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What Are the Different Types of Therapy for Children?

A therapist might provide cognitive therapy to help a child with a learning disability.
Children playing with blocks in therapy.
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  • Written By: Sandi Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 10 April 2014
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In considering the various types of therapy for children, it is helpful to first discuss the reasons a child might need therapy. Primarily, children need therapeutic services to address challenges associated with development or cognitive skills, emotional or behavioral difficulties, or rehabilitation after an injury or surgery. Each category of therapy involves numerous specialties, approaches, and modalities. Often medical professionals call for more than one type of therapy for children faced with developmental delays, mental health disorders, or physical handicaps.

For example, a child with a developmental delay disorder can benefit from occupational therapy, behavior modification therapy, and speech therapy. Occupational therapies provide both fine and gross motor skills training to help children improve balance, hand-eye coordination, and tactile awareness. Behavior modification therapy assists with lessening inappropriate responses to outside stimulation, such as screaming or hitting when the child becomes anxious. Speech and similar therapies help improve communication skills.

Listing all of the specific types of therapy for children is nearly impossible, especially given the frequency with which new methods appear and old methods prove less effective. Not all therapeutic methods or therapy approaches are recognized by official medical organizations or meet with the approval of all cultures. As such, it can be more beneficial and informative to discuss the goals of specific therapeutic specialties when discussing therapy for children.

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Cognitive skills therapies tend to focus on critical thinking, problem solving, and other mental acuity training needed to learn and develop. Such therapies include speech therapy, specialized academic environments, and memory training, to name a few. A child with a learning disability, for example, would engage in various cognitive therapies to develop the ability to work around any deficits or retrain the brain to learn in new ways.

Emotional and behavioral therapy for children typically focuses on addressing mental health issues, problematic behaviors, or poor emotional responses. Children in the midst of divorce proceedings, who have lost a parent or other loved one, or suffered a traumatic event tend to benefit from a variety of behavioral therapy approaches. The goal is typically to teach the child appropriate responses to stressors, ways to cope with strong emotions, and effective decision-making skills.

After an accident, injury, or surgery, many children need rehabilitative therapies. These therapies focus on helping the child return to normal activity levels and physical strength. Depending on the type of physical challenge, this particular type of therapy for children may also focus on teaching the child to adapt to a new physical state. Regaining mobility, restoring function, or otherwise focusing on the child's physical capabilities can often take months or years, depending on the extent of the physical challenge. Additional therapies, such as emotional/behavioral therapy, often complement rehabilitative therapy for children.

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