Taking care of a child in therapy can be a hefty task. Caregivers may feel unequipped to support their child since they might not have a degree in clinical psychology or social work. However, caregivers can, and should, be included in the therapeutic process too. For instance, research suggests that involving parents as a collaborator increases therapeutic benefits for children with autism spectrum disorder. To bolster the gains made in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, it is often recommended for clients to practice therapeutic exercises outside of sessions. Here are three exercises to help continue that progress between sessions.
Exercise #1: Drawing
When young children struggle with mental illness it can be difficult for them to verbally communicate their emotions. Therefore, young children need to convey their feelings through different mediums to process emotions and communicate to their caregivers. Drawing is an easy method to help children process emotional experiences. In a literature review of studies evaluating art therapy for children diagnosed with cancer, drawing was found to facilitate emotional expression and foster coping skills Just providing blank paper and crayons for free drawing has been shown to help children cope with distress. Brechet et al. found that creative drawing interventions were associated with improved mood and emotional regulation in children experiencing stress. Caregivers can also practice positive attending to encourage communication and expression during this activity. Adhere.ly has several parenting exercises that therapists can use in-session and send to their clients to practice during the week.
Exercise #2: Play Some Music
Listening to music and making music is an effective way to build on the progress made in therapy. In school-age children participating in musical improvisation and singing has been correlated with increased self-esteem and lower depression scores. Furthermore, Thompson et al. compared caregivers and children with autism spectrum disorder playing with blocks versus playing with music. After the intervention, participating in musical activities, but not blocks was associated with increased perceptions of social engagement from caregivers To help ease anxious and shy kids into increased expression, playing with music could be a worthwhile first step. With Adhere.ly, therapists can send their clients automated reminders to practice musical activities as well as words of praise for completing those activities.
Exercise #3: Use Books
Bibliotherapy uses books about mental illness to teach clients how to combat anxious and depressive thoughts. In a literature review of eight studies encapsulating 979 children and adolescents, guided reading was associated with a reported decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms By reading books about anxiety, depression, or trauma to your child, they can begin to learn how to cope with their thoughts and feelings in a safe space. For example, in Lewis et al.’s four-week trial of bibliotherapy for children with a fear of the dark, after caregivers read a children’s book about overcoming fear of the dark, they noticed a decline in anxious symptoms and nightmares. Adhere.ly has custom reminders that therapists can send to clients to help them remember to read during the week.
Caregivers are an essential resource for children during their therapeutic journey. No matter what children are struggling with, parents who are informed and engaged can help children practice therapeutic exercises at home to continue the gains of therapy. Remember trying these exercises should be a collaborative process, which Adhere.ly can help therapists facilitate.
Adhere.ly has several digitized therapeutic mental health exercises, automated reminders, and monitoring solutions to save you time and improve your clients’ outcomes. Click the link below to sign up for free!
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 Aguilar B. The Efficacy of Art Therapy in Pediatric Oncology Patients: An Integrative Literature Review. J. Pediatr. Nurs. 2017; 36: 173–178. Available from: Here
 Brechet C, D’Audigier L, & Audras-Torrent L. The use of drawing as an emotion regulation technique with children. Psychol Aesthet, Creat Arts. 2022; 16(2): 221–232. Available from: Here
 Porter S, McConnell T, McLaughlin K, Lynn F, Cardwell C, Braiden HJ, Boylan J, Holmes V. Music therapy for children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems: a randomised controlled trial. J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry. [Internet]. Wiley; 2017; 58(5): 586–594. Available from: Here
 Thompson GA, Shanahan EC, & Gordon I. The role of music-based parent-child play activities in supporting social engagement with children on the autism spectrum: A content analysis of parent interviews, Nord. J. Music Ther. 2019; 28(2): 108-130. Available from: Here
 Yuan S, Zhou X, Zhang Y, Zhang H, et al. Comparative efficacy and acceptability of bibliotherapy for depression and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Neuropsychiatr. Dis. Treat. 2018; 14: 353–365. Available from: Here
 Lewis KM, Amatya K, Coffman MF, & Ollendick TH. Treating nighttime fears in young children with bibliotherapy: Evaluating anxiety symptoms and monitoring behavior change. J. Anxiety Disord. 2014; 30: 103–112. Available from: Here