Frequently Asked Questions
The length of counselling or therapy cannot usually be determined ahead of time, but the decision to continue or not will ultimately always be yours. We will periodically discuss your progress to determine how many sessions might be needed.
Some clients find four to six sessions to be helpful, especially when dealing mainly with specific parenting issues and questions. Usually however, children and families need a minimum of between six and twelve sessions to benefit. More sessions may be needed for more serious difficulties.
Some clients will engage in therapy for a period of time and then take a break from therapy knowing they can return at any point in time for "booster" sessions or if difficulties arise.
Over the years, there have been concerns that traditional family therapists have ignored the voices of the children in the family and have concentrated mainly on the issues of the parents. For this reason, play therapy has become an effective way of working with children. During play therapy, the child is seen alone giving him or her an opportunity to be heard by a caring adult therapist and to work through current difficulties.
I offer play therapy because I believe that sometimes children need a special place to express themselves safely and to have their voices heard and acknowledged. Often children are afraid to express themselves to their parents for a number of reasons. The benefit of having an understanding play therapist is that children will feel free to express themselves without being afraid of hurting their parents or of causing their parents to disapprove of them.
There have also been concerns in the past that therapists who work only with children will exclude the parents from the therapeutic process, thus causing the parents to feel even more inadequate. For this reason, I believe that as a parent, you need to be an integral part of the therapeutic process with your child. You are the key people in the life of your child and need to be acknowledged for this extremely important role that you play. When providing parent counselling services to you, I will help you to understand your child better and learn new ways of interacting with your child. This will enable you to be a source of continuing support to your child long after therapy has terminated.
I also believe that family counselling, where your family is seen together in therapy, and filial play therapy, where one parent and one child are seen together in therapy, provide enormous benefits when needed. These methods offer a way of tying everything together so that your entire family system benefits.
I offer a variety of ways for you and your child to work in therapy. Depending on your particular needs, you and your child may see me individually and/or together.
Throughout childhood, children express themselves much better through play rather than by talking. In play therapy, children express themselves symbolically by playing, and will communicate their conscious and unconscious feelings and experiences through play. Emotional experiences that are important to the child or have impacted the child in some way will show up as play behaviors. In play therapy, children are provided with specially chosen toys to enable them to say with toys what they have difficulty saying with words.
In play therapy, children do not have to talk directly about their problems to gain relief. Play therapy allows children to distance themselves from difficult feelings and memories, which would normally be too challenging for them to talk about directly.
In play therapy, children learn they can safely express difficult feelings to gain a sense of relief. When children express their feelings and thoughts in play therapy the difficult feelings and memories become less intense. This results in problem behaviors decreasing or being eliminated altogether.
In play therapy, children will play out difficult feelings or stressful experiences in order to gain an understanding of them. Creative thoughts are encouraged and children can work through and find solutions to their problems consciously and unconsciously during play therapy. Children can then regain a sense of control and safety in their lives resulting in increased self-confidence and changes in behavior.
When adults face a problem, they will usually think about what happened, look at it from different perspectives, talk about it with someone they trust, and plan how to handle a similar situation in the future. During play therapy, children do these same things using their imaginations.
As a method of counselling children, play therapy has been found to be effective for children experiencing a wide variety of social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Play therapy is also an excellent way to help children recover and heal from stressful or traumatic experiences.
- Children experience a therapeutic relationship with the play therapist; the play therapist provides an environment for the child that encourages healthy growth and development, improves self-esteem, allows self-expression, facilitates problem-solving, and supports the development of self-control
- Children become more self-aware; they learn to identify their thoughts and feelings; they begin to discover and understand themselves, which leads to the formation of a healthy self-concept
- Children develop empathy and begin to understand and respect the thoughts and feelings of others
- Children learn self-control by making appropriate choices and decisions for themselves, thus taking responsibility for their own actions
- Children learn healthier ways of interacting with others and better ways of coping with difficult situations
- Children learn to correct their misunderstandings and develop more realistic ways of thinking
- Through children's self-expression in play, adults are better able to understand children; this leads to adults being able to support children more effectively
There has been recent interest in evaluating the existing research on the effectiveness of play therapy. The following statements summarize play therapy research:
"In the areas of (a) improving self-concept, (b) initiating behavioral change, (c) enhancing cognitive development, (d) promoting social skills, and (e) reducing anxiety, play therapy is a proven method of treating children with problems."
From: Bratton, S.C & Ray, D. (2001). Humanistic play therapy. In D.J. Cain (Ed.), Humanistic psychotherapies: Handbook of research and practice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Assn.
