Does counselling for children really work?
In my practice, I regularly see children of all ages who have been referred to me for counselling. Usually this is due to the child showing signs of behavioural issues. In fact, this is a common belief in today’s world – if a child is angry or having tantrums or meltdowns, there must be an underlying issue – hence the child gets referred for counselling. And it is expected that counselling will uncover and fix those underlying issues and the child’s behaviour will improve.
Rarely have I found counselling to be effective at dealing with children’s behavioural issues. The reality is that children attend counselling, play with toys, draw pictures, sometimes talk about feelings, or talk about what they should do next time they get angry when not getting their own way, then they leave the session and by the time they get home, have forgotten everything that was said. This is all repeated in the next counselling session, and the next, and the next. And when the behaviour doesn’t improve, you’re simply told that your child just needs more counselling.
I believe that children need to learn how to behave appropriately, and it’s the parent that is best placed to achieve this. I also believe that it is rarely an underlying issue that is causing the behaviour. Rather, children have simply learnt to behave in a certain way. Providing parents with sensible and practical strategies to deal with their child’s behaviour is a very effective way at dealing with the problems. And the good news is, it usually only takes a few sessions. The other added benefit of this approach is that it avoids children feeling like there is something wrong with them, something that often happens when children are taken to counselling sessions. Please also refer to my other blog article ‘A Common Cause of Children’s Behavioural Issues’
(COVID19 update – the above approach to children’s behavioural issues also means that video or telephone consults with the parent/s is a very effective way of providing this service)