There are times in life when everyone needs some support. For parents, there may be times when we feel we need some guidance in how to support our children through difficult times, or we may feel our child needs more support and expertise in areas they may be struggling than we can give them. We may also feel the need for support for our entire family, or just for ourselves as parents. For children and teens, there may be times when they would like to feel better, when they would like to change a situation in their lives, or improve relationships. There are times when they need support from someone outside of their regular support system. I work with you and your child on figuring out what it is they would like or need help with and I try to support them in attaining these goals.
I support children ages 6-18, and their parents/families through counselling and consulting. My belief is that family is an important part of the child’s world, and when I work with children, we work together to find the best way to include or support parents and other family members as needed. I try to give the child a private and safe place to share their feelings and build skill in coping with the difficulties they might face, while supporting parents in understanding how to best support their child as well.
I may see a child/teen on their own, with a parent, with a sibling, or with the entire family. I allow the child and teen to be part of any decision-making about how best to go forward in supporting them.
Developmental and Wholistic:
In working with children and teens, I work from a developmental perspective. It is important to realize that my clients are developing, and that various factors and environments are affecting their emotional and developmental wellbeing. As I work with your child, I try to not only address the difficulty at hand, but also to assess and think about how your child is developing. This includes understanding how they think and process information best, the best ways for your child to learn and develop skills to deal with difficulties, and I try to help you as parents to also understand this.
It is important for me to seek information about your child from yourself (which is why I always start with a parent or parent & teen interview), but also from others that may be working with your child, such as teachers, school counsellors, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, etc. when needed. However, all my work with you and your child is confidential and your permission is always required for me to receive or share information with others*
What does Treatment Look like?
Initial session – For children 12 and younger, I typically meet with their parents first. For teens, parents and I decide together whether they would like to speak with me privately, or include their teen in the initial session. We discuss the current difficulties, and I also ask them questions in order to get a developmental history. I want to really understand how your child has developed, how they process information and if they recognize any factors that may contribute to their current difficulties.
Initial session with your child – Typically I would have parents join the child/teen and I for a few minutes to start with goal setting. I find out from your child what kind of support they may need, with your help. Do they want to change something that is happening in his or her life? Do they want to get better at dealing with feelings? Is there an incident that has happened or is happening that they would like to process and receive help to deal with? (For older teens, they might like to engage in this process without parent support.)
Ongoing sessions with your child - I use various counseling techniques when working with your child/teen.
Play therapy – With children 12 and under, I usually play a quick game with them at the start of every session. This allows me to assess and teach social skills, processing, and decision-making, as well as give us an opportunity to bond and just have fun! I also use a variety of structured and unstructured play therapy techniques with children, bringing in play as needed, or as the child initiates it. We may use puppets, sand tray, play dough, drawing, other toys and tools to creatively help your child express what they are feeling or experiencing. We use some of these techniques also to learn and practice new skills.
Cognitive therapy – This is a great evidence-based counseling strategy that teaches children and teens that how we think about situations can affect our feelings and also our reactions. The wonderful thing is that we can actually learn to become aware of our negative thoughts, assess them and develop more positive or helpful thoughts that help us feel better. This allows us to go forward more calmly and productively in the situation or in our day.
Bibliotherapy/story writing - Your child may learn well from seeing how others move through similar experiences. If so, I try to pull in stories that might interest but also allow your child to see how others have struggled and possibly resolved certain issues or personal difficulties. It also lets them know that they are not alone in their struggles. We may also engage in writing stories to describe areas of difficulty. And as your child gains confidence and competence, they can write about how they've resolved or is managing certain situations. This allows your child to identify and recognize the skills they're learning and applying. Social stories are stories that your child can read or write, with help, about how to move through specific social situations. Older teens might find that writing in the form of journaling, with guidance, is a helpful process.
Skills instruction - Sometimes it is beneficial to learn a practical skill such as increasing our feelings vocabulary and using that vocabulaory to better say how we feel. Learning self-calming strategies such as Belly Breathing as well as steps to problem solving are other skills-based techniques that some children/teens find useful. Assertive communication, rather than passive or aggressive is often a helpful skill to learn for certain clients, as well as how to set boundaries. Mindfulness is an approach that is used to help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve focus. We work together to assess any skills that might benefit your child/teen.
Behaviour programs – We might develop a positive reinforcement program for your child that addresses and reinforces certain goal behaviours. I work with you to design a program that ensures greater levels of success for your child.
Other strategies and techniques –
Every person is different, and the struggles he or she has are unique. When working with your child, I am constantly thinking about how best to support them as individuals. In doing so, a variety of well-recognized counselling strategies are used depending on your child’s interest and learning style.
TYPES OF DIFFICULTIES I CAN HELP WITH:
Most of us have some difficulty with emotions, behaviour, or relationships at some time in our lives. However, when these difficulties are interfering in our ability to function in a healthy and successful way, that is when it is important to seek help. These are some of the areas in which I typically help children and teens.
ANXIETY/WORRY (social anxiety, generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, school anxiety, performance anxiety, panic)
EMOTIONAL REGULATION (controlling emotions)
RELATIONSHIPS (family, peer, etc.)
ATTENTION-DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD)
NONVERBAL LEARNING DISORDER
RIGIDITY (difficulty being flexible)
OPPOSITIONAL BEHAVIOUR/ OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANT DISORDER