the necessary coping skills and resilience to move forward and live fulfilling adult lives. 

Anger is a perfectly healthy emotion that we all experience from time to time. However, some children and teens seem to be ruled by their anger. When anger is out of control, it leads to violent outbursts, or robs your child of the ability to enjoy their daily life, it may be time to consider therapy to help develop their anger management skills.  

Bird & Associates Psychological Services is an LGBTQ+ affirming practice, and we are proud to work with young people who exploring and learning to understand their gender and sexuality. Adolescence can be a tough time for members of the LGBTQ+ community with higher than average rates of reported stress, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Counseling can be a safe place for young people to talk about their developing sexual and gender identity. 

OCD is a condition that involves ruminating on obsessive thoughts and feeling compelled to complete certain tasks to stay safe, avoid perceived negative consequences, or self-soothe. 

Therapy can help children and teens struggling with anxiety and or OCD to be aware of how their thoughts, emotions, body sensations and reactions are intertwined with each other. Therapy for OCD will also help children and teens to break free from the distressing, repetitive thoughts and behaviour patterns that characterize OCD

Kids will be sad from time to time, especially after they’ve experienced a loss or painful life event. Depression isn’t “just” sadness. Rather, young people who struggle with depression may find themselves struggling with a variety of adverse effects like:

  • Inability to find joy in daily activities 
  • Struggling to feel motivated 
  • Difficulty experiencing a range of emotions 
  • Long lasting low mood that negatively impacts their life
  • Depressed mood with no apparent source 
  • Low self-worth or lack of self-acceptance 

Depression can be a lifelong struggle for many people, but therapy can teach children and teens coping skills and strategies that will help them overcome the effects of depression now and in the future.

There are many reasons why parents and children may want to consider behavioural management therapy. At young ages, children may develop a variety of problematic and possibly harmful behaviours. Issues like encopresis (holding in bowel movements), nighttime incontinence (bed-wetting), self-harming (biting, scratching, cutting, hitting head), and violent outbursts are all situations where behavioural management may be recommended. Through therapy, our psychologists can help you determine the source of your child’s problematic behaviours, and we can partner with your child or teen to help them find safer ways to communicate their needs.

ADHD is a condition that impacts a person’s ability to control the executive functions – things like attention, organization of thought, comprehension, and complex reasoning. For young people diagnosed with ADHD, therapy can help them to learn skills to manage the adverse impact of this condition while harnessing all their extra energy to achieve their academic and personal goals.

Our Treatment Approach

We take a client-centered approach to therapy. That means we adjust our therapy style to address the concerns and goals of each person we work with. The important thing to remember is that we have the resources to help young people better understand, accept, and process a range of emotional, cognitive, and behavioural concerns. In addition to considering mental health and emotional stability, we are also committed to helping our clients better understand the connections between their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being through holistic and mindfulness based strategies. 

To achieve therapy goals, we may incorporate a number of different therapy approaches, including:

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT)
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
  • Self Compassion Therapy
  • Behavioural Activation Therapy

We are currently accepting new patients and referrals

We welcome anyone who may be interested in booking an appointment to contact our office or if you would like more information our therapeutic approach or services offered.