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An Analysis of Counselling with Children

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Type of Academic Paper – Essay

Academic Subject – Child Philosophy

Word Count -3650 words

Abstract

Child counselling is an essential profession that targets children’s specialised needs since they differ in functioning and development to adolescents and adults (Stein et al., 2011). Child counselling has its own set of themes that seem to reoccur in the experiences of many counselling specialists, and many of the treatment methods are developed to treat the themes that are found abundant in child mental health. Several previously conducted studies were used as a basis to analyse the various aspects that are attached to counselling with children. The research was conducted to develop a stepping stone to understand better the concepts of counselling children, which can later be used to widen career opportunities in this field of study. Various aspects were found related to counselling children using biblical values, which should form the core concepts of counselling children later in their careers. Children’s mental development and coping with life events vary significantly from that of an adolescent and adult. By comprehending these differences, counsellors will develop better treatments specialising in treating children and their life stressors.

Keywords: counseling, counseling children, ethical and legal implications of counseling children

Introduction

Today’s world is complex, busy, and continuously changing. Due to these changes, many different types of experiences evolve, and some people have difficulty coping with it (Geldard and Geldard, 2008; Stein et al., 2011). Usually, a person can cope with the situation or circumstances, but other times, that specific situation or circumstance becomes an obstacle, which is challenging to solve due to the lack of available resources. Adults tend to vent or express the problem they face by talking to family, friends, religious figures, neighbours, or anyone they find trustworthy to share the information with. However, the advice of these people might not be sufficient to properly handle the circumstances or, one might feel too embarrassed in discussing the situation with certain people from fear of bias. It is during this situation that using counselling becomes a useful option. Counselling is a twentieth-century process between a client and a counsellor when both parties set up a time to explore the client’s difficulties, such as stressful or emotional feelings (Geldard and Geldard, 2008).

According to  men’s group, child counselling, whether in school or other places, is a sufficient method when it comes to issues and themes that are related to minors who have not yet reached the age of adolescents. For children, counselling is available quickly without having to bear an extra heavy out-of-pocket cost. Counsellors are known not to label an individual and instead try their utmost best to listen to the client’s problem to work with the client in comprehending the situation and then try resolving the problem without creating any bias in the situation (Stone & Stone, 2006). Many children have several of their issues solved from taking time out to visit a counsellor. Children have experienced a great difference in what bothers them between having one and six sessions. These meetings or sessions are thought to be precious in terms of time as children feel as if they are getting an opportunity to speak out and be heard and taken seriously despite their age. Children also feel that they are being understood without having judgments imposed on them while having attention focused on them from a caring individual without being asked for anything in return for that care and attention (Stein et al., 2011).

Child counselling is important because it is specifically designed for children facing issues related to their age in terms of disability, behaviour, life stressor, phobia, trauma, abuse, or anxiety. The counsellor at this time acts as a witness and a companion to a child that might be facing their worst fears or even predicaments.

This paper is about counselling children as a creative and cultural invention that made a significant contribution to the quality of life of many children. It focuses on the special approaches taken in children counselling to cater to the specific needs of children. The paper will examine the various themes that are found in counselling with children. These themes are only found within counselling with children as it is a time of age in which children are at a different developmental stance than adolescents and adults. Therefore, the agenda for dealing with children is different as the issues or problems they face vary greatly with adults and adolescents. This is why the paper will also have a brief discussion about the various ethical and legal issues that counselling children surround. The report will also discuss the biblical values that are found when counselling children. The final portion of this paper will briefly divulge into the researchers’ reflections about counselling children, in which the researcher will provide a discussion about the commitment that will be maintained in terms of biblical, ethical, and empirically-based counselling services when they enter the field of counselling (Greeson  et al. ., 2011).

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Themes in Counseling Children

Before discussing the various themes found in children counselling, the readers need to comprehend a proper definition of what counselling is. Counselling is more than just a process that occurs between the counsellor and the client. It is more of a social institution entrenched into the culture of modern and industrialised societies. According to the British Association of Counseling (BAC) (1984), counselling was defined as working with individuals and relationships which may be developmental, psychotherapeutic, guiding, crisis support, or problem-solving, in which the client is given the prospect to explore, clarify, and discover methods of living a life that is more resourceful and satisfying.

