An Analysis of Counseling with Children
Academic Subject: Child psychotherapy
Word Count: 3650
Submitted by: Student
Child counseling is an essential profession that targets the specialized need children since they differ in functioning and development to adolescents and adults (Stein et al., 2011). Child counseling has its own set of themes that seem to reoccur in the experiences of many counseling 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 analyze the various aspects that are attached to counseling with children. The research was conducted in order to develop a stepping stone to better understand the concepts of counseling children which can later be used to widen career opportunities in this field of study. There were various aspect found related to counseling children using biblical values which should form the core concepts of counseling children later on in the career. The mental development of children and how they cope with events in live varies greatly from that of an adolescent and adult. By comprehending these differences counselors will develop better treatments that are specialized to treating children and their lie stressors.
Keywords: counseling, counseling children, ethical and legal implications of counseling children
Today’s world is complex, busy, and continuously changing. It is due to these changes that 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 is able to cope with the situation or circumstances but, other times that specific situation or circumstance becomes an obstacle, which is difficult to solve due to the lack of resources that are available during that time. Adults tend to vent or express the problem that they are facing by talking to family, friends, religious figures, neighbors, or anyone that they find trustworthy to share the information with. However, the advice of these people might not be sufficient enough 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 counseling becomes a option that is useful. Counseling is a twentieth century process that occurs between a client and a counselor when both parties set up time to explore the difficulties that the client may be facing such as stressful or emotional feelings (Geldard and Geldard, 2008).
Child counseling 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 counseling is available quickly without having to bare an extra heavy out of pocket cost. Counselors are known not to label an individual and instead try their utmost best to listen to the problem of the client in order 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 counselor. 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 as well as 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 counseling is important in that sense that it is specifically designed for children that are facing issues related to their age in terms of disability, behavior, life stressor, phobia, trauma, abuse, or anxiety. The counselor 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 counseling children as a creative and cultural invention which made a significant contribution to the quality of life of many children. It focuses on the special approaches taken in children counseling to cater to the specific needs of children. The paper will examine the various themes that are found in counseling with children. These themes are only found within the realm of counseling 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 that they are facing varying greatly with adults and adolescents. This is the reason that the paper will also have a brief discussion about the various ethical and legal issues that are surrounded by counseling children. The paper will also discuss the biblical values that are found when counseling children. The final portion of this paper will briefly divulge into the researchers’ personal reflections about counseling children, in which the researcher will provide a discussion about the commitment that will be maintained in terms of biblical, ethical, and empirically based counseling services when they enter the field of counseling (Greeson et al., 2011).
Before discussing the various themes that are found in children counseling, the readers need to comprehend a proper definition of what counseling really is. Counseling is more than just process that occurs between the counselor and the client, it is more of a social institution that is entrenched into the culture of societies that are modern and industrialized. According to the British Association of Counseling (BAC) (1984), counseling 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 counseling and it comes with a diverse amount of theoretical models and social purposes. Counselors, regardless of their specialty use the following aims during the time of counseling: relating with others, enlightenment, self-acceptance, insight, self-awareness, self-actualization, problem solving, cognitive change, empowerment, systematic change, psychological education, acquisition of social skills, behavior change, social action, and restitution. It is difficult for a counselor to attempt to achieve all these aims however, a majority focus greatly on insight in order to achieve self-acceptance, personal freedom, and controlling behavior. With a better understanding of what counseling is, it will be easier to comprehend the themes in child counseling (Greeson et al., 2011).
Most children that seek out counseling have some history of continuous interpersonal trauma that has been inflicted by a caregiver in the life of 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 which can have severe negative impacts on a child’s academic outcomes. This includes decreased level of IQ and reading ability, lower grade point average, and 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 to be persistent and it becomes important for minors to seek out help from professionals before it developments into something that can further progress into the child’s adult life. This can come from grief and loss as well as a loss of a pet that was attached to the child. The child might receive stress from being bullied at school which is a main theme that is recurring in child counseling.
Sometimes a child 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 disciplines or disapproval that is given by a parent to their child. Such harsh inclinations to the child’s natural inclinations can make the child feel inferior to others that can end up being reflected in their socialization with themselves and others. It is the inner critic which makes the child extremely anxious and desperate to succeed in the world. The inner critic of a child becomes more aggressive and beings policing every single move that the child intends to make. This anguish that is caused by the inner critic is the basis in which the child develops low self esteem and becomes a major impediment to growth or change of child (Stone & Stone, 2006).
The way in which the child views themselves reflects the relationship that 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 that there is 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 that are being 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 which include academic performance, mental health, and interpersonal skills. It is during this time that a child develops characteristics of jealousy, trust, empathy, co-dependency, dysfunctional patterns, and resentment.
Emotional intelligence for is determined through quality of and satisfaction found in relationships; level of achievement in school and work; emotional well-being and happiness. It is the child’s ability to accurately identify and comprehend others’ emotions in order to motivate the child, manage emotions, and to 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 behavioral 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 counseling.
The major theme that is seen when a minor seeks out counseling or recommended to counseling by their parents is because the child is feeling some sort of life stressor(s) that is implicating the way in which 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 is overwhelms the child’s ability to cope effectively. Stress that becomes prolonged or intense can result in a variety of long or short term negative effects on a child’s health (Middlebrooks & Audage, 2008).
