Psychological counselling for slow learner, parental guidance and counselling.

As parents, looking after ourselves is something that seems to get put way down the list of priorities. Everything and everyone are somehow organized, nurtured and sorted out irrespective of how we may be feeling. If life appears to be getting out of control or you're not coping so well, don't think you have to manage it alone. The old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved' has truth in it, and there are plenty of professional services which can help you in a time of need.

School counselors
When there is an issue in some way related to school that is affecting the whole family, school counselors are a great place to go for help. School counselors are experienced teachers who have formal qualifications in counseling. They are available for all students from preschool to Year 12, and their families. As with any professional service, they will keep information confidential, unless child protection legislation overrides it or where someone may suffer serious harm from information being withheld.

Face-to-face support
Your doctor is a good person to approach initially for some advice or assistance if life is getting out of hand. If you need further support, your doctor can provide you with a referral to a psychologist or another other type of counselor. However, if you want to find a psychologist yourself.


What is Child Counseling?

Child counseling is a specialized area of psychology focused on working with children who have a mental illness, have experienced a traumatic event, or are facing a difficult family situation. Child counseling often deals with many of the same issues that adults do, such as anxiety or grief, but this type of therapy focuses on breaking these problems down so that children can understand and make sense of them.

Child counselors are specialists who can offer insight into the inner workings of your child’s development that are not necessarily visible to even those closest to the child. Most important of all, your child may not be able to tell you what sort of help they need, so your judgment is critical in ensuring your child receives the therapeutic intervention that is best for them.

Child Counseling can help kids interpret issues in a way that they can understand. Child counselors and therapists are highly trained in the thought processes of children so they can help kids and youths to interpret issues or trauma in a way that they can understand. When a child’s emotional issues are left untreated, it’s likely that they’ll impact the child’s educational and development and can also persist into adulthood.

Children of all ages can attend counseling sessions, from young preschoolers to teenagers. Every age within this range falls into the realm of child counseling until they are adults and no longer need children’s counseling techniques. Child counseling aims to help children work through their emotions so they can live normal healthy lives without fear, confusion, anxiety or trauma in their lives.

Why Seek Child Counseling?

When dealing with the mental and emotional health of your young child, sometimes the guidance of a professional can illuminate the underlying issues your child is experiencing. Many children are unable to express the complexities of having emotional or mental problems, so counseling can be an excellent option to explore the causes of your child’s issues.

In many cases, children who have a mental illness such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or general anxiety disorder. Parents and physicians may seek the services of a child counselor to help determine a diagnosis, or counseling may be part of a key part of a treatment plan for mentally ill children. Child counseling unites your concerns with the knowledge of a therapist who has the tools and experience to help your child through difficult times. Parents want the best for their children, but the situation may be too challenging to handle on your own, especially as you are emotionally involved. When you seek child counseling, a third-party professional can help your child with strategies that are designed with their well-being in mind, first and foremost.

Issues Addressed by Child Counseling

If your child has experienced tragic or unsettling events in his or her life, such as the unexpected loss of a loved one or an abusive episode, the stress of the situation may be difficult for them to understand. Some of the most common issues that child counseling addresses are:

  1. Divorce
  2. Death of a loved one and grief
  3. Witnessing or experiencing a trauma
  4. Mental health diagnoses, including anxiety and depression
  5. Bullying
  6. Sexual, emotional, or physical abuse
  7. Relocating schools or cities
  8. Substance abuse or addiction in the family
Signs Your Child May Need Counseling

A child who displays developmental problems or acts out in ways that are beyond what’s considered normal can likely benefit from counseling, especially if there has been a recent trauma or significant event that impacts their lives, like a death or divorce. Some of the signs that your child is in distress and could need counseling include

  1. Unwarranted aggression
  2. Incontinence
  3. Difficulty adjusting to social situations
  4. Frequent nightmare and sleep difficulties
  5. Sudden drop in grades at school
  6. Persistent worry and anxiety
  7. Withdrawing from activities they normally enjoy
  8. Loss of appetite and dramatic weight loss
  9. Performing obsessive routines like hand washing
  10. Expressing thoughts of suicide
  11. Talking about voices they hear in their head
  12. Social isolation and wanting to be alone
  13. Alcohol or drug use
  14. Increased physical complaints despite a normal, healthy physician’s report
  15. Self-harm such as cutting
Goals of Child Counseling

