Counseling for Children Ages Three to Twelve
The Family Center is dedicated to the development, teaching, and practice of Mindfulness Based Play-Family Therapy. This is a method that offers healing and prevention for a wide range of childhood emotional and behavioral issues. Symptoms that may cause concern can include:
- low self-esteem
- social phobia
- difficulty with social cues
- difficulty playing in an age-appropriate way
- attention and engagement problems
- separation problems
- withdrawn behavior
- speech and language problems
- misbehavior in school
- difficulty with peers
- temper tantrums
- toilet training complications
- adjustment to death, divorce, new baby, various handicaps
- sibling of a child with special needs
- sibling rivalry
Sometimes a child's circumstances require longer term therapy. Examples of this include: death of a parent, or reactions to the divorce of parents; accident or medical trauma; physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; attachment disorders; ADHD, or Asperger's Syndrome. We are also very experienced in working with adopted children.
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 meetings. When there is a child of most concern, the sessions have two parts. First is Talk Time, the parent-child interaction component, in which the therapist meets with parent and child together. They discuss the realities of everyday life for the child and the family, attending to the child's presenting problems 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.
Second, 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. 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.
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.