There are various meanings to the term counselling, and it comes with a diverse amount of theoretical models and social purposes. Counsellors, regardless of their speciality, use the following aims during the time of counselling: relating with others, enlightenment, self-acceptance, insight, self-awareness, self-actualization, problem-solving, cognitive change, empowerment, systematic change, psychological education, acquisition of social skills, behaviour change, social action, and restitution. It is difficult for a counsellor to attempt to achieve all these aims; however, a majority focuses intensely on insight to achieve self-acceptance, personal freedom, and controlling behaviour. With a better understanding of what counselling is, it will be easier to comprehend the themes in child counselling (Greeson  et al. ., 2011).

Trauma & Mental Health

Most children that seek out counselling have some history of continuous interpersonal trauma that has been inflicted by a caregiver in the life of the child and is termed as complex trauma by professionals. Complex trauma can result from physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and domestic violence (Greeson  et al. ., 2011). A child’s traumatic stress can lead to several potential outcomes, severely negatively impacting a child’s academic outcomes. This includes a decreased level of IQ and reading ability, lower grade point average, an increased amount of absenteeism from school, decreased rates of high school graduation later on in life, and increased suspensions and expulsions (Stein et al., 2011). Child trauma is considered persistent. It becomes important for minors to seek help from professionals before it develops into something that can further progress into their adult lives. This can come from grief and loss and a loss of a pet that was attached to the child. The child might receive stress from being bullied at school, which is the main theme that is recurring in child counselling.

Child’s Relationship with Themselves

Sometimes a children may experience negative core beliefs in themselves and usually self-talk. Some children may face issues with their inner child work due to the harsh discipline or disapproval of their child. Such harsh inclinations to the child’s natural inclinations can make the child feel inferior to others, which can be reflected in their socialization with themselves and others. It is the inner critic who makes the child extremely anxious and desperate to succeed in the world. The inner critic becomes more aggressive, and beings are policing every single move that the child intends to make. This anguish caused by the inner critic is the basis on which the child develops low self-esteem and becomes a major impediment to growth or change of child (Stone & Stone, 2006).

Child’s Relationship with Others

The way the child views themselves reflects the relationship they establish with those that surround them. This includes relationships with teachers, peers, siblings, and parents. A research study conducted by the National Scientific Council (2004) asserts a critical impact on a child’s environment, which aids in developing the brain during the first months and years of a child’s life. The study shows the relationships built by parents, caregivers, and other adults aid in shaping the brain circuits and develop a basis for developmental outcomes that are to come later on in a child’s life, including academic performance, mental health, and interpersonal skills.  During this time, a child develops characteristics of jealousy, trust, empathy, co-dependency, dysfunctional patterns, and resentment.

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Emotional Awareness and Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is determined by the quality of and satisfaction found in relationships, achievement in school and work, emotional well-being, and happiness. The child can accurately identify and comprehend others’ emotions to motivate the child, manage emotions, and use emotions as a guide in thinking and enhancing the relationships and performance (Salmon  et al. ., 2013, p. 98). There are four components used to measure a child’s emotional intelligence; self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (Bajgar et al., 2005). Many children that have behavioural problems at a young age are lacking in the development of emotional intelligence, as asserted in the study of Bajgar et al., 2005. These children might have difficulty in identifying or expressing their feelings and needs. Many are also lacking in tolerating distressing emotions, which are major reasons for seeking counselling.

Life Stressors of a Child

The major theme seen when a minor seeks out counseling or is recommended to counseling by their parents is that the child is feeling some life stressor(s) that implicates how the child conducts their everyday activities. Some life stressors for children include divorce of parents, death of a family member, friend, or pet, moving locations, being bullied, or observing a traumatic event. The trauma portion of life stressors has already been discussed. Stress can be of beneficial outcomes, but such is diminished when it becomes so severe that it overwhelms the child’s ability to cope effectively. Stress that becomes prolonged or intense can result in various long or short-term negative effects on a child’s health (Middlebrooks & Audage, 2008).

Legal & Ethical Issues in Counseling Children

When counseling children, many counselors face ethical and legal dilemmas when working with these minors: confidentiality, privileged communication, parental consent, competency, and informed consent. Counsellors need to legally understand the rights of minors and how the counsellor will deal with a minor’s situation in terms of their ethical rights without infringing the legal rights of parents or guardians. When a counsellor enters into a counselling relationship with a minor, the situation and the circumstances involved in that situation need to be examined thoroughly. General issues, as stated above, include who the counsellor owes the ethical commitment of confidentiality, parental consent, legal rights, informed consent, and the competency level of the minor involved. The counsellor also needs to assess the relationship between the parent and legal guardian with the minor. This will help the counsellor understand if disclosing any information to the parent or guardian can help the client’s situation and the magnitude of potential harm that can come to the client if the information is not disclosed.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is a major concern when working with children because various inconsistencies can exist when what is legally required is not parallel to what is ethically suited. Many academics have stated that confidentiality is an ethical standard that is considered as the rule of practice that is established by an individual’s profession (as cited in Corey  et al. , 2007, p. 110). According to the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) Code of Ethics and Standard of Practice, counsellors are required to respect their client’s rights in terms of privacy and avoid any illegal and unwarranted disclosures of confidential information. The only exceptions that the ACA has listed are the requirement that counselors keep any personal information that doesn’t apply when disclosing the information to prevent danger or harm to the client or others. The requirement when legality requires the information to be disclosed.