Child counseling addresses major issues in a child’s life with the intended outcome being that they can learn tools to deal with stress or trauma. Some of the common goals of child counseling include being able to cope with difficult situations such as:

Anxiety:
Children who attend counseling are encouraged to learn techniques to deal with emotional distress and anxiety on their own. Children can learn to prevent panic attacks or cope with anxiety in a variety of ways, which they will learn in their counseling sessions. Some strategies they will learn may include breathing exercises, changing negative self-talk, muscle relaxation, talking to a trusted adult about their feelings instead of keeping them inside, and asserting themselves by knowing when to remove themselves from a stressful situation. Teaching these techniques to children gives them a toolbox of coping mechanisms that they can use when they become anxious or experience a panic attack.

Trauma:
Unfortunately, some children experience traumatic events and are exposed to disturbing situations that they should not have to witness or be part of. After a trauma, a child may experience shock, disbelief, detachment or emotional numbness, fear, and may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms of PTSD include strong desire to avoid the people or places where trauma was involved, vivid and distressing memories or flashbacks, nightmares or insomnia or fear of going to sleep, and being easily angered or agitated. Child counseling aims to help children talk about the trauma that they faced, rather than keeping their experiences and emotions inside. Many children who experience trauma develop trust issues and may have a difficulty finding the words to express their feelings and may blame themselves for what happened.

Child counseling teaches children that it’s okay to talk about their experiences and that they can use a variety of coping mechanisms. When a child has a flashback to their trauma, child counselors teach them tools such as deep breathing, seeking out an adult to talk to, relaxing their muscles, and correcting the misinterpretation of traumatic events.

Divorce:
When a marriage dissolves, it can be very challenging for children in the family to cope with. Many children blame themselves for their parents splitting up or have feelings that they are unloved. With divorce often comes changes in custody, and in some cases, there are tense custody battles between parents. Children can feel guilty about choosing which parent they want to live with and feel distress if their choices or feelings don’t align with their siblings. Child counseling teaches children to deal with feelings of sadness, fear, and guilt by giving them techniques to use such as deep breathing, journaling or art therapy, practicing positive self-talk, and talking about their feelings with their parents or another trusted adult.

Grief:
A death of a loved one, whether it’s a family member, peer, or friend of the family is distressing for anyone; however, children often cannot cope with death in the same way that adults can. For children, it may be difficult to understand their feelings of loss, despair, sadness, and missing the person who died. Often, children may have irrational thoughts such as the fear that they will also die, thinking that the death was their fault, or believing that they could have prevented it. Child counseling helps children understand the grieving process and teaches them that it’s okay to experience the emotions that arise after losing a loved one. Coping strategies may include being able to talk about their feelings, channeling grief through creative pursuits like journaling or art, and allowing themselves to speak or think about their loved one through sharing personal memories. Teaching children the stages of grief is another technique that helps them understand that how they feel is normal and natural.

Significant Change:
For many children, events, like moving to a new city or changing schools, can be stressful. Many adults can accept these changes as part of life, so you may not realize the impact it has on your child. Children who have difficulty dealing with change can experience feelings of insecurity, anxiety or worry, or anger towards their parents. While these are normal reactions to significant change, many children have a hard time moving past these feelings on their own. Child counseling teaches children to cope with change through learning to focus on the positive and stable aspects of their life, positive self-talk, deep breathing exercises when anxiety arises, and understanding that change is natural, understanding that their feelings are temporary and will fade when they adjust to the situation.

Self-Esteem and Confidence
Many children struggle with poor self-esteem and low confidence which can lead to depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, or thoughts of self-harm. When a child has poor self-esteem, they may feel unloved, worthless, and their friends and family would be better off without them. Child counseling can help children improve their self-esteem in a variety of ways, including digging deeper into underlying issues that may have caused these beliefs, recognizing negative self-talk and turning it into positive thoughts, using affirmations to gain confidence and self-acceptance, and talking to a trusted adult when troubling feelings arise. If a child’s low self-esteem has developed into something more serious, like an eating disorder, child counselors are equipped to help children overcome those issues.

