At its fundamental core, psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour and the mind. Psychologists often work with people to improve how they cope with and resolve problems or issues inducing behavioural or emotional problems. Psychologists work with people who have no diagnosed medical condition, as well as with those with diagnoses of various mental illnesses or disorders or intellectual disabilities. Psychologists also commonly work with people experiencing issues with acute grief or trauma, chronic illnesses, addictions, compulsions, phobias, problems with sexual behaviours, stress and eating disorders.

How psychology can help children who are supported by the NDIS

In children, a recommendation for psychology may be made for children with issues in areas of emotional regulation (e.g. anxiety, anger management issues), behavioural difficulties, problems with social skills and relationships, family issues, problems adjusting to life changes, or clients with developmental disorders such as autism. Often, parents of children experiencing issues will request professional help when the child’s challenging behaviours or difficulties has begun to significantly impact on their everyday functioning, and may be affecting their school performance, self-esteem or confidence, or engagement and interactions with others.

Psychologists can help children to improve:

– Problems with learning difficulties
– Anxiety (or worrying too much), depression or other emotional challenges
– Self-esteem, confidence or motivation
– Organisation, planning and study skills
– Coping skills to better deal with issues such as family/parental break-ups or bullying
– Social and interpersonal skills
– Behavioural difficulties including anger management
– How parents and carers deal with challenging behaviours

While there are various types of therapy, psychologists customarily most use most use psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) to assist people to work through their concerns and problems. Examples of frequently used therapy types include behavioural, cognitive, cognitive-behavioural therapies, group therapy, family therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy and play therapy.
Usually, the first step of psychological input is performing a clinical assessment. This involves obtaining an understanding of the child’s personal and medical history, including developmental, family and school history. The child (if they are able) and their parents/carers will also identify specific issues or areas of concern, and the psychologist will be able to develop goals for therapy with the client. In some instances, the psychologist may also feel that psychological assessments may be necessary to determine the child’s current level of functioning, such as intelligence, aptitude, personality or neuropsychological tests.
Once the psychologist feels that they have gained a thorough sense of the child’s current functioning, lifestyle, routines and main issues and areas of deficit, therapy will then begin.
Parents/carers or family involvement.

Commonly, parents and carers, and in some cases other members of the family (e.g. the child’s siblings) are heavily involved in therapy. Depending on the child’s age and communication skills, psychologists can be largely dependent on the information provided by parents and carers to make clinical decisions about a child’s functioning, and direct therapy. Parents also usually play a pivotal role in implementing what is learned in therapy into the child’s daily schedule, as well as reinforcing therapy techniques and providing constant support and encouragement to the child.
Parents may participate heavily in therapy, such as in family therapy. A therapeutic goal may be to improve communication between family members, or work on strained family relationships. Moreover, in some situations, such as a child who is non-verbal, psychologists work in large part with parents and carers to develop strategies for them to best manage challenging or problematic behaviours.