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Child-Parent Psychotherapy

Child-Parent Psychotherapy

Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) is an evidence-based therapy approach for treating young children (0-6) who have experienced trauma, domestic violence, loss of a parent, or separation from a parent or primary caregiver. This approach is unique in that it involves working heavily with the parent (or primary caregiver) to recognize symptoms of trauma and attachment disruption and understand how to respond to it in an age-appropriate way.

Trauma in young children often does not look the way parents expect it to look. Symptoms of trauma may include:

  • Big emotions
  • Severe tantrums
  • Kicking
  • Hitting
  • Clinginess
  • Hyperactivity
  • Disorganization
  • Dysregulation

It can be challenging to know how to support and respond to young children, because they often can’t tell us what’s wrong. A young child typically won’t say that they are scared – they will hit or scream or throw their toys. They may show us what happened to them by recreating it in play. A therapist who is trained in working with children in this age group can help you make sense of your child’s behavior and provide the support they need.

Our Process

Child-Parent Psychotherapy is for both you and your child. The process starts with at least one (and sometimes 2-3) meetings with the parent(s) only so that we can gather information about your child, get their full developmental history, and understand the trauma that they witnessed or experienced. Sometimes parents also have their own traumatic experiences that they are reacting to that make it difficult to be present or help their child. This is a supportive space for parents to understand their own reactions, as well, and have support in being the kind of parents they want to be. During these meetings, we will also discuss how to introduce counseling to your child. You know your child best and will be the best resource on how to help them feel comfortable in the therapy room.

After the parent sessions, we will have a series of parent-child sessions. It’s very important that these sessions be focused on you and your child without other siblings or family members present. This will be a time to play with your child and to promote attachment and bonding, which is crucial for the development of young children. Often children “act out” what happened to them in play. Other times their play appears disorganized or they either avoid or cling excessively to a parent or caregiver. Your therapist will guide you through how to respond to your child and will encourage your child to communicate and work through feelings in play.

There will also be follow up parent meetings regularly throughout the process to discuss your child’s progress and to share observations or concerns regarding the child’s play or behavior in sessions or at home. These meetings can also be used to plan for future parent-child sessions and be an opportunity for parents to ask questions about the process.

Young children have unique needs and require a different approach to therapy than adults. Most therapists are not trained in how to treat very young children (or have learned that these children are “too young” for therapy). Our therapists who provide Child-Parent Psychotherapy have gone through an extended training process to have the skills to support you and your child.

If you believe Child-Parent Psychotherapy would benefit you and your child, please contact us to schedule an appointment.

7346 NE Sandy Blvd
Portland, OR 97213