Counselling

Overview

Through counselling young people are supported to learn strategies that will help them feel empowered and promote the development of positive thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Counselling sessions are practical and solution-focused. They are confidential, child centred, family focused and involve evidence-based methods tailored to the individual.

Counselling can help young people to explore and manage the following difficulties:

Emotional
Anxiety, depression, anger, grief/loss, separation/divorce, body image and health education, sleep, emotional resilience and regulation.

Behavioural
Managing difficult behaviour at home and school, school transitions, hyperactivity, problem solving, coping strategies, impulse control, ADHD.

Learning
Specific Learning Disorders (e.g. dyslexia), attention and concentration issues, information processing difficulties, academic difficulties, individual learning plans, school readiness, giftedness, intellectual disability, funding and special provision applications.

Development
Self-development (self-esteem, self-awareness, self-concept, identity), developing emotional intelligence and a positive mindset.

Social
Friendships, relationships, bullying, social skills training, communication skills training.

Coaching
Goal setting, study skills, exam preparation, stress management, career counselling, motivation.

When should I seek counselling for my child?
Counselling is useful when a situation affects your child to the extent that it interferes with their daily functioning or general well-being. Children may also need counselling when they appear to have:

  • Difficulty regulating (controlling or managing) their feelings and behaviours
  • Distress when leaving a parent or home
  • Anxiety or worry
  • Persistent refusal to go to school
  • Nightmares or changes in sleep or appetite
  • Persistent flat affect and withdrawn behaviours
  • Communication difficulties
  • Social interaction issues
  • Poor concentration or difficulty completing schoolwork

Please refer to Fees & Rebates for detailed information on these services. If you are referred for counselling by your doctor you can claim a Medicare rebate at each counselling session (up to 10 per calendar year).

Children

Birth to school age is the period of greatest growth and development. The early childhood years are not only a time for taking first steps or for saying first words. They are also when, through their relationships with others, children are building expectations about their world and the people in it and are developing their first:

  • Sense of self including feeling good about themselves and what they can do
  • Social skills to get along in life with others
  • Emotional skills such as recognising, expressing and managing a wide range of feelings

These first skills are very important as they form the foundations for children’s ongoing development and affect their mental health and wellbeing, now and into the future. Counselling promotes the development of these skills and young people are supported to learn strategies that will help them feel empowered.

How Counselling works
At the first counselling session the parent, child and psychologist meet to discuss specific concerns and the nature of the counselling sessions. The child then spends one-on-one time with the psychologist to build rapport, discuss confidentiality boundaries and to begin goal-setting activities.

Ongoing counselling sessions generally commence with a six-week program consisting of one-on-one sessions. The number and frequency of sessions however, can vary widely depending on the issue. By working individually with the psychologist, children are able to develop their skills with a positive and supportive role model. At the end of each session, we briefly summarise what was achieved and small homework tasks may be set for the child to complete before the next session. Feedback will be provided to parents either at the end of each session (particularly if skills training is involved e.g. for anxiety) or via phone call/email.

Things we do
Worksheets, role-plays, games, discussions, active learning and problem solving activities may be used to help children explore and manage difficulties. Coping and emotional management strategies may be taught and practiced, cognitive strategies may be used to address unhelpful thoughts (such as negative self-talk), and specific scenarios acted out to learn how to problem solve and self-manage any negative behaviours.

What to tell young children
If you have a sore throat or feel sick, then you visit the doctor and they help you feel better. Psychologists are like doctors, but they help young people with other kinds of problems, such as difficulty expressing feelings or thoughts – a feelings doctor! The first visit is about understanding the problem that you need help with and is a chance for the psychologist to get to know you. During future visits you may talk about family and friends and also develop some ideas and strategies to help you cope better at home and school.

Confidentiality and counselling
All counselling is confidential. Children need to have a private ‘space’ where they can freely express their thoughts and ideas without the presence or judgement of parents. Information will only be revealed to others with client consent. If parents have given permission (verbal or written) to talk with a third party, such as a GP or school, the psychologist can discuss any relevant issues with them.

In unusual circumstances where failure to disclose information may result in clear risk to the client or to others, the psychologist may disclose minimal information necessary to avert risk. In this serious case, the parents or caregiver will be notified immediately and given an action plan. Furthermore, counselling information may also be disclosed if required or authorised by law.

Treating serious mental health issues
If your child has severe mental health issues, such as psychosis or suicidal thoughts or attempts, we suggest that you get a referral to a Child Psychiatrist. A psychiatrist has specialist medical training and can prescribe medication and other medical interventions.

Adolescents

Counselling with adolescents is different to children given their level of maturity and cognitive skill development. Sessions are dependent on individual factors and the parent may not be present in the initial counselling session. Adolescents will be given an overview of counselling sessions, informed consent is discussed and an assessment of the adolescent’s current mental health may be conducted.

Ongoing counselling sessions generally commence with a six-week program consisting of one-on-one sessions. The number and frequency of sessions however, can vary widely depending on the issue.

Coaching and self-development is often the foundation of work with adolescents. Adolescents tend to place significant levels of importance on the judgments and opinions of others – in other words, they tend worry about what other people think.

