Q: You seem to be opposed to putting children into any sort of psychological therapy. That’s curious, especially given that you’re a child psychologist. Are there any situations in which you would be in favor?

A: I was trained as a child therapist, to talk to children about problems they were having. Rather early on in my career, however, I concluded that such conversations were largely unproductive and potentially counterproductive. Parents never — no exceptions — told me that problems with their children abated after I talked with them.

Was that due to something about me or was the process itself problematic? I eventually concluded the latter.

No consistent body of research confirms the reliable efficacy of any psychological therapy. Outcome studies consistently find that about as many consumers report dissatisfaction with therapy as satisfaction. Studies on outcomes with children are lacking (not to mention difficult to measure), but over the years a significant number of parents have reported to me that putting their children in therapy made the problem(s) worse. My personal finding has been that therapy with children is a waste of everyone’s time and also parents’ money. (My thoughts on this are not mainstream.)

The problem begins with training and philosophical biases that dispose therapists to talk to children about their feelings. Such talks can give children the impression that their feelings about certain issues are not only legitimate but should also govern their parents’ behavior.

Children’s emotions are as undisciplined as their thought processes. Their feelings often reflect nothing more than immaturity and an inclination toward self-drama. Children often misinterpret events and are susceptible to suggestion. The conclusion is that a child’s emotions are rarely a valid indication of anything more than a need to grow up.

Therapy involves the risk of confirming a child’s feelings, of assigning credence to them, and so is potentially counter-productive if not harmful. It is, in my estimation, a risk that therapists should undertake with great caution, if at all.

I will concede that there may be a small minority of situations in which child therapy can be justified for a conservative length of time. But it is not, in my estimation, justified when the problem is primarily the result of the child’s refusal to accept the legitimacy of adult authority, the child’s immaturity or parents who have not insisted on emotional self-control.

Send emails to questions@rosemond.com.