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Child and adolescent psychotherapy

The official title of the psychotherapeutic modality: Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

Program duration: 1 + 3 years (training programme) // 3 years (specialisation as a part of academic study programme)

Title acquired: Psychotherapist for children and adolescents





Modality description


Psychotherapy for children and adolescents requires a special set of skills which are essential for effective psychotherapy work for the specific reasons listed below:


  • Therapist (an adult) and patient (a child/a youth) are less equal than in therapist and patient in ‘’adult’’ psychotherapy.
  • Psychotherapists working with children and adolescents must therefore be "multilingual" - they must be able to use forms of communication that are age appropriate and adjusted to developmental specifics of each individual. That includes non-verbal forms of communication (e.g. playing, drawing, painting etc.) as well as the use of symbols and metaphors in verbal communication (e.g. working with fairy tales and stories).
  • Children and adolescents are more dependent on their narrow and wider social environment than adults. Therefore, various aspects of the relationship between a psychotherapist and child's closest confidants have to be included in the psychotherapy of children and adolescents.

Psychotherapists of children and adolescents have to acquire multidisciplinary and modality independent basic knowledge and additionally build a more specific knowledge related to the children and adolescent psychotherapy modality. Psychotherapists of children and adolescents have to obtain multidisciplinary basic knowledge in the field of physical, emotional, cognitive and social development. They also need to be familiar with specific issues related to the developmental period of childhood and adolescence and what kind of developmental disorders may occur in that period.

The training in psychotherapy of children and adolescents is organized similarly to other psychotherapeutic modality trainings offered at SFU Ljubljana. The students of the bachelor study programme of Psychotherapy science can choose the specialisation of the modality of psychotherapy of children and adolescents modality in their 3rd year of studies, which they continue in the master studies of Psychotherapy science. Graduates of psychotherapy related disciplines (e.g. social work, special pedagogy, social pedagogy, psychology, biopsychology, and medicine) have a possibility to enrol in the modality training of psychotherapy of children and adolescents after they finish the required differential study program at SFU Ljubljana.

The training in child and adolescent psychotherapy at SFU Ljubljana provides theoretical and practical knowledge to perform psychotherapy for children and adolescents.


(foto: Pixabay)

Modality specifics

In addition to special theoretical knowledge, the study of psychotherapy of children and adolescents must focus on the specifics of knotted relations within the framework of multidisciplinary basic knowledge. These are relations between a child and adolescent psychotherapist and adult trustees related to children and adolescents. However, it is necessary to remain in direct connection with the fundamental issues focused on the patient treatment framework.

Just like psychotherapy for adults, psychotherapy for children and adolescents is not a “sole psychotherapy”. It was formed specifically within various psychotherapeutic schools. Therefore, psychotherapists for children and adolescents must be able to consider, connect and integrate different psychotherapeutic schools or approaches.

Psychotherapy of children and adolescents is not only intended for children and adolescents with psychopathological disorders. It is looking for answers to questions related to education in the context of psychotherapy science. In this way, it contributes to the optimization of protective factors that enable better prevention. From this point of view, psychotherapy of children and adolescents also intervenes in the field of pedagogy.


These aspects are summarized below.

1.1 Special knowledge required for the psychotherapeutic treatment of children and adolescents

A child and adolescent psychotherapist must not only have psychotherapeutic knowledge, but must also consider developmental psychology. Only in this way will cooperate successfully with children and adolescents. The psychotherapist must know the stages of emotional and cognitive development, as only in this way will be able to choose terms that correspond to the child's understanding of speech. On the other hand, must also understand the child's speech. The psychotherapist must be familiar with the stages of development of thinking in order to be able to take into the child's way of thinking and ability of representing and abstract thinking. Knowledge of the course of social development, moral judgments and social competencies are also a necessary condition for establishing a dialogue in communication with the child.

Knowledge of the typical course of development and knowledge of the sequence of the main developmental stages of the child are not enough. The child and adolescent psychotherapist must also be aware of deviations from "developmental standards", such as isolated or limited delays in speech and motor skills, and difficulties in mastering reading, writing and arithmetic techniques. This is the only way to understand their impact on children’s mental development.


1.2 Specific language in the psychotherapeutic treatment of children and adolescents

The fact that there is less equality between therapist and patient in psychotherapy of children and adolescents compared to psychotherapy for adults requires special intervention techniques. Child and adolescent psychotherapists must therefore be able to use age-appropriate forms of communication in their work, including non-verbal forms of expressions such as playing, drawing and colouring. In verbal communication, they must be able to use symbolism and metaphors, such as working with fairy tales and stories, in both comprehension and speech. The child and adolescent psychotherapist must be able to “speak” in the form of communication chosen by the child, so must be able to play with objects as well as fantasy and metaphors.


1.3 Specific relational competencies in psychotherapy for children and adolescents

The dependence of children and adolescents on their immediate and wider social environment plays an essential and formative role in the psychotherapeutic process. Parents and the environment must be involved in psychotherapy. This urgent involvement of parents is related to the willingness of parents or custodians, which goes beyond formal consent of the treatment. Aspects of the relationship between the psychotherapist and the children’s trusted persons are part of the psychotherapy of children and adolescents. Because not only the therapist-child relationship is established, but also the relationship between the therapist and the child's trusted persons. The psychotherapist must also contemplate, consider and develop this level as well - the process of forming a relationship with the child's parents.


1.4 Specific terms of ethics in psychotherapy for children and adolescents

It is necessary to consider and contemplate the specificity of psychotherapeutic treatment of children and adolescents from the ethical point of view and moral rules that apply to psychotherapeutic treatment. This fact is especially true given in psychotherapy of children and adolescents in a form of therapy for protégés.

It is the duty of professional secrecy of psychotherapists for children and adolescents that poses a particular challenge over and over again when it comes to providing information to carers of children and adolescents. (more comprehensively see Sindelar, B. (2011). Kinder- und Jugendlichenpsychotherapie. In B. Rieken, B. Sindelar, & T. Stephenson, Psychoanalytic Individual Psychology in Theory and Practice. Psychotherapy, Pedagogy, Gesellschaft (pp. 275-305). Vienna - New York: Springer.)


Head of the modality and contact

Contact and head of the modality: mag. Miran Možina, dr. med.


Phone:  +386 (0)41 748 812


For all the questions related to the studies and personal dillemas that cannot be either resolved with the teachers of the study programme or the student office of SFU Ljubljana, one can contact the head of the modality.