The ACA codes also further state that for clients who are minors and cannot give voluntary or informed consent, parents or legal guardians should be involved in the process of counseling when it is considered appropriate. Very little literature divulges in providing insight into the confidentiality of counseling minors, specifically when sharing information with parents is appropriate. Herlihy and Corey, from their 1996 report, asserted that even though legal right belongs to the parents of the minor, there is still an ethical responsibility that is allotted to the minor in which the minor’s permission needs to be granted before disclosing any information (as cited in Geldard & Geldard, 2008, p.15). Hence, before any information is released, the counsellor should include the minor client in the decision to release the information to the parents and continuously keep up with communication regarding further decisions by discussing with the minor.

Privileged Communication

Privileged communication can be defined as the legal rights granted by the law which protect the client in releasing information during a legal proceeding without informed consent first. Thus, if any communication between the client and the counsellor is regarded as privileged consent under that law, then no judge can force the counsellor to disclose any information in the court of law. In the United States, children under 18 are considered legal minors and have fewer legal rights than compared adults (Geldard & Geldard, 2008, p. 22). However, even though children are minors, they have a valid claim on the constitutional right to privacy. Counsellors have the right to decide that it might not be in the client’s best interest to disclose specific information to their parents. Thus, counsellors are not required to make any personal records of the counselling session available to the parents unless the local school board’s policies compel them.

Parental Consent

This is a major issue that counsellors face since very few states have laws that mandate a parent’s consent before entering into a counselling relationship with a minor, whether in a school setting or an agency setting, except when the minor cannot make an informed judgment. Some various schools and agencies adopt policies requiring parents even their consent when a minor enters into a counseling relationship. The ACA’s Code of Ethics emphasizes the idea that parents need to give their consent as they can be a precious asset to the process of counselling (Corey  et al. , 2007, p. 112). When counsellors inform clients and their parents of the main purpose of counselling and the limits that confidentiality has avoided several ethical and legal implications.

Informed Consent

Suppose a minor seeks out counselling without the consent of their parents. In that case, the minor’s privacy rights need to be considered and the legal rights and the responsibilities that the parent or legal guardian holds. Usually, it depends on the minor’s age in which the rights are granted. For instance, if the minor is older, then they are allotted for legal rights since a belief is held that minors who are older have a greater capacity of thinking and making more rational and logical decisions (Corey  et al. , 2007, p. 112). The Code of Ethics from the ACA asserts the client’s rights when the counselling process is initiated and the counseling procedure. Therefore, the counselor must inform the client of the goals, techniques, procedure, potential risks, benefits of the service, purposes, and other relevant information. The client also has the right to obtain precise information about their case records and refuse any recommended services from the counsellor and advice on the resultant of refusing such services. Therefore, if a counsellor is working with a minor, that is not capable of giving consent. The counsellor protects the client’s best interests and provides come understanding and comprehension of the process that will be taken for therapy.

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Competency

A specific level of skill and knowledge is mandatory when a counsellor intends to counsel children. This is because minors are considered a unique and diverse client population in which ethical practices mandate a certain level of education, training, and supervision of practice when counselling minors. However, competency does not just include the calibre of the counsellor; it also concerns that of the minor who is indulging in a client-counsellor relationship. This concerns the ethical and legal implications of what age the minor is capable of assuming their rights. If minors are treated as if they are incompetent would result in a disservice to their continuous growth. Many academics like Belter and Grisso have asserted that minors that have reached the age of 14 or 15 have most probably reached a mature level of cognitive thinking that would qualify them to give informed consent (Geldard & Geldard, 2008, p. 24).  For the counsellor to determine that the minor is competent, the counsellor should: attend to the task of decision present; delay a response to deciding until the process of decision making is completed; consider treatment alternatives; determine risks that are associated with treatment alternatives; estimate the expense and consequences that are associated with choosing or not choosing the alternative treatment (Geldard & Geldard, 2008, p. 24).

