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During the COVID-19 pandemic: Most of our therapy services have been creatively adapted to using face-to-face online videoconferencing, using Webex (HIPAA compliant for privacy). Our Business/Tech manager tests the connection for clients in advance of the first session. We are finding that most children, teens, and adults are quite able to have very valuable therapy sessions during the pandemic. We mutually assess this process during the first three or four sessions and make suggestions on how to best allow for the desired healing to happen. During the summer/ early fall we will occasionally have the option of in person/ outside sessions for all ages – using masks and safety guidelines, weather permitting.

Counseling for Children Ages Three to Twelve

The Family Center is dedicated to the development, teaching, and practice of Mindfulness Based Play-Family Therapy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we do our four-session assessment online. Following our Talk Time, where we work on concerns and challenges, older children may have the remainder of the session with the therapist. During the pandemic, a parent of a young child (ages 5 or 6 and under) will need to be present during the play time. The therapist will help to clarify the parent’s role.

This is a method that offers healing and prevention for a wide range of childhood emotional and behavioral issues. Issues that may bring a family to therapy include the following:

  • low self-esteem
  • immaturity
  • aggressiveness
  • sadness
  • anxiety
  • nightmares
  • social phobia
  • questioning gender identity
  • challenges with social cues
  • challenges with playing in an age-appropriate way
  • attention and engagement problems
  • clumsiness
  • separation problems
  • withdrawn behavior
  • speech and language problems
  • self-consciousness
  • misbehavior in school
  • difficulty with peers
  • lying
  • temper tantrums
  • toilet training complications
  • adjustment to death, divorce, new baby, various handicaps
  • sibling of a child with special needs
  • sibling rivalry

Duration of therapy can be anywhere from six months to a year or longer. Examples of longer therapy may include: trauma, including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; attachment challenges; ADHD, or Asperger's Syndrome. We are also very experienced in working with children who enter the family through adoption.

Initial Sessions: In Mindfulness Based Play-Family Therapy (MBPFT), there are initially four meetings in which the therapist gets to know the family members. When clinically appropriate, family members living in separate households may also attend meetings. In some cases, it is a family-wide problem that motivates the need for help. More often, there is one child for whom the parents have the most concern.

The next stage of Play-Family Therapy begins after the initial four meetings. When there is a child of most concern, the sessions have two parts.
Following Sessions: After the first 4 evaluation sessions, the play therapy sessions have a regular structure. The first 15-20 minute part of the session is Talk Time. This is the parent-child interaction component, in which the therapist meets with one parent and the child together. They discuss the strengths and positive experiences of everyday life for the child and the family, attending to the child's presenting challenges within the context of his or her developmental history. One goal of this part of the session is to foster exceptional parent/child communication. This contributes to relational healing within the family system. The improved communication skills become an ongoing part of the family system even after the therapy has ended.

For the second part of the session, the child goes with the therapist into the play therapy room where he or she enters a world of pretend, the place where deep and long-lasting personal healing can occur. Depending on clinical issues, the parent may or may not accompany the child. Spontaneous play therapy is a right brain experience. Present-day neurological research supports this experiential, somatic modality for healing trauma – not just Talking, even for very bright, verbal children. When children respond to the play therapy, they face their deepest issues through their play themes, and they release what is holding them back in their growth and development. They become better able to express feelings appropriately: they heal. For online sessions during the pandemic, a parent of a young child ages 5 or 6 and under will need to be present during the play time. The therapist will help to clarify the parent’s role.

We call it Play-Family Therapy because the parents are very much involved in the process, and we care about all family members, including a recognition of the influence of previous generations on the current state of the family and of the child. When the family has come as a group to work on family-wide issues, there is a concern about all members, at least initially. At the same time, we respect that parents are often more worried about one child in the family, so we also want to give individual attention to this child. Over the course of the therapy work, parents and children together learn to discuss the "hard-to-talk-about things". We also build in monthly Parent Education and Dialogue Meetings attended by the parents, without the children present. This diverse format leads to healing change in the lives of the children and of the parents.

When it is relevant to a child's problems, and with written permission, the therapist cooperates with other professionals who are concerned about the child and the family. She is willing to work directly with school personnel, such as teachers, administrators, and school counselors, as part of a team focusing on the child's problems that are showing up in the school setting.