Counselling and Therapy for School Refusal in children and teenagers

Why is my child or teenager refusing to go to school?

Starting school or moving to a new school will nearly always cause some apprehension or worry in children and adolescents.

But if you are finding that your son or daughter is experiencing severe distress and panic at the thought of going to school, leading to prolonged absences and disruption to family life, clinical psychology therapy intervention could help.

Effective talking therapies used by highly experienced clinicians to help with school refusal, are available at our clinic in the North West London area.

School refusal

What is causing my child or teenager’s anxiety about school?

School refusal is typically a result of separation anxiety, where your child may be fearful that something bad may happen to yourself (their parent or primary caregiver), when you are apart.

If your son or daughter is struggling with separation anxiety, they may frequently become tearful, anxious, clingy or angry, when forced to separate from you or other caregivers, such as when they have to go to school.

They may react irrationally, such as locking themselves in the house or car, or refusing to walk into the school building. The stress of the separation event may be so upsetting for your child that they throw a tantrum, hysterically cry or lash out at anyone trying to help.

It may also be the case that they are sent home early from school, as the stress and upset of separation can manifest in physical symptoms that make them feel unwell, such as headaches or stomach pains.

School refusal is not always a by-product of separation anxiety, it can also be prompted in children of all ages by fear towards some aspect of the school environment. For example, if your child fears bullying from their peers, or is frightened of failure in exams, or even stressed about victimisation from their teacher.

In adolescents and teenagers, school refusal could also be indicative of another mental health issue, such as depression, eating disorders or social anxiety and phobias. At Harwood Child Psychology, we carefully and thoroughly assess for all possible causes for a child refusing to go to school, ensuring accurate and helpful treatment.

How can I help my child or teenager get back to school?

If your son or daughter is persistently avoiding school, and suffering socially and educationally, we’d recommend that you get in touch to book a free telephone consultation.

As a parent, it can be concerning to see your child so distressed by going to school. Their avoidance or refusal can also have a negative effect on family life if you, or another caregiver, is having to take time off work to look after your child if they’re not in school.

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The good news is, there are evidence-based, modern and effective counselling methods to help get your child back to school. Therapy to combat your child’s anxiety surrounding school is available in the North West London area with Harwood Child Psychology.

Our approach of using only rigorously tested and NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) approved treatments dramatically increases the chance of seeing real improvements in your child.

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Treatment for combatting school refusal will be tailored specifically to your child’s worries and fears, to ensure that your son or daughter feels understood and ready to start re-integrating into the education environment that might have previously worried them.

Whilst specific therapies might vary based on the trigger for your child’s avoidance of school, we will always conduct treatment for school refusal with consistent communication between family members and school officials. We will work closely with your child’s school to make sure that treatment is effective.

Parents always want to help their child in returning to school after a long absence, but may inadvertently worsen the situation by accidentally reinforcing their avoidance behaviour. Parents are always involved in the treatment at Harwood Child Psychology to make sure everyone is working together effectively.

We offer cost-effective, evidence-based treatment with a highly qualified clinical psychologist. You can be sure that your child or teenager is in safe hands. We pride ourselves on a high quality, warm and compassionate service that can help your son or daughter be comfortable going back to school.


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Harwood Child Psychology provides engaging and effective therapy for anxiety in Muswell Hill, Crouch End, Highgate, Hampstead, Finchley and the wider North West London area.

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