How does counselling and psychotherapy work?

Aims of therapy

Therapy and counselling aims to help children and parents understand that all behaviour – both good and bad – has meaning. It helps us to better manage children’s difficult behaviour if we know more about why they behave the way they do. Therapy and counselling is concerned with opening up communication to talk about the reasons for children’s annoying, difficult or challenging behaviour. These reasons may be connected with what is happening at home, with divorce or separation, loss, bereavement, school and learning difficulties, or social and emotional stress. For this reason all assessments and therapy take into account your child’s age and what impact their development has on their behaviour.

Parents’ involvement

  • Children are never seen on their own without parents’ involvement because you as parents are the most important people in your child’s life.
  • Therapy and counselling focuses on relationships and on understanding and improving your child’s relationship with you, with siblings, extended family and in the school setting.
  • Practical advice and support is always offered to parents. However this takes place  in relation to understanding the context of family and relationship issues so that the advice can be most effective

The assessment process

The assessment process at the Clinic takes place in two parts:

  • the first with parents or a parent on their own
  • the second with both parents and the child

What happens at the initial assessment with parents only?

An initial assessment is always conducted first with you the parent or parents, without your child being present. The reason for this is that the Clinic has a policy of involving and working closely with parents as much as working with children. It is essential for both parents where present to be part of this process from the beginning, as both parents play an equally important role in their children’s lives. The initial assessment which may take up to just over an hour is an opportunity to understand how you view your child’s problem and the ways in which you have tried to deal with it.

We will talk about your child’s history from the pregnancy and birth as well as their experience of child care, kinder and transition to school, as these early experiences may have an impact on your child’s behaviour. As part of the assessment it will also be helpful to hear about your own experiences of growing up in your family of origin, as how we were parented often influences the way we parent our own children. The aim of the assessment is not to identify one reason for the difficulties you and your child may be experiencing or to place blame on anybody, but rather to get as broad a picture as possible of the context of the problem.

In the course of this initial meeting we will also discuss how to prepare your child for the next part of the assessment which they will attend. It is important for both parents to participate in the initial meeting with their child.

How do I talk about counselling and therapy with my child?

It is important at all times to be open and honest with your child about why you are seeking help and why you are bringing them to the Clinic. They will be aware of the problem and may themselves be asking for help or they may be well aware of how annoying you find their particular behaviour or how concerned you are about them.  This first appointment and the reasons for attending need to be discussed with your child (including very young children) well before the date.

Children do better in new situations when they are well prepared. Children need to know that in the course of this first session some problems with their behaviour will be discussed without this meaning that they are in trouble or will be blamed. In the vast majority of cases, after some initial anxiety most children are relieved to talk about what is troubling them and why they may be behaving the way they do.  Therapy sessions can be a positive experience and children are also very pleased to have both parents present.

Ongoing therapy and counselling

Decisions regarding ongoing therapy and counselling will arise from the assessment and are made in consultation with parents.

Some of the outcomes of assessment may be the following:

  • Ongoing counselling and therapy in which your child is seen for individual sessions when only one parent needs to attend with them. Generally this includes some joint discussion with you and your child about how the week has gone either at the beginning or end of their sessions. When your child is seen for individual sessions, feedback sessions are always arranged for parents separately at another time. This gives us an opportunity to discuss how and why problems may occur within the family and home and different ways of understanding and managing these problems.
  • Ongoing counselling and therapy just for parents to discuss how they can work together to understand and manage problems that arise for one particular child or within the family.
  • Joint counselling and therapy sessions in which parents and child or children meet together to work through problems.
  • Individual counselling or therapy with a parent where parents are divorced separated or widowed.

Ending therapy

  • The ending of therapy is best undertaken through the mutual agreement of parents and the therapist in which we jointly focus on what has been achieved and what is in the best interests of your child for the future.
  • We ask that you do not make a decision to end the therapy for your child without giving them, and us, reasonable notice. It is important to take the opportunity to discuss why you have come to this decision so that the reasons for ending treatment can be more fully explored.