Social therapy for children and families

Creating new performances
of the “family play”

We’ve all learned to play roles in our “family play,” and sometimes they don’t work. Are your children the hyperactive kids who drive their parents crazy? Are you the overwrought parent? Is your child the one who just won’t listen? Do your meltdowns (both parents and kids) have a negative impact on people in and outside the family? 

We can help you. 

Social therapy for children focuses on the growth and development of the whole family. In a variety of group settings, we help families take a serious look at their family drama, and use play, creativity and performance in life (the activities children love to do!) to help children and their parents learn new performances of their relationships at home and in school. 

Most of childrens’ life experience is shaped and directed by the adults around them. When children have emotional, social or learning difficulties, parents — often exhausted and at their wits’ end — can become overly authoritarian or overly liberal, and children don’t feel that they have any power to change what’s happening. Frustrated with themselves and everyone around them, they “act out.” 

Whether your child has been diagnosed with Aspergers or ADHD, or feels victimized by difficulties in school or life situations like divorce, the social therapist works with the whole family to help them create new choices in how to respond to these very real stresses. They can rewrite, rehearse, and perform a new family play, and learn to take responsibility for the choices they make. The social therapist helps children use their creativity and love of play to see that they have something positive to offer adults and other children. They experience themselves as the creators of their lives, which helps to reinitiate the growth and development that often has stopped — for everyone in the family — in the face of social and emotional difficulties.

Social Therapy, Autism, and Asperger’s

"It is increasingly recognized that major barriers to social function may be related to a lack of opportunity or instruction rather than just to intrinsic impairments.” (Batshaw, 2002.)

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome may well be neurobiological. Nevertheless, at the Social Therapy Group, we work hard not to interpret or predict based upon a child’s current performance repertoire. We relate to children and families as having the capacity to organize what’s happening in more creative and developmental ways, and as having the capability to transform the performance of their lives.

In social therapy, we help families out of the diagnostic box in which children (and their parents) can be trapped. Diagnosis too often has the effect of limiting what parents and others think they can do in terms of interacting with their child. Parents often will not even attempt normal conversation with a son or daughter who has been so labeled. Instead of two-way communication, interaction gets reduced to a series of declarative instructions directed at the child — “Do this! Don’t do that!” — and little else. When this happens, the child’s development and ability to grow are severely limited, too.

A group therapy approach

Treatment and support comes in a group setting that includes individuals of all ages and backgrounds, each making his or her unique contribution — social therapy does not segregate children with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder. This highlights the child’s strengths (often the innate ability to create and play) and limitations in relating to others, and enables her or him to interact and be part of creating a diverse social environment.

Group support provides many other learning and growth opportunities:

  • Reinforcement and support for growth and development can come from a variety of different sources — not just the therapist.
  • Through broad interactions with others, the child benefits from exposure to a rich social environment. A lack of such information can contribute significantly to social isolation.
  • Parents become involved in the therapy. This is essential, and creates a network of support for the child and the parent.
  • The child is supported in expressing emotions — in a pro-social way — for and with others.
  • The group offers many different positive and appropriate role models that children and parents see and interact with.

At the Social Therapy Group, we help individuals and families learn how to build an environment where relationality is key. In essence, it is helping all concerned look at the impact they are having on other people. In some cases it’s recognizing that there are other people. A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome need not and should not be allowed to interfere with continuous human development.

Social Therapy and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Many families are searching for help in dealing with the often baffling challenges of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). For parents the question is often whether or not to medicate, and most doctors will point them toward the plethora of medications that are now available. Many of them can work quite well in helping a child to focus — well enough, in fact, that schools are often at the forefront of encouraging their use.

So what’s the answer? Is medication good for the child? Is it enough? Can it be harmful? Side effects are not uncommon, and can be severe. The wide variety of medications and methods of use can be bewildering. Many parents are concerned that while the drugs control the child’s behavior, they do nothing to support — and may actually impede — the child’s emotional growth and acquisition of tools for being with and relating to others. 

The decision whether or not to medicate is an important one, and in social therapy we help parents work on how they want to make that decision. If they choose not to medicate, we will support that decision. If it turns out to be that medication is their choice, then we insist that the prescription include more than just the pill or the patch. Medication alone, we feel, is not an answer.

Group therapy for ADHD

It is in the context of a group that children can begin to learn who they are and how they are in the world. Our work in social therapy begins by helping the child see that he or she is, in fact, hyperactive, and has difficulty focusing. We create a multi-family group environment in which the child and the family can discover the impact they have on others. For example, through interacting with the group, children begin to experience the difference between being focused on others or not. We help them begin to discriminate when they are moving faster than those around them, and when they are moving so fast they can’t really handle themselves. 

Children are often astonished by seeing and experiencing themselves as “out of control.” Sometimes as they slow down, they feel sad or even lost, because “going fast” is all they know how to do. As children with ADHD learn to self-regulate, they need to develop new, gratifying ways to be with others. The group gives them that opportunity. In the group, children are supported in playing and performing — creative, collaborative activities through which they discover, sometimes for the first time in memory, that they can be with other people. They experience themselves as givers of their creativity and strengths, as well as of their disabilities.

For an inside look at a multi-family group and its work with children diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s or on the Autism Spectrum, click here.

We help families with:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
  • Other childhood diagnoses
  • Parenting Skills
  • School Performance
  • Divorce and Separation
  • Gay and Lesbian Family Life

We offer:

  • Short term individual and family therapy
  • Multi-family groups
  • Group therapy for adolescents
Christine LaCerva,  Director 212-941-8844 or 718-797-3220 Convenient New York City locations in Manhattan and Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  Adults, Children, Families Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. Contact us for an initial consultation.

Christine LaCerva, 

212-941-8844 or

Convenient New York City locations in Manhattan and Fort Greene, Brooklyn. 

Adults, Children, Families

Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact us for an initial consultation.