As a counsellor working with children and youth we cannot counsel them in the same way we counsel adults. To be effective working with children we need to use not only verbal skills but other strategies as well. Examples of these other strategies would include: involving the child in play or in the use of media such as miniature animals/people, clay or various forms of art. It is through such interaction that a child begins to relax and feel comfortable and this is where the rapport and trust is developed between the child and the counsellor enabling the child to talk about those things that may be troubling them. Also in their art or placement of miniature animals/people etc. a child may be indicating the concerns or issues that they may have. Some of the fundamental goals that are applicable to all children are as follows:
- To enable the child to deal with painful emotional issues.
- To enable the child to achieve some level of congruence with regard to thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
- To enable the child to feel good about themselves.
- To enable the child to accept their limitations and strengths and to feel OK about them.
- To enable the child to change behaviours that have negative consequences.
- To enable the child to function comfortably and adaptively within the external environment (for example at home and at school).
- To maximize the opportunity for the child to pursue developmental milestones.
To be effective the child-counsellor relationship must be all of the following:
- A connecting link between the child’s world and the counsellor.
- Confidential (subject to limits)
The child-counsellor relationship is crucial to the process of therapeutic change. In fact most counsellors believe that this relationship is the most important factor in achieving successful therapeutic outcomes. (Geldard K & Geldard D. Counselling Children A Practical Introduction. 2002: pp.6-9).