Guest post by Dr. John Townsend, Ph.D.

Kids are the most vulnerable individuals in humanity. They are not yet developed, are dependent on others for their survival, and have few coping skills. Because of their vulnerability, children can suffer from severe mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and acting-out, which, if not addressed clinically, can be debilitating for their entire lives. It is key to help mental health issue of children early.

Behind the Presenting Problem

For kids who have mental illnesses, it is important to realize that the presenting problem is likely not the true problem. A child’s presenting anxiety or acting-out is likely a symptom of something within their character structure. In addition, I define character as “That set of capacities required to meet the demands of reality.” In other words, there are capacities or skills, that every child needs. These key skills help the child grasp and use, in order to feel safe, loved and secure. Conversely, when those capacities aren’t given to the child to learn, psychological symptoms are the result. Understanding the capacity issue under the symptom, we can help them transformationally, from the inside out. Here are the most important three capacities:


Attachment is the capacity to trust, to be vulnerable and to learn empathy for others. When this capacity is undeveloped or injured, the results can be detachment and trust issues. Help kids learn to trust people who are trustworthy and they can be safe with.


Kids need to have their own voices and choices. Having a sense of who they are and what boundaries they can set, helps protect themselves. If they don’t have adequate separateness, they feel powerless, helpless and unable to say “no.” Help these children to have permission to speak what they feel and age-appropriate freedom to act.


Healthy people are able to integrate, or live with, the positives and the negatives of life. They accept their own strengths and failings and those of others as well. In contrast, when kids do not possess good integration skills, they are often perfectionistic and self-judging. Help these children to know that when they fail, they are still loved and safe. Remind them that they are just learning. Help them to forgive others for letting them down as well.

In summary, when a child experiences a mental health problem, get a medical workup done. Then begin discovering what character injury might be driving the presenting problem. Early intervention by a skilled worker can change a kid’s entire future.

Dr. John Townsend Bio

Dr. John Townsend is a New York Times bestselling author, business consultant, leadership coach and psychologist. He has written over 30 books, selling 10 million copies, including the Boundaries series, People Fuel and Leading From Your Gut.

Dr. Townsend engages with leaders, organizations and individuals around the globe, offering them life-changing solutions to their challenges. He and his organization provide team and executive coaching, corporate consulting, and give conference presentations.

John also personally coaches leaders, families and family businesses, and has a limited concierge coaching practice.

Dr. Townsend founded the online Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University Irvine, offering Masters degrees and certificates in Organizational Leadership, Executive Coaching and Counseling, along with Bachelor’s degrees and an upcoming Ph.D. program in Counseling Supervision and Education.

John also founded the Townsend Leadership Program, a team-based holistic entity which develops leaders in the US and Canada. Dr. Townsend has personally trained the Directors of TLP, and they focus on the necessary task skills and people skills of the leader.

John conducts “Dr. Townsend Live”, (, an online live video call-in program. He is also co-host of the nationally syndicated talk show “New Life Live” with 3 million listeners.

Dr. Townsend is active with several service organizations and boards. John and his family live in California and Texas. One of John’s hobbies is playing in he and his sons’ band, “The Bandits”, for parties and venues!



Choose Mental Health is changing nationally the approach to mental health for children. As advocates for our nation’s youth, we must do better. Our children need a stigma-free space to explore, communicate and get answers, real answers on how to solve mental health problems.

Kids and youth deserve our best mental health solutions, help and support. They deserve to not be afraid of their thoughts. They deserve the best we can give them. By supporting Choose Mental Health you are standing up for 20 million children and youth with chronic or debilitating mental health needs suffering right now.

Choose Mental Health needs your best, to give help to children who need our best.

Join us and make mental health a positive topic.

Founded in Orem Utah, Choose Mental Health leads the mental health movement nationally for youth and children with a determination to leave the world and our children better than we found them. We invite individuals and corporations to stand up for our most vulnerable children population. Contact for more information.