The things that make me different are the things that make me.” – Winnie The Pooh
Winnie the Pooh had a good point.
Each child is a masterpiece of creation.
But sometimes our child’s differences get us worried.
And that’s where child counseling can help.
Side note: I work mainly with boys, because I’m a guy, and I know what it’s like to be a boy.
Do You Feel A Bit Lost In Your Parenting Journey?
- Are you starting to get calls from the school about your child’s behavior?
- Do you find you and your partner at odds about how to deal with your child?
- Do you wish when you became a parent there had been an instruction manual for your child?
- Does your child ‘hold it together’ at school, but then ‘lose it’ at home?
When children have start to have problems that are more frequent or intense than other kids their age, it’s a sign that something needs work.
Here are some common signs and symptoms pointing a need for child counseling:
- Unwarranted aggression
- Difficulty adjusting to social situations
- Frequent nightmare and sleep difficulties
- Sudden drop in grades at school
- Difficulty paying attention
- 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 (source, Therapy Tribe)
Once you’ve tried everything you can think of, read all the internet articles you can, or checked out all those child development books in the library, but still find yourself frazzled, confused, or concerned, you may be ready to consider child counseling.
Most Children and Parents Face Bumps In the Road
Almost every child is going to deal with challenges growing up.
According to Children’s Mental Health,
Parent-reported information from the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health showed that 1 out of 7 U.S. children aged 2 to 8 years had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder (MBDD).
If you’re like me, you’d like your child to go through life without experiencing painful problems.
Yet it’s adversity that often presents the most opportunity for growth.
When kids struggle, whether with acting out behavior, or with anxiety or depression, it may be that:
- they have a hard time knowing how to handle powerful feelings
- they have patterns of thinking that hurt them instead of helping them
- they lack skills to handle the problems they face
- or they are so impulsive that they’ve never stopped or paused to think about the situations they’re facing.
And parenting challenges abound for all of us!
No two kids are alike, and your child is no exception!
We live very busy lives, and when we start noticing our child having problems, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to help our child.
The good news is that a compassionate and experienced child counselor can help you and your child learn ways to get back on track.
Child Counseling Can Help You and Your Child
What is the goal of child counseling?
Dr. Gerard Egan, one of my favorite counseling thinkers, believed that the goal of counseling is to
help people ‘to manage their problems in living more effectively and develop unused opportunities more fully’, and to ‘help people become better at helping themselves in their everyday lives.’ (The Skilled Helper)
This is exactly what I work on with kids. So the goals of counseling are very similar to counseling adults.
How is Child Counseling Different From Adult Counseling?
But how I approach counseling is a bit different for a child than for an adult.
Kids learn best through play, fun, and kid-oriented activities.
If a child doesn’t feel that therapy is fun, he won’t stay for long.
As a parent, I know you don’t want to think that all the therapist is doing is playing games.
I hear your concern!
Everything I do has a goal in mind, some skill to teach your child.
As per positive child therapy,
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.
What Kind Of Experience Do You Have With Child Counseling?
I’ve been working with kids since 1996.
At the time I worked as a therapist and clinical specialist in a residential setting with boys ages 8 to 12.
Then I worked at Northwest Community Hospital in the adolescent inpatient, partial hospital, and intensive outpatient programs.
Since 2003, I’ve been working with kids in private practice, addressing issues like adjustment reactions, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, and challenges of living with high functioning autism in a non-autistic society.
Steve is a caring, compassionate person who brings out the best in others. He has a positive aura with an upbeat attitude. He is caring to the core. Steve is very knowledgeable and connects with people naturally. I have had the pleasure to refer several clients to him and I have always done that without any hesitation. The feedback I have received from the referrals are positive and usually filled with a thank you. I know whoever he works with that they are in good hands with Steve. I highly recommend him as an excellent professional.
How Will You Work With My Child?
During the first session, the biggest goal is to help both you and your child to be comfortable getting to know me.
After filling out the initial paperwork, I’ll ask “getting to know you” questions.
An initial icebreaker, like a game of Uno, or the Ungame, can help all of us feel more relaxed with each other.
I then use a strategy called Your World, which I learned from a child counseling seminar I attended.
