The role of time-limited psychodynamic psychotherapy

The question then arises of what role time-limited psychodynamic psychotherapy can play in responding to this dilemma? The point has been made earlier that conventional treatments focusing primarily on the child will be unlikely to be effective in this changing and turbulent emotional and social landscape of childhood and parenthood. Equally, simply separating out therapy with parents without the child, may also not yield hoped-for outcomes. The fact is that children, young people and their parents are experiencing this level of change together, and therefore the interactive model has the potential to bring about positive therapeutic change. There is additionally a justified sense of urgency in needing to attend to these problems within a limited time frame to enable development, health and growth for the child and young person to continue unimpeded.

Identifying the three key elements that underpin child-parent conflict

Parents and children present to psychotherapists with problems of varying complexity. However, when we pare these down we find that what most of these problems have in common and what underpins many of these conflicts are the following three elements:

  • 1 Confusion about the use of appropriate parental authority.
  • 2 Blurring of boundaries between adults and children and the flattening of hierarchy.
  • 3 Confusion on the part of parents and lack of understanding about the normal developmental milestones of children and young people.

In many situations these three elements combine and need to be taken into account in the therapeutic encounter with children, young people and their parents. The benefit of the time-limited model is that it is able to address these different elements more coherently, as it prioritises the duty of care and therefore an active and communicative approach. We recognise that some parents are genuinely confused about the need for boundaries, limit setting and the use of authority. Most will not have had any contact with a baby until they have had their own, and are simply not aware of what development entails. For this reason, the therapeutic approach necessarily needs to include what may be described as psycho-education in giving appropriate information about what children and young people need in order to grow and thrive. This does not involve handing out educational materials or reacting in a rigid or judgemental fashion, but is a legitimate part of the dynamic interchange of the therapeutic work as it unfolds.

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