Psychoanalysis for children and adolescents

childrenChildren and adolescents often behave in troubling ways that puzzle and worry their parents, teachers and friends. Sometimes their behavior is symptomatic of passing problems and temporary stresses. But sometimes the troubles do not go away by themselves.



Listen to Dr. Hook’s audio on psychoanalysis for children and adolescents:

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Children and parents may feel guilt, shame, and anger as they struggle to understand these problems. Why is this happening? What can they do about it? Families and/or schools may get stuck in a confused cycle of blaming and helplessness.


Psychoanalysts are highly trained mental health professionals who can suggest an array of techniques to help parents understand and address their children’s needs.

Child and adolescent psychoanalysts approach each situation individually.

  • They help parents take care of their children’s difficulties.
  • They respect each child and adolescent as a unique individual within a family and a community.
  • They understand that factors outside a person’s awareness influence feelings, thoughts, and actions.
  • They help parents, children, and adolescents understand how the past shapes the present, and can influence the future.
  • They help children and adolescents remove obstacles to the development of their skills and competencies so they can become happier, more caring, productive, and creative.

What kinds of problems or symptoms can psychoanalysts help with?

  • anxiety
  • fearfulness
  • sleeplessness
  • nightmares
  • night terrors or sleepwalking;
  • excessive sadness or depression
  • physical symptoms without physical cause
  • extreme aggression
  • cruelty to animals or people
  • disturbances in conduct or behavior
  • excessive sibling rivalry
  • bullying, or being a scapegoat or a class clown;
  • risk-taking
  • compulsive thinking or rituals
  • learning disorders
  • inattentiveness and disinterest in learning
  • excessive shyness and separation problems
  • lag in emotional and social development
  • eating disorders
  • loneliness or isolation
  • preoccupation with death
  • suicidal thinking or behavior
  • sexual confusion
  • sexual conflicts

Psychoanalysts can help parents and teachers:

  • Understand and address troubling situations
  • Consider the different treatment options
  • Find the best treatment for each family and child

    Two children or adolescents can have similar symptoms, but their underlying difficulties may be very different and require different approaches. A thorough evaluation usually includes a series of interviews with parents and with the child or adolescent in order to learn about the current situations, how the parents have been dealing with the problems, possible precipitating events, the child’s and family’s history, and potential genetic and physical contributing factors. At times, psycho-educational, medical or neurological examinations may be recommended.

Psychoanalysis is the best treatment when:

  • The problems primarily stem from within the child or teen.

    Children or adolescents may not be aware of the underlying issues that affect their feelings and behavior. They may have difficulties in school, trouble making friends, or problems at home. Some children suffer silently. Psychoanalysis helps explore and overcome these problems.

  • Children or adolescents have complex emotional disturbances.

    Such children may have intense and dramatic emotional states. They may experience difficulties with teachers or in making friends. They may hunger for positive or negative social responses, may be clingy, hyperactive, or have temper tantrums. Sometimes these children have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder (CD), separation anxiety disorder, or mood disorder.

  • Other therapies and attempted solutions have failed to deliver deep, long-lasting change.

In psychoanalysis, the child or adolescent has time and space to use words, play, or action in the relationship with the analyst to expresses problems, which can then be understood and solved together.


The goal of child and adolescent analysis is the modification of psychological road blocks so children and adolescents can achieve their full potential.


FAQs About Child & Adolescent Psychoanalysis

Leon Hoffman, M.D., editor
309 East 49th Street, New York, NY 10017

© 2003 the American Psychoanalytic Association, all rights reserved