Biblical Values in Counseling Children

The Bible is a valuable source that can address issues in the lives of individuals, couples, families, and children. According to the Biblical teachings, an individual’s thoughts, attitudes, motives, actions, and words flow from a person’s heart (Pulaski and Lihn, 2004). According to Biblical values, counselling would mainly address the heart as the source of human actions and reactions associated with using wisdom and approaches revealed by the Bible to aid the counselee. Counselling using Biblical values is practical and effective when counselling children. The counsellor does not view the child as just being a simple spiritual being with spiritual problems. It instead sees the child as an individual whose being is composed of physical, emotional, relational, and cognitive aspects. The main focus of using biblical values in counselling children is to help the child develop a worldview from a biblical standpoint to identify the central truths that guide the appropriate thinking and actions.

The goal that counsellors set that use biblical counselling is to help the child attain or begin the journey to attain spiritual maturity (Pulaski & Lihm, 2004). It values the rule of the church in the process of aiding the child in his or her issues and the change of the child’s heart. It is believed by biblical counselling that a change in the heart brings about a resultant, which is the change in a child’s life. However, biblical counselling of a child can only be accomplished in an authentic Christian community and the presence of a local church. This includes the intervention of people other than the counsellor, which may consist of the pastor or a child’s mentor. The biblical counsellor will help identify the child’s problems in biblical terms, which may entail renaming the issue in terms of the Bible. As the process of renaming the issue is done, the child’s view of the issue becomes altered and comes in view of a biblical sense which will need a biblical solution to be exercised.

Personal Reflections

As an individual studying to enter the field of child counselling, it is essential to bring all the ethical, empirical, and biblical components together to be well committed to providing the best care in terms of counselling. All three components are essential to be properly executed in this field since I am providing more than just guidance to the client. Together with the client, it is my professional commitment to providing methods to solve the issues or problems the client might be facing. It is essential to follow the legal and ethical procedures in delivering the quality of care without causing any implications that can harm the client and my professional career. The value of the Bible can aid me in providing ethical and moral insight to the client to help them make a decision or cope with the situation that they might be facing. By incorporating biblical values into the counselling, the client can learn what is morally and rationally acceptable. The client should be inclined to use it as a basis or guiding principle in their life.

References

  • Bajgar, J.; Ciarrochi, J.; Lane, R.; & Deane, F. P. (2005). Development of the levels of emotional awareness scale for children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 23, p. 569-           586. DOI: 10.1348/026151005X35417
  • Corey, G.; Schneifer-Corey, M.; & Callanan, P. (2007). Issues and Ethics in Helping Professions   (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
  • Geldard, K., & Geldard, D. (2008). Counselling Children: A Practical Introduction (3rd ed.).         London, UK: SAGE Publications.
  • Greeson, J. K.; Briggs, E. C.; Kisiel, C. L.; Ake, G. S.; Ko, S. L.; Gerrity, E. T.l Steinberg, A.       M.; Howard, M. L., Pynoos, R. S., & Fairbank, J. A. (2011). Complex trauma and mental           health in children and adolescents places in foster care: Findings from the national child    trauma stress network. Journal of Child Welfare, 90, p. 91-108. Retrieved from          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22533044
  • Middlebrooks, J. S. & Audage, N. C. (2008). The effects of childhood stress on health across the             lifespan. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, National Center for Injury   Prevention and Control. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-      res/pdf/childhood_stress.pdf
  • National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2005). Young Children develop in   environment of relationship: working paper no. 1. Retrieved from             http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources/reports_and_working_papers/wor            king_papers/wp1/
  • Pulaski, A.. & Lihm, S. (2004). Biblical counseling manual. Retrieved from             http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/Biblical%20Counseling%20Manual.pdf
  • Salmon, K.; Evans, I. M.; Moskowitz, S.; Grouden, M.; Parkes, F.; and Miller, E. (2013). The       components of young children’s emotion knowledge: Which are enhanced by adult       emotion talk. Social Development, 22, p. 94-110. DOI: 10.1111/sode.12004
  • Stein, B. D.; Jaycox, L. H.; Wong, M.; Lanley, A.; Avila, J. L; Bonilla, A.; Castillo-Campos, P.l   Cohen, J. B.; … & Zaragoza, C. (2011). Helping children cope with violence and trauma:           A school based program that works. Research Highlights of RAND Health. Retrieved       from http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB4557-2/index1.html
  • Stone, H. & Stone S. (2006). The inner critic. Psychotherapy in Australia. Retrieved from http://delos-inc.com/articles/The_Inner_Critic.htm

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