When it comes to counseling children that following are ethical and legal dilemmas that many counselors face when working with these minors: confidentiality, privileged communication, parental consent, competency, and informed consent. Counselors need to legally understand the rights of minors and how the counselor will deal with a minor’s situation in terms of their ethical rights without infringing the legal rights of parents or guardians. When a counselor enters into a counseling 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 counselor owes the ethical commitment of confidentiality, parental consent and legal rights, informed consent and the competency level of the minor involved. The counselor also needs to assess the relationship between the parent and legal guardian with the minor. This will help the counselor understand if disclosing any information to the parent or guardian can help the situation of the client as well as the magnitude of potential harm that can come to the client if the information is not discloses.
Confidentiality is a major concern that arises when working with children; this is because various inconsistencies can exist when what is legally required is not parallel to what is ethically suited. Many academics have states that confidentiality is an ethical standard which 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, the counselors 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 have been listed by the ACA is the requirement the counselors keeping any information confidential doesn’t apply in the situation when disclosing the information prevent danger or harm to the client or others and the requirement when legality requires the information to be disclosed.
The codes of the ACA also further states that clients that are minors and are unable to give voluntary or informed consent then parents or legal guardians should be involved in the process of counseling when it is considered appropriate. There is very little literature that divulges in giving insight in regards to the confidentiality of counseling minors, specifically in circumstances of 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 counselor should include the minor client in the decision to release the information to the parents and continuously keep up with communication in regards further decisions by discussing with the minor.
Privileged communication can be defined as the legal rights granted by the law which protects the client in releasing information during a legal proceeding without informed consent first. Thus, if any communication between the client and the counselor is regarded as privileged consent under that law then no judge can force the counselor to disclose any information in the court of law. In the United States, children that are under the age of 18 are considered as being legal minors and have fewer legal rights than compared to adults (Geldard & Geldard, 2008, p. 22). However, even though children are minors they have a valid claim on the constitutional right to privacy. Counselors have the right to decide that it might not be in the best interest of the client to disclose specific information to the client’s parents, and thus, counselors are not required to make any personal records of the counseling session available to the parents unless they are compelled to do so by the policies of the local school board.
This is a major issue that is faced by counselors since very few states have laws that mandate a parent’s consent before entering into a counseling relationship with a minor, whether in a school setting or an agency setting, except when the minor lacks the capability to make an informed judgment. There are various schools and agencies that adopt policies in which it is required that parents even their consent when a minor enters into a counseling relationship. The ACA’s Code of Ethics emphasizes on the idea that parents need to give their consent as they can be a precious asset to the process of counseling (Corey et al, 2007, p. 112). When counselors inform clients and their parents the main purpose of counseling and the limits that confidentiality has avoids several complications related to ethical and legal implications.
In the situation that a minor seeks out counseling without the consent of their parents, then the minor’s privacy rights need to be taken into consideration as well as the legal rights and the responsibilities that the parent or legal guardian holds. Usually, it depends on the minors age in which the rights are granted, for instance if the minor is older than 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 process of counseling is initiated and well along the proceedings of counseling. Therefore, the counselor needs to inform the client of the goals, techniques, procedure, potential risks, and benefits of the service, purposes, and other information that is relevant. The client also have the right of obtaining clear information about their personal case records, and refuse any recommended services from the counselor as well as advice on the resultant of refusing such services. Therefore, if a counselor is working with a minor that is not capable of giving consent then the counselor protects the best interests of the client and provides come understanding and comprehension of the process that will be taken for therapy.
There is a specific level of skill and knowledge which is mandatory when a counselor intends to counsel children. This is because minor are considered of being a unique and diverse client population in which ethical practices mandate a certain level of education, training, and supervision of practice when counseling minors. However, competency does not just include the caliber of the counselor; it also concerns that of the minor who is indulging in a client-counselor relationship. This concerns the ethical and legal implications of what age is the minor capable of assuming the responsibility of 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 which would qualify them as being able to give an informed consent (Geldard & Geldard, 2008, p. 24). In order for the counselor to determine that the minor is competent, the counselor should: attend to the task of decision present; delay a response to making a decision 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).
The Bible is a valuable source that can be used to addressing 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 sinful selfishness of a person’s heart (Pulaski and Lihn, 2004). According to Biblical values, counseling would mainly address the heart as being the source of human actions and reactions that are associated to using wisdom and approached that have been revealed by the Bible to aid the counselee. Counseling using Biblical values has shown to be practical and effective when counseling children. The counselor 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 counseling children is to help the child develop a worldview from a biblical standpoint in order to identify the central truths that guides the appropriate thinking and actions.
The goal that counselors set that use biblical counseling is to help the child to 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 believed by biblical counseling that a change in heart brings about a resultant which is the change in a child’s life. However, biblical counseling of a child can only be successfully accomplished in an authentic Christian community and the presence of a local church. This includes the intervention of people other than the counselor which may include the pastor or a mentor of the child. The biblical counselor 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.
As an individual studying to enter the field of child counseling it is essential to bring all the ethical, empirical, and biblical components together in order to be well committed to providing the best care in terms of counseling. All three components are essential to be properly executed in this field of work since I am providing more than just guidance to the client. Together with the client it is my professional commitment to provide methods to solve the issues or the problems that the client might be facing. It is essential to follow the legal and ethical procedures in providing the quality of care without causing any implications that can bring harm to the client and to my own professional career. The value of the Bible can aid me in providing ethical and moral insight to the client in order to help them in making a decision or coping with the situation that they might be facing. By incorporating biblical values to the counseling the client can learn what is morally and rationally acceptable in which the client should be inclined to use as a basis or guiding principle in their life.