Getting help for conduct disorders

Getting help for conduct disorders

Getting help for conduct disorders 1200 900 Team Mindsum
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Last updated: 13 January 2021

This article covers:

– What types of therapies are involved?

– What types of professionals are involved?

– The journey of recovery from conduct disorders

What types of therapies are involved?

When treating conduct disorders, there are psychosocial types of therapy that are involved. This means that the therapy aims to focus on the child or young person and the influence of others around them. Therefore, besides from having family therapy and child-focused programmes, the child or young person and their parent/guardian might also go through parent training and multimodal programmes. These will be discussed below.

 

Parent/guardian training programmes

This a specialized programme that helps parents/guardians to improve on their parenting skills, as a way to stop conduct disorders from continuing. Research shows that parenting programs can be very effective in treating conduct disorders.

 

The idea behind it is that parents hold the key to stop the behavioural problems from persisting. This is because parents are the ones responsible for setting boundaries, ensuring discipline and giving appropriate love and affection.

 

Other professionals aside from counsellors and psychotherapists can also deliver this programme. This can include social and community workers.

 

The parents/guardians will learn to adapt their parenting skills in a way that helps the child or young person to change their problematic behaviour. The child might be invited to some sessions together with their parents, where they will get to practice these new skills and get feedback from the professional.

 

Family therapy

This is a type of therapy that focuses on the family as a whole, as a way to treat conduct disorders in children and young people.

 

The idea behind family therapy is that problem behaviours developed because of certain dysfunctions in the family. Therefore, if these dysfunctions can be resolved, this will help to stop the conduct disorder from continuing.

 

The therapist will help to resolve conflict, improve communication and emotional bonds between members of the family. The ultimate goal will be to improve cooperation within the family in a way that supports the child or young person to recover from the conduct disorder.

 

Child-focused programmes

This is a specialized programme that helps children and young people to reduce their problem behaviours. This might also include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which focuses on the link between thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Research shows that CBT is very effective for reducing problem behaviours that are linked with conduct disorders.

 

The idea behind this is that children and young people with conduct disorders think about anger and violence in a different way. For example, a young person might think that hitting is enjoyable. So, if they change the way they think about this, they will stop the problem behaviour.

 

The professional will help the child to come up with new ways of problem-solving without the need for anger or violence. They will learn how to cope with negative emotions and manage their anger. The professional will help the child to be more attentive to the consequences of their actions.

 

Multimodal programmes

This is an intensive form of treatment for children and young people with conduct disorders, where all of the above programmes might be given with the additional involvement of the school, the community and the criminal justice system. This might be organised by a professional, such as a case manager/social worker.

 

The idea behind a multimodal programme is to manage the child or young person’s behaviour in different settings, to increase the chances that they will recover from the conduct disorder.

 

The professional will make sure that the child or young person is getting therapy and their parents, teachers, members of the community and the criminal justice system are also helping to support the child.

What types of professionals are involved?

There are different professionals that may or may not be involved throughout the treatment process for conduct disorders. These might include counsellors, psychotherapistsdoctors/psychiatrist and social/community workers. These terms might be confusing, but the main difference is in the training that each of these professionals have received. 

In the UK, there is not much of a distinction made between counsellor or psychotherapist. Both of these professionals provide therapy. However, there are some slight differences between these two professional terms. These are outlined below.

Counsellors: Counselling is focused on helping people with what they need right now. Compared to psychotherapists, counsellors tend to have had a shorter training and they help people deal with their issues on a more short-term basis. There may be school-based counsellors available that children and young people can approach at their own school, if they feel they need support with their difficulties. Here at Mindsum, we have counsellors that are available to provide support.

Psychotherapists: Psychotherapy training tends to be longer. Psychotherapists can also give counselling but their approach to talk-therapy is more in-depth, exploring the history and causes of certain behaviours and emotional issues. The psychotherapist will then treat the conduct disorder in this specialized way. Here at Mindsum, we have psychotherapists that are available to provide support.

It doesn’t mean that one professional is better than the other. All professionals in this field go through intensive training before they begin to practice. Also, many counsellors seek additional training throughout their careers.

There are also doctors and psychiatrists that can be involved in the treatment of conduct disorders. There are more obvious differences between these two professional terms.

Doctors: These are professionals that are trained in medicine. This will likely be the family GP, who might find it necessary to prescribe certain medications that might help the child or young person, especially if there are other conditions that make the conduct disorder more complicated to treat.

Psychiatrist: These are professionals that are also trained in medicine. However, they also specialized in the field of psychiatry. So they are able to provide consultation and medication for a wide range of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar affective disorder and so on.

Social/community workers: Workers trained in working with vulnerable individuals and the community might also be involved with the child or young person. These professionals might help to provide parent training or multimodal programmes. They can make regular visits to the family home and provide or make arrangements for support. They may also work with law enforcement and other sectors to ensure that the child is safe from harm.

The journey of recovery from conduct disorders

The journey of recovery from conduct disorder can look different for each child or young person. Depending on the child’s age and severity of behavioural problems, the treatment might include a wide range of therapies and programmes. An example journey through a child-focused programme is discussed below.

Assessment
This is an important phase, where the counsellor or psychotherapist will get a feel of what is going on with the child or young person. The therapist will also identify important background information. They will ask some questions, which will help to create a full picture of what is going on and to know what type of treatment will be most helpful. 

Therapy sessions
These sessions will be regular and long-term for conduct disorders. An important aspect of the session is the relationship that the counsellor or psychotherapist will build with the child or young person. This will create a safe space that will encourage them to talk and be open with the therapist. Sessions might include different activities such as role-playing, games, rehearsal and feedback.

Progress and setbacks
When having treatment for conduct disorders, there will be progress and setbacks. Problem behaviours can take a long time to change, so it is not realistic to expect the child or young person to improve quickly or without any setbacks. It is important to not get discouraged when setbacks happen. It is an opportunity for the child or young person, parents and the therapist to think about new ways to move forward.

Ending therapy
The counsellor or psychotherapist will eventually prepare the child, young person and parents for the end of therapy. This is a very important phase, because it is vital for the child or young person to become confident without relying too much on the professional. The end of therapy will take place once the child or young person has made a lot of progress or has completely recovered from the conduct disorder. The child or young person will leave therapy with many skills that they can use without the help of the therapist. 

Follow up
There might be an agreement with the counsellor or psychotherapist to have a follow-up meeting. This is to check how the child or young person is coping. If they are doing well, there will be no need for more support. But if they continue to show problem behaviours or any other issues, this will be an opportunity to have extra support.

List of useful resources 

Conduct disorder
To read our information on conduct disorders, you can click here to access the link.

Recovery from conduct disorders
The Royal College of Psychiatry also offers information on what the treatment for conduct disorders might involve. You can click here to access the link.

Introduction to counselling and psychotherapy
The British Association for the Counselling Professions (BACP) have a useful document on different aspects of therapy. To read more, you can click here to access the link.

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