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What is Child Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is a therapeutic process which helps patients to understand and resolve their problems by increasing awareness of their inner world and its influence over relationships both past and present.

It aims to help people with serious psychological disorders to understand and change complex, deep-seated and often unconsciously based emotional and relationship problems thereby reducing symptoms and alleviating distress.

It provides an effective treatment for a range of psychological disorders, both as a treatment in its own right and as an adjunct to other forms of treatment. It can contribute significantly to patient's mental and physical health, to their sense of well-being and to their ability to manage their lives more effectively.

The relationship with the therapist is a crucial element in the therapy. The therapist offers a confidential and private setting which facilitates a process where unconscious patterns of the patient's inner world become reflected in the patient's relationship with the therapist.

How does it work?

Child Psychotherapists are trained in a unique way, observing how the child or young person relates, noticing verbal or non-verbal communications or play, finding ways to understand deeper thoughts and feelings that are underlying the behaviour.

In the safety of therapy room, the child or young person is encouraged to express their most troubling emotions. Thus confused, hurt, angry or painful feelings can gradually be put into words rather than actions.

The length of treatment is determined by the needs of the child and their family.

The aim of therapy is to have long term impact.


This form of treatment is useful to children who are anxious or depressed or in psychological turmoil, which may cause the child to react to people or circumstances in an aggressive way. It is of value to children who are in conflict because of physical illness or who are having difficulty coming to terms with disability. It is helpful in treating children with unresolved grief reaction because of the death of an important person for them. It can also help children who are suffering from stress due to a traumatic life event.

Why choose psychotherapy?

Parents might be worried about their child or adolescent due to change in their behaviour. The young person might have become sadder, angrier, troubled at home or school. They might be experiencing difficulties with friends or having unexplained worries. Parents might have tried other approaches and feel that nothing seems to help.

Psychotherapy is not just about clearing up symptoms. It helps to develop deeper understanding of behaviours in a way which makes difficulties seem less overwhelming for all concerned. The child or young person begins to feel more able to understand frightening feelings and conflicts and when less burdened by emotional conflicts, they are more able to engage positively with life. Parents are also likely to gain confidence as the child or adolescent begins to feel better.

The goal of psychoanalytic psychotherapy with a distressed child is to alter the child’s psychic structure and function. The unconscious is central as is the interpretation of defence, resistance […] working through and the reconstruction of earlier life. […] the child’s age and level of development are at all times central to the work. In young children, the focus of interpretation is on free play, while with older children and adolescents it is free association of ideas.(M. Fitzgerald in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment (1998), vol.4, p.20)