Therapeutic Approaches to Children with Conduct Disorder
Conduct disorder is a difficult behavioral disorder for parental figures to address. Beyond acting in socially inappropriate ways, some children are especially cruel to humans and animals, which can leave family members fearful of the child. Addressing the issue promptly can give your child the best chance at changing their behavior before it progresses.
Determine Differential/Comorbid Diagnoses
Conduct disorder frequently co-occurs with other mental health issues or can be misdiagnosed as another condition. An evaluation by a psychiatrist might be necessary to receive an accurate diagnosis of conduct disorder. Other conditions that can mimic certain symptoms associated with conduct disorder include attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and affective disorders like bipolar or depression. A psychiatrist will want to prescribe medications if ADHD or an affective disorder is present. If your child is believed to have conduct disorder without evidence of another condition, medication is not necessary since there are no medications that are effective for conduct disorder. However, it is plausible that medications may be needed in an acute situation when dealing with a child that is extremely violent.
Start with Family Therapy
Family therapy is an important part of addressing the issue of conduct disorder. A therapist can determine if there are underlying issues that might have precipitated the behavioral patterns. Many children with conduct disorder have suffered abuse, abandonment, or other childhood traumas, but this is not always the case. Some children may simply have a predisposition for conduct disorder, regardless of their environment. It is important for family members to be on-board with suggestions from the therapist and do their best to implement them. A therapist will want parental figures to be more engaged with supervising the child and setting boundaries, which includes consistent rules, discipline, and rewards systems. When there is more than one parental figure in the child's life, each person needs to be on the same page, otherwise, the child will easily exploit the person who is more likely to yield.
Integrate Individual Therapy
Individual therapy for children with conduct disorder is tricky at best. The general consensus is that individual therapy is unlikely to be effective, especially with older children and adolescents. Due to the nature of conduct disorder, children in individual therapy are likely to lie about their thoughts and behaviors and will probably react to an authority figure in an objectionable manner. Although family therapy tends to be more effective, it does not mean individual therapy is not worth a try. Individual therapy may have some benefits, especially for children who were diagnosed with conduct disorder at an earlier age and those with comorbid conditions, mainly affective disorders. As long as the therapist feels comfortable working with the child, it is important to continue individual therapy and not allow the child's behavior to dictate whether they attend therapy. To schedule a therapy session, contact a child psychology office, such as Carewright Clinical Services.
Conduct disorder is a difficult behavioral problem to address that is often associated with the development of anti-social personality disorder later in life. Identifying and treating the problem early may help reduce problematic behavior.