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Identity can be explained as a “person’s sense of self, established by their unique characteristics, affiliations, and social roles.” It is a complex concept that encompasses a range of factors, including gender, ethnicity, culture, family history, and personal experiences. Identity plays a pivotal role in forming a positive relationship with oneself. The current understanding of identity development is largely influenced by psychologist Erik Erikson, who theorized that identity formation is the critical task of development in adolescence. It is important to bear in mind that identity formation is a lifelong, dynamic process. For children, developing a sense of identity is crucial for building self-esteem, resilience, and a positive self-image. Therapy can help young people develop a healthy sense of self by providing a safe and supportive environment in which they can explore and express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Identity exploration in therapy can take many forms, depending on the child’s age, interests, and needs. Nevertheless, there are several universally relied upon strategies that therapists use to support children during their self-identity development process. Therapists will often: 

  • Focus on a child’s strengths: In praising children for their inherent talents (e.g., sports, academics, music, etc.), children learn to value and take pride in their capabilities.
  • Encourage autonomy: Providing children with the opportunity to complete tasks on their own can foster confidence and self-worth.
  • Promote self-awareness: Through discussions, activities, and reflections, children can learn to identify their emotions, needs, and desires, which deepens self-awareness and helps them develop a greater understanding of themselves.
  • Help kids develop an armory of effective coping skills: Learning healthy coping mechanisms can help adolescents manage stress, anxiety, and other challenging emotions, which promotes a greater sense of self-efficacy and resilience.
  • Challenge inaccurate and/ or negative beliefs or assumptions that may be adversely influencing their self-concept: This involves helping children learn to identify, review, and reshape limiting beliefs about their identity. 

Identity directly informs one’s perceptions, behaviors, and how an individual relates to others throughout his or her lifespan. Exploring identity in therapy can be a powerful tool for helping children develop a strong sense of self, build self-esteem, and effectively navigate the challenges associated with maturing into adulthood. 

Further Information and Support

For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.

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