Search icon


15th Jun 2015

What is contextual therapy for kids? Our Psychologist Guest Blogger spills

As a psychologist at Sugru Child Development and Contextual Play Therapy Services, I engage with families from all over Ireland dealing with issues from prenatal woes to teenagers needing extra coping strategies. We employ the most up-to-date research in positive parenting research to forge a new way for parents to learn how to promote holistic well-being in their home.

I love introducing families to this intuitive method of therapy, which evolved from years of clinical experience and research into the areas of child development, psychological interventions, and holistic health.

With national childhood suicide rates towering well above the European average, it’s imperative Ireland takes action. The most effective method of reducing these statistics is prevention through early intervention.

A contextual approach to therapy simply means that the therapy is performed using a multi-pronged approach, in that the child does not attend therapy in isolation. Often what causes children difficulties originates in their environment, and the issue is that they have not learned to cope with whatever is causing them distress. This is why children often turn to internalizing difficulties (anxiety or depression), externalizing their sadness (deviancy or defiance) or self-injurious behavior (pulling out hair or starving themselves). While therapy with children will certainly reduce these behaviors in the short-term, if the causes of these difficulties persist at home, the likelihood is that these negative coping mechanisms will return. Most of the time, parents are not aware of how these issues manifested in their family but, fortunately, a good therapist can identify and communicate these difficulties in an understandable way.

To attain optimal results, it’s vital to hear where the problem lies from as many perspectives as possible. Consultations that are informed by both parents and children and are carried out over a number of sessions allow for a fuller and more informative picture for the practitioner. Then, a course of action is determined in conjunction with every member, so there’s clarity and understanding from the outset.

It may be that parents are advised also to attend therapy to heal anxieties or issues they may have, or they may require some extra guidance on positive behaviour management through parental consultations with a parenting expert. The eventuality after therapy is that the child will heal and learn how to manage their emotions in a more positive way, but that they’ll also return to a home that is more empathetic, understanding and educated about what caused the issues to begin with.

Research consistently stipulates that interventions that focus on different components are significantly more successful, and those that facilitate parental inclusion also boast higher rates of effectiveness. A little investment into Irish children’s psychological health early on will result in important benefits for the next generation into the future.

Lorraine Lynch is this week’s Guest Blogger on Follow Lorraine and her business partner, Arlene Naughten (and finalists of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland 2015) at Sugru on Facebook or Twitter @sugrutherapies or @lorrlyncher.