Types of Child Counseling

Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT):
CBT focuses on helping children change negative styles of thinking and behaving by correcting or re-purposing the thought process toward a more positive response. CBT challenges the automatic internal beliefs a child has about themselves and teaches them to view themselves and their situation through a more realistic and positive lens. CBT provides children with practical tools for coping with difficult or stressful situations that they can learn to use on their own.

Trauma-Focused CBT (TF-CBT):
TF-CBT is designed to help children overcome the effects of trauma. As with traditional CBT, children are taught to see events more realistically without blaming themselves. TF-CBT teaches children strategies that they can use when they experience a flashback so they can work through the memories from a place of control and understanding, and gives them the ability to use these tools on their own.

Alternative Therapies:
Children respond well to alternative types of therapies like art therapy, music therapy, movement therapy, equine therapy, mindfulness, or aquatic therapy.

What to Look for in a Child Counselor?

When seeking a counselor for your child there are several considerations to keep in mind. First and foremost, a child counselor must be a good fit for your child. Chances are, your child will be uncomfortable with their initial counseling sessions, but it’s important that they work with a therapist that they are a good interpersonal match with. If your child is not comfortable with their counselor after several sessions, you may consider looking for another person who is a better personality fit for your child. Another important consideration is what the counselor’s training and qualifications are. It’s imperative to use a counselor who specializes in child counseling so they can apply therapy techniques to a young mind. Since you’re dealing with your child’s mental well-being, don’t hesitate to check references, credentials, and meet with a potential therapist to gauge your comfort level. Often therapists offer free consultations in which they can explain how beneficial counseling will be for your child

Parents can help their children with the school year transition through considering the following points:

  1. Communicate.
    The most important tool for easing the back-to-school transition and helping children manage their stress is communication. Keeping an open channel of parent-child communication is key. Children should feel free to talk about their hopes and their disappointments, their successes and failures, their joys and their anxieties, all with the confidence that their parents can handle whatever they hear and will respond without undue anxiety or reproach. Accept whatever your children are feeling and then move on to helping them learn how to cope. Remember also that such communication should not be a one-time event, but rather on ongoing conversation.
  2. Anticipate.
    Communication about the start of the school year should begin before the event itself. Beginning in mid- to late-August, parents should begin the conversation about the beginning of school and its possible stresses by asking their children about what they anticipate in the coming year…academically, socially, and in terms of athletics, dance or other extra-curricular activities. In their own words, parents might ask their children what they hope for and is there anything that they fear? What are they looking forward to and what do they worry about?
  3. Age Matters.
    How we talk with our children and what they hope for and fear differs greatly by their ages. We ask simpler questions and expect to be more active in helping young children cope. We are careful to emphasize strengths and not to be intrusive with our early teens. However, we can be more direct and appreciate the considerable capabilities of our 16 to 18 year olds.
  4. Complexity Matters.
    We must also consider the complexity of our children’s school experience. They face not only academic challenges and accomplishments but also complex social relationships, both with peers, adult teachers and administrators. Our children see ample examples of kindness and caring in school, but also copious amounts of meanness and bullying. They are called on to perform publicly, day in and day out, reading, doing math, taking part in class debates, and in gym class. Our children face a complex cultural landscape as well as they join classmates of different races, ethnicities, and religions, some native born and some immigrant, some homosexual and some heterosexual, all in a nation-wide political context that emphasizes division and recrimination. Parents should take an active role in learning about the many roles and relationships their children are involved in at school and offer to help them navigate any complexities that arise.
  5. Normalize.
    When Appropriate. The beginnings of new experiences are often hard, at school, at work, in relationships, and in community activities. It is normal for children to have fears and it is normal for transitions to be rough. Letting our children know that this is so and that we have faith in their ability to cope is a good foundation for subsequent action.
  6. Coping Rather than Protection.
    Many parents understandably have the desire to solve their children’s problems, to make it all better. However, this does not take full advantage of the opportunity that helping with school transitions offers. It is better to have a conversation with our children about how they can cope, how they can manage the academic challenges and the social strains, than to take care of these issues ourselves. Coaching our children on how to cope will bring benefits that last far longer than solving their problems for them.
  7. Coping Tool Box.
    One way to talk with your child about how he or she can cope is to conceptualize this as a coping toolbox. You can discuss both what tools he or she already has, such as reaching out to an adult, and methods that are new to them, such as using calming thoughts or remembering times when they have been successful.
  8. Teachers Are Our Allies.
    Finally, I encourage parents to remember that teachers care about our children’s well-being nearly as much as we parents do. Reaching out and talking with our children’s teachers’ – letting them know how our children are feeling, listening to the teachers’ perspective, and enlisting their help when appropriate, goes a long way both to solving problems and letting our children know that many people care about them.
What is Child Therapy/Child Counseling?