Helping adolescents to develop a strong sense of self, to build self-esteem, to start to explore their self-identity and to identify their values are important steps in the counselling process with adolescents.

Things we do
Worksheets, role-plays, games, discussions, active learning and problem solving activities may be used to help explore and manage difficulties. Coping and emotional management strategies may be taught and practiced, cognitive strategies may be used to address unhelpful thoughts (such as negative self-talk), and specific scenarios acted out to learn how to problem solve and self-manage any negative behaviours.

Confidentiality and counselling
All counselling is confidential. Teenagers need to have a private ‘space’ where they can freely express their thoughts and ideas without the presence or judgement of parents or friends. Information will only be revealed to others with client consent. If parents have given permission (verbal or written) to talk with a third party, such as a GP or school, the psychologist can discuss any relevant issues with them.

In unusual circumstances where failure to disclose information may result in clear risk to the client or to others, the psychologist may disclose minimal information necessary to avert risk. In this serious case, the parents or caregiver will be notified immediately and given an action plan. Furthermore, counselling information may also be disclosed if required or authorised by law.

Treating serious mental health issues
If your child has severe or clinical mental health issues, such as psychosis or suicidal thoughts or attempts, we suggest that you get a referral to a Child Psychiatrist. A psychiatrist has specialist medical training and can prescribe medication and other medical interventions.

Parents

It’s easy for children to feel overwhelmed. Over time, they get to know what situations are likely to upset them and what makes them feel better. Children don’t just respond to things that happen. They’re also influenced by what others think and what they think about themselves, which is why children need help from their parents (or caregivers) to manage their emotions.

Children’s abilities for recognising, understanding and managing their emotions are influenced by the ways the adults who care for them acknowledge and respond to their feelings. When children learn to manage their emotions they are also better able to manage their behaviour.

SPACES provides sessions for parents to help them to manage the behaviours of their child and to learn how to best their support their child’s emotional development.

Parenting Sessions: 1-2-3 Magic & Emotion Coaching
Difficult behaviour in children often starts off as a strong emotional reaction that escalates. Children who have difficulty tolerating their emotional reactions often have poorer behaviour.

Children will get better at controlling themselves as they get older, but as parents we can help teach them how to control their reactions to frustrating events.

The brain has accelerators and brakes. Sometimes we want to accelerate and other times keep in control. When the brain wrestles with the two competing signals this mental process is called toggling. Children toggle (mentally) when they try to deal with frustration e.g. when mum or dad impose a limit on their behaviour (often by saying ‘no’!). Keep in mind that difficult behaviour may also be a result of unclear boundaries and then children being unsure of what is expected.

The act of toggling helps to develop integration between the mental accelerators and brakes. By linking the two parts of the brain, we are guiding children to mature emotionally. It helps children to learn how to hold emotions and control impulsive behaviour – in other words, we are helping to develop their emotional intelligence.

By using the 1-2-3 Magic signalling system, you are encouraging the act of toggling and therefore giving your child the opportunity to develop impulse control and emotional intelligence, as well as taking responsibility for their actions.

Children’s emotions are not just a response to things that happen. They are influenced by what children think, especially by what they think about themselves and their abilities. Children often need support from parents and carers to manage their feelings effectively, particularly when they are young.

Showing that you understand and accept children’s feelings is very important for supporting their emotional development. When children feel understood it is easier for them to learn to think through their feelings and work out effective ways to handle them. The Emotion Coaching part of the sessions will teach you how to acknowledge, understand and manage your child’s feelings.

How does it work?
The program is run as 6 individual counselling sessions for parents – mothers and fathers are both encouraged to come together.

They are individualised sessions (just you in the room) and time is spent during each session discussing your concerns and the practical strategies on how to use the 1-2-3 system successfully in your home. The sessions can be run at a time that suits you and your partner.

You will also receive handouts and a 1-2-3 Magic parent booklet as part of the sessions. Everything you need is in this booklet! Plus the DVD is available for sale if you wish to purchase it.

The fee is the standard 50 minute counselling fee per session. Refer to the Fees & Rebates page. You will be able to claim a Medicare rebate or private health with these sessions. Please ask the psychologist during your initial appointment.

What parents are saying

“What a relief to come across a program that preserves the dignity of the child, maintains the self control of both the parent and the child and is actually easy to remember when memory is the first thing to go!”

“I realised quickly that 1-2-3 Magic can be a magnificent preventative measure that any parent can use to avoid raising a child who later down the line, needs excessive discipline or grows out of control.”

The 1-2-3 Magic & Emotion Coaching program is based on a behavioural theoretical framework and also teaches parents how to develop emotional intelligence in their children. The developers of the program are: Dr. Thomas Phelan and Michael Hawront. Dr Phelan is a US-based clinical psychologist who is the author of several books in the area of child behaviour problems. Michael Hawton is an Australian psychologist who has 19 years experience. He has worked in various child therapy settings. He is a listed single expert with the Family Court of Australia and on the panel of psychologists who do reports for the Children’s Court in NSW.

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