Counselling with children is very different than counselling with adults. It is important to know how and why.
Children communicate through play. As talking is for adults, play is children’s medium. Children express themselves more fully and more directly through self initiated, spontaneous play than they do verbally because they are most comfortable with play. Children’s feelings are often inaccessible at a verbal level.
Developmentally, they lack the cognitive and verbal ability to express what they feel. Until a child is approximately 11 years of age they are not developmentally able to engage fully in abstract reasoning or thinking. The child’s world is a world of concretes! Play is the concrete expression of the child and is their way of coping with their world, so it is best to approach them at this level to engage effectively. It is significant to note that if a child is restricted to verbal expression it can automatically cause an obstacle to the therapeutic relationship by imposing limitations that have them needing to come up to the adult level of communication.
For children, playing out their experiences and feelings is the most natural and self healing process. Play also allows the child to organize their experiences and may be one of the few times in a child’s life when they feel more in control and thus more secure. Play provides a means through which conflicts can be resolved and feelings can be expressed. Feelings and attitudes that can be too threatening for the child to express directly can be safely projected through self chosen (non-directed play therapy) or therapeutically selected (directed play therapy) toys or activities. This allows children some safety and distance to work through the issue.
Nicole follows a child centred approach and believes the most important part of therapy is the attitude in which the relationship begins and is maintained. This is warmth, genuineness, empathy, respect, and unconditional acceptance. With this she hopes to form the basis for the therapeutic relationship and facilitate the release of the child’s inner resources for growth.