Child therapy (also called child counseling) is much the same as therapy and counseling for adults: it offers them a safe space and an empathetic ear while providing tools to bring about change in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Just like adult clients, child clients receive emotional and goal support in their sessions. They may focus on resolving conflict, understanding their own thoughts and feelings, or on coming up with new solutions to problems.

The only big difference between adult therapy and child therapy is the emphasis on breaking down mental illness, trauma, or any other difficult issue the child is dealing with, to ensure children understand what is happening and can make sense of what they are experiencing.

Child therapy can be practiced with one child, a child, and a parent or parents, or even with more than one family. It is often administered by a counselor or therapist who specializes in working with children, and who can offer the parents and/or guardians insights that may not be immediately apparent.

The therapist and client(s) can cover a wide variety of issues and problems in counseling, including:

  1. Divorce or separation
  2. Death of a loved one
  3. Witnessing or experiencing a trauma
  4. Bullying
  5. Sexual abuse
  6. Emotional abuse
  7. Physical abuse
  8. Family or child relocation
  9. Substance abuse or addiction in the family
  10. Mental illness, like depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder

Whatever the treatment is sought to alleviate or address, it will likely be very forward-oriented (meaning there will be little looking back or digging up the past) and will probably be conducted in a non-verbal manner for a large portion of the time (including play, games, art, etc.).

In addition, the therapy sessions may focus on five important goals on top of any situation-specific goals:

  1. 1. Building the child’s self-esteem
  2. 2. Helping to improve the child’s communication skills
  3. 3. Stimulating healthy, normal development
  4. 4. Building an appropriate emotional repertoire
  5. 5. Improving the child’s emotional vocabulary

To summarize, child therapy is quite similar to therapy for adults in terms of the purpose, goals, and problems it can address, but it narrows the focus to issues that young children struggle with and emphasizes a future-oriented perspective, along with including techniques and exercises that are appropriate for the child’s age.

When is Child Therapy Effective?

As noted above, child therapy can be effective for a wide range of issues. If a parent is not sure whether the child needs counseling or not, the list of symptoms below can be a good indicator. If the child is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, coupled with the parent’s concern, it’s probably a good idea to take him or her in for an evaluation.

The following are symptoms that may indicate a problem that child counseling can correct or help with:

  • Unwarranted aggression
  • Incontinence
  • Difficulty adjusting to social situations
  • Frequent nightmare and sleep difficulties
  • A sudden drop in grades at school
  • Persistent worry and anxiety
  • Withdrawing from activities they normally enjoy
  • Loss of appetite and dramatic weight loss
  • Performing obsessive routines like hand washing
  • Expressing thoughts of suicide
  • Talking about voices they hear in their head
  • Social isolation and wanting to be alone
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Increased physical complaints despite a normal, healthy physician’s report
  • Self-harm such as cutting.

In addition to these issues, the child may be dealing with:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Constant anger and a tendency to overreact to situations
  • Preoccupation with physical illness or their own appearance
  • An inability to concentrate, think clearly or make decisions
  • An inability to sit still
  • Dieting excessively or binging followed by vomiting or taking laxatives

If parents decide to bring their child to therapy, they should be sure to stay engaged throughout the therapy process. Child & Adolescent Psychiatry suggests asking the therapist or counselor the following questions:

  • Why is psychotherapy being recommended?
  • What results can I expect?
  • How long will my child be involved in therapy?
  • How frequently will the doctor see my child?
  • Will the doctor be meeting with just my child or with the entire family?
  • How much do psychotherapy sessions cost?
  • How will we (the parents) be informed about our child’s progress and how can we help?
  • How soon can we expect to see some changes?

