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Sigmund Freud hypothesized that the relationship between therapist and patient was a key component of effective treatment. Research has since proven that the quality of this relationship is the strongest predictor of whether therapy, including child psychotherapy, is successful. Child psychotherapy is a form of psychiatric treatment that can be effective in treating a wide range of issues from emotional and behavioral problems in young children, to mental health ailments in adolescents and young adults. The therapeutic relationship, or therapeutic alliance, in psychotherapy for children and adolescents refers to the purposeful collaborative relationship between the therapist and the young client. It is a critical component of effective psychotherapy, and the quality of this relationship is an indicator of treatment outcome. This integral therapeutic relationship can be characterized by several key features, and according to the pioneering expert, Dr. Edward Bordin, must consist of the following three essential qualities:

  • An emotional bond of trust, caring, and respect: Demonstrating respect for the child or adolescent’s autonomy, dignity, and perspective can help facilitate an emotionally safe environment that promotes self-expression and growth.
  • Treatment collaboration: Working collaboratively to identify treatment goals, for example, can empower a child or adolescent to have a vested interest in the therapeutic process.
  • Agreement on the goals of therapy: For a child or adolescent to effectively progress through the therapeutic process they must agree on their treatment goals.

Therapists who establish a positive therapeutic relationship can help children and adolescents build resilience, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and learn strategies to effectively navigate the inevitable stressors and challenges they will face throughout adolescence. Further, the American Psychological Association (APA) asserts that “the most important aspect of effective therapy is that the patient and the therapist work together to help the patient reach their goals in therapy.” One study that explored the therapeutic relationship as a change facilitator in different moments of psychotherapy, concluded that a positive therapeutic relationship facilitates early changes in the motivation of children and parents, and provides them with a healing, relational experience. 

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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