helping people grow
Arbour Counselling Office:
Tel 250.479.9912 Fax 250.704.0588
4277 Quadra St . Victoria . BC . V8X1L5
Counselling Children: Some Questions and Answers
© 2011, Josie deGreef, M.A., RCC
I feel honoured that I have the opportunity to work with children, youth, and their families as a part of my counselling practice at Arbour. Counselling with children and youth offers unique challenges, yet the work can be very rewarding for everyone involved.
Why might a child or youth come to counselling?
Children and youth may be referred to counselling for many of the same life stressors as adults. These might include: grief & loss, illness, coping with a disability, family changes, social pressures, trauma, witnessing or experiencing abuse, and working through developmental transitions. However, the ways in which children and youth may process stress can be very different that what you might expect from an adult. Children and youth are still developing in their ability to process life experiences. Some do not yet have the language or ability to make sense of their emotions. Children are especially vulnerable as they are still dependent on adults for guidance and for meeting many of their needs. As well, children and youth are still developing their ability to reason and to hold multiple perspectives, making it difficult for them to process complex situations. Consequently, when a child or youth experiences stress, it is not uncommon to see a variety of responses, ranging from changes in usual behaviour, displays of anxiety or depression, difficulties with peers or at school, changes in sleeping or eating habits, and changes in emotions.
How does counselling work with children and youth?
At Arbour, we believe that counselling needs to begin with a relationship built on trust, respect, and connection. It is important that the counsellor be genuine as well as sensitive to where the child or youth stands in his or her developmental process. Change is a process that takes time and doesn’t always happen in the ways we expect. We also recognize that ‘talking’ isn’t always developmentally appropriate for children and that connecting through play and art may be more helpful.
Understanding the big picture is essential. Time needs to be taken to consider the family situation, the family patterns of interaction, and other influencing factors such as friendships, school, and one’s faith.
Some sessions might be spent with the parents or others significant family members, some sessions might be spent doing individual counselling with the child, and some sessions might be spent working all together. Each person present offers an important perspective and experience of the situation. Sometimes work with children becomes “family work” where the therapist helps facilitate conversations within the family system.
Who might recommend children to counselling?
Sometimes a child will request to see a counsellor, but more often than not, a concerned caregiver will make the initial inquiry; recommendations will often come from a health care provider, the school, social services, or legal system.
What about consent and confidentiality when it comes to counselling children?
At Arbour, we find that the counselling process is most productive for the child when everyone is on board, whether parents are together, separated, or divorced. We make every effort to receive consent from each parent when there is joint or undetermined custody and guardianship. As always, a child’s safety is paramount, and this is given utmost consideration.
All of our therapists are Registered Clinical Counsellors with the BCACC and are ethically bound to high standards of confidentiality and informed consent for each of our clients, including children and youth, as outlined by the association.