Similarly, there are some suggestions on how to talk to a child about going to counseling. It can be awkward or uncomfortable for both the parent(s) and the child to talk about mental health treatment, but following these tips can help them get through it:

  • Find a good time to talk and assure them that they are not in trouble. Listen actively.
  • Take your child’s concerns, experiences, and emotions seriously
  • Try to be open, authentic, and relaxed.
  • Talk about how common the issues they are experiencing may be.
  • Explain that the role of a therapist is to provide help and support.
  • Explain that a confidentiality agreement can be negotiated so children—especially adolescents—have a safe space to share details privately while acknowledging that you will be alerted if there are any threats to their safety

There are many effective forms of child therapy with evidence to back them up, including Applied Behavior Analysis, Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, Family Therapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, and Organization Training. Younger children may also benefit from Play Therapy, and older adolescents may benefit from Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Group Therapy, or Psychodynamic Psychotherapy,

These therapies may be administered on their own, in combination with other therapies, or as a hodge-podge of techniques and exercises from several different types of therapies. In addition, it may or may not be accompanied by medication, depending on the situation.

One of these therapies may work for a child far better than the others, and the type chosen will depend on the issue(s) the child and family are dealing with. However, like with any form of therapy, it is most effective when everyone involved is on board, supportive, and actively contributing to success.

How an Emotional Child Can Benefit from Kids Therapy

An overly emotional child (or one that struggles with inappropriate emotional expression or emotional dysregulation) may suffer from one or more of a variety of issues, including ADHD, mental illness, anxiety, or even an autism spectrum disorder. Whatever the issue they are facing, child therapy can help them deal with it.

Cognitive therapy is a good choice for emotional children, as it involves reducing anxiety and learning new ideas and new ways to channel the child’s feelings and energy. It will also help him or her to identify their inner thoughts, and try to replace the bad ones with more positive, helpful ones. Applied behavior analysis can help the child learn how to respond to situations in better, more effective ways, and will teach them about rewards and punishments for their behavior. Play therapy is a good choice for younger children with emotional issues since they can act them out through toys or dolls.

The type of therapy and techniques that will work best for the child may also depend on which stage of development they are in; Erik Erikson’s groundbreaking theory on the eight stages of psychosocial development is a commonly recognized and accepted theory and can help differentiate between normal, age-appropriate issues and more troublesome symptoms.

The eight stages are:
  1. Infancy:Trust vs Mistrust. In this stage, infants require a great deal of attention and comfort from their parents, leading them to develop their first sense of trust.
  2. Early Childhood:Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. Toddlers and very young children are beginning to assert their independence and develop their unique personality, making tantrums and defiance common.
  3. Preschool YearsInitiative vs. Guilt. Children at this stage begin learning about social roles and norms; their imagination will take off at this point, and the defiance and tantrums of the previous stage will likely continue. The way trusted adults interact with the child will encourage him or her to act independently or to develop a sense of guilt about any inappropriate actions.
  4. School Age: Industry (Competence) vs. Inferiority. At this stage, the child is building important relationships with peers and is likely beginning to feel the pressure of academic performance; mental health issues may begin at this stage, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other problems.
  5. Adolescence: Identity vs. Role Confusion. The adolescent is reaching new heights of independence and is beginning to experiment and put together his or her identity. Problems with communication and sudden emotional and physical changes are common at this stage.
  6. The final three stages are not relevant for the purposes of discussing child therapy, but they are listed here if you’re curious:

  7. Young Adulthood: Love – Intimacy vs. Isolation
  8. Middle Adulthood: Care – Generativity vs. Stagnation
  9. Late Adulthood: Ego Integrity vs. Despair

Based on these life stages, we know that it is common for children in early childhood to throw tantrums when they don’t get their way; tantrums alone aren’t reason enough to seek a therapist! However, if someone of school age is still throwing tantrums, it may be time to explore therapy and counseling options.