"Play therapy appears to be an effective treatment for children's problems. Two main factors appear to increase the effectiveness of play therapy:
(a) Parental Involvement: Parental involvement significantly increased the effectiveness of play therapy, and
(b) Number of Sessions: The effectiveness of play therapy continued to increase in relation to the number of sessions up to 35 to 45 sessions. However, play therapy was also found to be effective even with as few as two sessions."
From: Ray, D., Bratton, S., Rhine, T., & Jones, L. (2001). The effectiveness of play therapy: Responding to the critics. International Journal of Play Therapy, 10 (1), 85 - 108).
- Association for Play Therapy
- BC Play Therapy Association
- Canadian Association for Child and Play Therapy
If your child is struggling with emotional difficulties or behavior problems, or if he or she has gone through a difficult or traumatic situation, as a parent you are likely to be feeling:
- worried or concerned about your child
- powerless or helpless because what you are doing may not be working and you don't know what to do to change things
- angry and frustrated with your child's behaviors
- confused and uncertain as to what is really the best way to parent
- guilty or ashamed that somehow you may have failed as a parent
- discouraged and inadequate because your child is experiencing problems
Parent counselling is a way for you to reduce your stress levels and to increase your sense of confidence when interacting with your child.
- You will be supported in identifying and expressing your feelings related to your child's difficulties so that these feelings will not interfere with your parenting
- You will be supported in exploring various ways of interacting with your child that will improve the relationship between you and your child
- You can learn new parenting skills and behavior management strategies
- You will be updated on your child's progress if he or she is involved in play therapy; you are provided with the general themes the child is expressing in play therapy and ideas to work adaptively with the child at home; additionally, you will have an opportunity to provide me with information about significant changes in your child's behavior as well as to update me on important events that have occurred between play sessions
- You can learn specialized therapeutic parenting techniques, such as advanced listening and comforting techniques, if your child has experienced a stressful or traumatic event; children exposed to a trauma usually need therapeutic parenting following the trauma; normal parenting practices are often not sufficient to help the child heal and recover from the trauma
- You will be supported in dealing with other issues causing stress in your life that may be impacting on your ability to help your child
When you become a parent, your experiences with your own family when you were a child serve to guide you in your current role. You may be repeating the same parenting behaviors as your parents or caregivers used on you in spite your best intentions. Alternately, you may have consciously decided to parent in completely the opposite way from how you were parented as a child. While some of these parenting behaviors may be useful and adaptive, some of them may not be.
It is important for you to be aware of how and where you learned your current parenting strategies. Then you are able to make decisions about building on your current healthy parenting skills and discarding and replacing the more unhealthy parenting approaches.
Your family is more that just a group of individuals sharing a particular physical space or relational ties. Your family can be considered a system in itself, with its own rules, roles, and power structure. Family members collectively form a whole, or system, that can experience a wide range of difficulties. What affects one member of your family is likely to affect all others in the family.
The relationships between members of your family are deep. Individuals in your family are tied to each other by powerful emotional attachments that will persist over the lifetime of your family. Family counselling focuses on the relationships and interactions between your family members.
- You and your family members can change unhealthy patterns of interacting and communicating with each other to more functional patterns of interaction
- You and your family members can strengthen relationships between each other
- You will understand how your childhood family relationships and extended family relationships can impact your current family relationships
- You will learn how a healthy family structure contributes to healthy family relationships
- You will learn to encourage separateness of individual family members, while still maintaining and developing connectedness between family members
Filial play therapy is a unique counselling approach where you and your child work together to improve child and family problems. You are taught basic play therapy skills so that you can become involved in the therapeutic process with your child. This empowers you to become the primary support for your child.
Filial play therapy has been successfully used with many child and family problems including:
- Anxiety and depression
- Anger and aggression
- Relationship problems
- Single parenting, step-parenting
- High conflict divorce
- Adoption/foster care
- Family substance abuse
- Chronic illness
Filial play therapy has been researched a great deal. It has wide applicability with very consistent research results indicating significant improvements in children's problems and parents' skills as well as significant decreases in parents' stress levels.
- You will learn basic play therapy skills so your child will be able to benefit from the therapeutic aspects of play long after professional services have ended
- Your child will develop a more positive perspective of you as a parent
- You will be able to understand your child better
- Your child's problem behaviors will be reduced or eliminated
- You will learn new parenting skills
- Communication with your child will be opened up and improved
- You will develop self-confidence with your child, thus reducing your stress and frustration levels
- Your relationship with your child will be strengthened
- You will learn about the importance of play for your child
- Your family's ability to have fun together will be enhanced
- You will develop coping skills for future problems
To find out more about the services that I offer, please visit my Services page.
Kathy Eugster, MA, RCC, CPT-S
MA, Counselling Psychology
Registered Clinical Counsellor
Certified Play Therapist – Supervisor
Child and Family Therapist
#504 - 1755 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC