Psychological Treatment Approaches for Young Children and Their Families

Edited by Ingeborg Stiefel, Matthew Brand and Tanya Hanstock

"Never disappoints. A concise authoritative guide, this book is a treasure-trove and delight to read. It provides the reader with an overview of the contemporary early intervention landscape with sufficient detail to allow readers to feel familiar with the key aspects of each approach, without overwhelming them with too much new information.

— Alan Carr, PhD, FPSsI, FBPsS, Professor of Clinical Psychology, UCD, and Family Therapist, Clanwilliam Institute, Ireland.





Early childhood is the most critical phase in human development. Negative influences can contribute to irreversible life-long struggles. What is learned in the first five years of life becomes the foundation for subsequent learning. It is vitally important that we effectively treat mental health problems when we find them in preschoolers.

Psychological Treatment Approaches for Children and Their Families provides a comprehensive overview of 14 commonly available therapeutic interventions for children aged 3–5 years. It fills an important gap in a field where information about treatment options is limited compared with those suitable for older children and adolescents.

The interventions presented are evidence-based and reflect various research backgrounds and theories of change. They are grouped into four sections covering individual child treatments, parent-focused approaches, dyadic carer-child interventions, and family-systems models. Each section describes the models in a condensed yet comprehensive summary, offering information on its evidence base, key concepts, stages of therapy, session structure, treatment effects, and training options, along with a case study example illustrating the therapy in practice.

The structure allows the reader to decide what treatments can be used for what presenting problem and under what conditions. A set of exercise questions concludes the end of each chapter to encourage better theory-practice links. The result is a text that provides ample opportunities for students and therapists to develop a knowledge base and understanding of how to best approach the treatment of psychological disorders in this age group.

Edited and authored by a select group of experienced clinical psychologists and psychiatrists with a particular interest in paediatric clinical psychology, this text is relevant for students, therapists, trainers and supervisors, referrers, researchers, and funding bodies, as well as all those undergoing training in disciplines related to child development and clinical child psychology.

The Interventions reviewed are:

  • Play Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Circle of Security (COS)
  • Tuning into Kids (TIK)
  • Positive Parenting Program (Triple P)
  • Parent–Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)
  • Child–Parent Psychotherapy (CPP)
  • Integrated Family Intervention for Child Conduct Problems (IFI)
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP)
  • Watch, Wait, and Wonder (WWW)
  • Narrative Therapy (NT)
  • Strategic Family Therapy (SRFT)
  • Structural Family Therapy (SFT)
  • Psychodynamic Therapy (PDT)



About the Author

Ingeborg Stiefel (R.N., Soz. Paed. Grad., Diplom Psychologe, M. Psych. [Clin.]) is a Senior Clinical Psychologist, semi-retired, with over 40 years of clinical experience. She trained in nursing and social work before venturing into psychology. She completed her first psychology degree during the cold war years at the Freie Universitaet Berlin and completed her M Clin Psych at Macquarie University, Sydney in 1990. The political conflict in the 1970s was also reflected in the field of psychology. Behaviourism and traditional empirical research clashed with a strong psychodynamic tradition in Germany and critical psychology, anti-psychiatry and East European psychology started to develop a new voice questioned theories and clinical approaches of both sides. These formative years are still present in her questioning approach to clinical practice. Ingeborg trained in humanistic, psychodynamic, narrative and systemic therapies and she has worked with children and families with a wide variety of clinical presentations in many settings, including at the Childrens’ Hospital Westmead. She appreciates client-centred values as a base for all therapeutic endeavours, appreciates the depth of psychodynamic thinking, and enjoys the freedom and creativity both narrative and systemic approaches can offer to therapy, especially when working with young children. She has published widely in the field of family therapy.  

Matthew Brand (B. Psyc. [Hons.], M. Psyc. [Clin.]) completed his Masters degree at the University of New England. He is a Clinical Psychologist specialising in the field of paediatric psychology. He has gained substantial expertise in both assessment and treatment of pre-schoolers and their families and has trained in a wide range of models tailored specifically to the age range of preschoolers, including several models of family therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, Trauma-Focussed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), emotion coaching, Circle of Security (COS) and Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPPP, among others. Matthew believes diagnostic assessments for common neurodevelopmental problems emerging in the preschool years, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and global developmental delay, need to be comprehensive and consider a range of factors that influence a child’s development. Over the past 10 years, Matthew has worked in several public health settings, for non-governmental organisations and in private practice in both assessment and treatment roles. Matthew has always been interested in prevention and early intervention to address mental health difficulties, advocating for the earliest treatment possible before emotional and behavioural difficulties become entrenched. He enjoys working with energy, enthusiasm, creativity and playfulness to meet the therapeutic needs of both children and their carers.