I draw a picture of your child’s world: which will include Family, School, and Friends.
I then ask your child to rate on a scale of 1-10 (10 being best) how things are going between him and his family.
Then I ask, “How are things going in your classes/schoolwork on a scale of 1-10?”
Finally, “How are things going with you and friends?”
Then I ask, “What would you like the number to be in each of these areas?”
From this information, we can then talk about our Goals for counseling.
Usually, I’ll write the Parent’s goals on the left hand side of the world drawing.
Then, I’ll write the Child’s goals on the right hand side of the world drawing.
We also will create a folder for your child, using his favorite colors, and a “Top Secret” drawing on the folder to let him know that this is only for him.
Each session we can put important notes, drawings, and skills learned in that folder.
What About Me, The Parent? How Will You Involve Me?
As much as possible I want you to be involved!
Especially in the beginning, as you and your child are getting to know me, it’s important that you be involved.
This means you can be in the session with me and your child.
In cases where I feel it’s helpful to work individually with your child, I keep the door partially open, and you can sit in the waiting room right outside my office, so that you can be available if needed.
I also believe in sharing the skills I’m teaching the child with you.
And often I’ll have your child “teach” you the skills he’s learning.
Why? Because when we teach, we really learn the best!
How Will I Know That Counseling Is Helping?
I believe in meeting only for 3 sessions at first.
That way you can know whether you trust me and feel I will be helpful.
Not every counseling relationship works out. And that’s okay!
I have an outcome rating scale and a therapy session rating scale with simple questions that will ask you how things have been going since the last time we met. Over time, we want to see those ratings positively increase.
The therapy sesssion questions help you and your child tell me if you and he are:
- feeling listened to and respected
- talking about things that matter to you
- whether the way we are approaching our goals is working
If I get constructive feedback, I will make every effort to improve in any of these areas.
It’s called customer service!
This is sometimes a good option I may recommend to you.
Often you can save years of going to different doctors and therapists by pinpointing the exact causes of your child’s struggles.
I’m not a neuropsychologist, but my office is next to Dr. Pat Koltun. I’ve referred quite a few children, adolescents, and young men to her over the years.
Once the testing is completed, you’ll have a complete set of recommendations for a) the parents, b) the school, and c) the therapist and other healthcare providers.
To find out more about what a neuropsychological test is like, check out this article from the Child Neurology Foundation.
Here’s some abbreviated information about neuropsychological testing from Amita Health, the other main place I recommend that you have your child evaluated if you feel the need.
Why Are Children Referred for Neuropsychological Evaluation?
Children undergo a neuropsychological assessment because of one or more problems or effects, such as:
- Difficulties with school, including learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, such as ADHD
- Psychiatric disorders, such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, autism, Asperger’s syndrome
- Effects of developmental, neurological, and medical problems, such as epilepsy/seizures or a genetic disorder
- Brain tumors and/or cancer
- Traumatic brain injury
- Neurosurgical intervention
- Exposure to toxins, e.g., lead, street drugs, inhalants
How the Results Can Help You and Your Child
The neuropsychological evaluation and report will provide you with:
- A description of your child’s strengths and weaknesses
- A foundation for understanding your child better, such as:
- What is fair to expect from your child
- What your child’s needs may be in the future so that you can plan appropriately
- Suggestions for what you can do to help your child
- Recommendations for educational programming
- Suggestions for improving your child’s behavior
In addition, the pediatric neuropsychologist may refer you to another professional such as a clinical psychologist, neurologist, or occupational, physical or speech therapist for ongoing help with your child’s development.
What Do I Say To My Child About Counseling?
Here are some helpful tips from Positive Child Therapy:
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 (Wells, Sueskind, & Alcamo, 2017).
One Small Step Can Mean One Giant Leap
Call me at 847.571.0274 to talk for 15 minute strategy session.
I’ll listen to you and we can decide whether you’d like to meet for an initial session for you and your child to get to know me.
Or you may contact me via the form below. Please keep your message fairly general, so that you can protect your privacy and speak more specifically when we talk via phone.
Steve is Smart, Motivated and Uniquely able to Connect with difficult to reach adolescents. Dr. Paul Skiba