There are several theories and frameworks that psychologists and counsellors can use in their therapy room when working with children.
Different professionals in the industry may use different approaches, as each seeks to use the ones that best align with their values, beliefs and strengths.
During university, I started to reflect upon the different theories and which ones particularly resonated with me – and why. I had to first reflect on my own self, my values, strengths and beliefs. I became aware that authenticity, non-judgmental, autonomy and compassion are a big part of who I am as a person, and influence who I am as a counsellor.
Personal Values and Strengths
From my perspective, authenticity can be described in two words; truthfulness and genuineness.
This was instilled in me when I was a child. To be authentic means to represent my values and beliefs to myself and to others around me, not to change who I am, how I interact with others or become negatively influenced.
Growing up in a Christian home, I read the bible verses expressing that we should not judge others. Reading this made me think how I would feel if someone was negatively criticising me, and this persuaded me to treat people how I would like to be treated. Thinking non-judgementally has helped me become more empathetic to people and their situations. Everyone is on their own life journey of healing, growing, struggling, going from one season to another in their life or being comfortable and content. I believe that we should not judge what others are going through when we have not walked the path that they have.
I believe that people are the expert of themselves and have the right to make their own life choices. I value autonomy because it has given me an opportunity in my life to grow. I have had the opportunity to make good and poor choices, but each consequence has led me to where I am today. I think it’s important to respect that people are the drivers of their own life.
I view compassion as being kind and empathetic to people when they are suffering, and I have a desire to help them. I would also consider patience to be one of my strong suits. I am a firm believer of being mindful that people are on their own life journey and their own time schedule.
A theoretical approach that I found to align with my personal values, strengths and beliefs is the Person Centred Approach.
Person Centred Approach
Developed by Carl Rogers in the 1940’s, person centred approach stems from the belief that every human strives for and has a capacity to fulfil their own potential.
Carl Rogers (1959) developed three core conditions in Person Centred Approach:
- Firstly, congruence with the client which entails genuineness, no façade, internal and external experiences are the same.
- Secondly, unconditional positive regard and empathy. In order for people to grow and fulfil their potential it is important that they value genuine care and compassion.
- Thirdly, empathy which encompasses compassion and non-judgement. Rogers (1959) believed that in order for a client’s condition to improve, therapists should be warm, genuine, and understanding.
When I first read the core conditions, I felt shocked how closely aligned they were to my own beliefs, values and strengths.
I personally think that therapy should not be time bound. This perspective links to the Person Centred Approach, as Rogers believed that the therapeutic journey is on the client’s timeline, rather than the therapist’s. Previously I have planned sessions with clients, however most often the client will bring something to the session that is important to them to talk about or play out. I have then had to adjust, adapt, be flexible and be present with the client. This strengthens the therapeutic alliance due to the client feeling heard, but it also respects the value of autonomy, nonmaleficence and the client is in the driver’s seat on their timeline.
Rogers (1961) believed that as no one else can know how we perceive, we are the best experts of ourselves.
The world we live in is the same for all of us, but the way we experience it is different for each individual. Our developed personal constructs are mental representations that we use to interpret events. These constructs are based on our experiences and observations.
We may have experienced a huge amount of changes in life, or very little – everyone varies. As a result, we have a unique way that we deal with and manage change in our lives. Some may avoid it; others may charge towards it; and others may be neutral. Therefore, as our life experiences and observations differentiate from one another, our perception, understanding and interpretation varies.
Due to everyone’s uniqueness, how we help and work with one client, may not work with another. This highlights the importance of acknowledging individuality. Therefore, I believe it is impossible to uphold the belief that we as counsellors know our clients better than what they know themselves, as we have not walked their journey.
Although I may draw on other approaches like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Child-Centred Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness, at my core as a practicing counsellor is Person Centred Approach. This is because it is so closely aligned to my personal values, beliefs and how I view the world.
Author: Larissa Watter, BA Counselling.
Larissa Watter is a Brisbane counsellor, passionate about working with children. She is currently furthering her studies by undertaking a Certificate in Child Centred Play Therapy.
To make an appointment with Larissa Watter try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology Wishart on (07) 3088 5422.
- Rogers, C. R. (1961). On Becoming a person: A psychotherapists view of psychotherapy. Houghton Mifflin.
- Rogers, C. (1959). A Theory of Therapy, Personality and Interpersonal Relationships as Developed in the Client-centered Framework. In (ed.) S. Koch,Psychology: A Study of a Science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the Person and the Social Context. New York: McGraw Hill.