Dr Tanya Hanstock (BA. [Hons], D Clin and Health Psyc) completed her Doctor of Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of New England in 2003. She then worked in the public health system (in community settings as well as inpatient units) assessing and treating children and adolescents with developmental and or mental health issues. Tanya has also worked at headspace centre and worked in rural, regional and metropolitan areas. Tanya is a Senior Lecturer and the Convenor of the Clinical Psychology Programs in the School of Psychological Sciences, University of Newcastle. She has participated in academic teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the University of Newcastle (UON), The University of New England (UNE) and Charles Sturt University (CSU) for over 21 years. She has previously been the Director of The Clinical Psychology Programs at the University of New England. She teaches in all areas of Clinical Psychology, supervises the research projects of master of clinical psychology, honours and PhD students and supervises students on Clinical Psychology placements. Her particular interest is in teaching students about child development and the assessment and treatment of child developmental and mental health issues in children and adolescents. Tanya’s research is focused on the understanding, assessment and treatment of mental health disorders across the lifespan. Her special clinical interest is in bipolar disorder, particularly the onset of bipolar disorder (BD) in young people. Tanya is in the process of completing her PhD in the field of BD. 

Dr Fiona Perrett (B Psych [Hons], D Psych [Clin], (James Cook University) is a Clinical Psychologist working in private practice. Prior to private practice, she worked across settings in non-government organisations, hospitals (NSW Health) and universities (University of Canberra and Australian National University). From the beginning of her career more than two decades ago, she was drawn to working with children, young people and families. She trained in family therapy (narrative, solution focused and systemic family therapy) and Triple P Positive Parenting programs, before developing a strong interest in attachment theory and its practical applications for helping children and families. She trained in Circle of Security interventions and enjoyed providing COS Intensive and COS P programs to families. This evolved to provision of COS supervision for therapists, particularly supervision for COS Intensive programs. The research and measurement of attachment relationships is of particular interest to Fiona. This led to training and experience in conducting and classifying / assessing attachment relationships via the Strange Situation assessment. Fiona also has an interest in developmental, educational and cognitive assessments. Her interest in attachment relationships extends to adult attachments. Fiona has extensive experience in provision of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy programs for adults who experience significant, treatment resistant emotional and mental health concerns. Fiona continues to work across settings, working in clinical and organisational settings, including provision of telehealth. She has a strong commitment to evidence-based treatments, including treatment for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety disorders and depression. She particularly enjoys her supervisory work, assisting Provisionally Registered Psychologists in their early career journeys.

Dr Denise Guy (MBChB, FRANZCP, Cert. Child Psychiatry) is a consultant Child Psychiatrist, working in infant and early childhood mental health and co-ordinates training in Watch, Wait and Wonder (WWW) in Australasia. She trained in Dunedin and Sydney and established the 0-5 years – Early Intervention Unit (1987), as Director of Redbank House, Westmead. In Dunedin she was involved with the pilot study of WWW with E. Muir and A. Stupples, continuing its use clinically, and from 2005 developing the training program. She is a founding member of the Australian (1987) and New Zealand (2006) Affiliates of the World Association for Infant Mental Health WAIMH). As Vice President and President in NZ she developed two key initiatives, Facilitating Attuned Interactions (FAN) and Two Homes/Ngā Kainga e Rua. Denise provides supervision to practitioners across services working with families with young children and across disciplines. The mind that holds the child, the parent and the practitioner is of enduring interest. In 2021 she was recognised with an Order of New Zealand Merit (ONZM) for her services to IMH.

Marion Doherty is a Clinical Psychologist who has been working with children and their families at an ICAMHS (infant, child and adolescent mental health) service in Auckland for the past seventeen years. For the last eight years she has specialised in clinical work with children from 0-4yrs and their parents. Marion is the co-ordinator of the infant team at the service - Koanga Tupu and is an executive member of IMHAANZ (Infant Mental Health Association Aotearoa New Zealand). She is accredited as an independent Watch, Wait, and Wonder practitioner. Marion also provides consult liaison for a paediatric service for children with restricted eating issues and supervises other infant mental health clinicians. Marion is particularly interested in infant mental health interventions, including WWW, which support parents to "hold their child’s mind in their mind” and promote a shift from rigid representations to a curious stance of reflection and wonder.

Dr Sian Phillips (Ph.D., C. Psych) is a Psychologist who lives in Ontario, Canada. She specialises in the assessment and treatment of developmental trauma and is a certified DDP therapist, consultant and trainer. She has a particular interest in helping educators become both trauma informed and trauma responsive and helping schools create the safety and sense of belonging that children need to learn. Sian has co-authored two books outlining how DDP principles can provide a map for educators and other professionals in this endeavour. Sian has the privilege of working with many creative and dedicated professionals in the pursuit of creating strong and safe relationships for some of our most vulnerable children and families.

About the Editors

Edited by Ingeborg Stiefel, Matthew Brand and Tanya Hanstock

Table of Contents


Psychological Treatment Approaches for Young Children and Their Families


Chapter 1

Developmental Milestones, Assessment and Treatment Options for Young Children and their Families


Chapter 2

Play Therapy


Chapter 3

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)


Chapter 4

Circle of Security (COS)


Chapter 5

Tuning into Kids (TIK)


Chapter 6

Triple P — Positive Parenting Program


Chapter 7

Parent–Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) 


Chapter 8

Child–Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) 


Chapter 9

Integrated Family Intervention for Child Conduct Problems (IFI) 


Chapter 10

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) 


Chapter 11

Watch, Wait, and Wonder (WWW) 


Chapter 12

Narrative Therapy 


Chapter 13

Strategic Family Therapy (SRFT) 


Chapter 14

Structural Family Therapy (SFT) 


Chapter 15

Psychodynamic Therapy (PDT)