What does Counseling with my Child Really Look Like?

Assessment Phase
Mother and father, or whoever the custodial adults are in the child’s family meets with Dr. Roberts for 1-3 sessions to determine:

What are the issues that need to be addressed?

Who needs to be involved?

What approach/philosophy will be used?

Establish a timetable with concrete goals and objectives


Child Counseling
Child counseling involves meeting with child alone for a portion of each weekly session. The sessions are 50 minutes long. If a parent is present they will be asked to participate in some component t of the session. A typical model is before the child counseling and after the child counseling. Usually before the parent talks alone with Dr. Roberts for 5-10 minutes, then the child enters for counseling and then the parent joins the child and Dr. Roberts for 5 minutes of wrap up.

The counseling sessions with the child are tailored to meet the child where they are in their developmental process. For Example, some children need more coaxing than others to “talk”. A game or play time may be introduce as a reward for participating in the talking portion of the session. Or the talking may occur most easily during another activity. Each child is different. The counseling is not just a place to play games, however, games are a language that most child feel familiar and in that sense they are a tool that can be used as means to an end.

The counseling approach most commonly used during the talking phase is cognitive behavioral counseling with specific problems that have been previously identified with the parent and then with parent and the child together.  Example of typical issues include: behavior management at home especially during transitions, social development for the child, how to make friends, how to respond to negative peers, how to interact comfortably with unfamiliar peers.

These issues take time to resolve and patience is very important. Usually there will some immediate improvements, followed by regression back to baseline behaviors with the goal being to have more positive behavior than negative behavior in whatever topic area is being targeted, in the timeframe identified.


Counseling with children and adolescents varies considerably from counseling with adults. Children and adolescents are at a very different developmental life stage from adults. They do not communicate their thoughts and feelings in the same verbal manner that adults communicate. Children and adolescents often find ways to express themselves through activities. Some enjoy playing games, while others like to draw and color and still others like to engage in competitive play though safe ball games. It is through these kinds of activities that children and adolescents often share most readily. Sometimes we refer to this as the “walk and talk method of counseling”. For children, with movement, words follow.

A critical element of any counseling experience is the relationship between the counselor and the counselee. This is not different with children and adolescents. The child and adolescent must feel comfortable and safe with the counselor in order to being to express themselves freely. Trust is important because if they feel safe, they are much more likely to share their inner feelings. Our approach is one where we attempt to learn what is happening for the child and then support the child to find ways to express themselves to the adults in their lives.  For example, this can occur with us present in the counseling sessions or at other times. We work actively to create an environment where people feel that sharing who they are and what they think and feel will lead to positive outcomes.

Children and adolescents primarily experience their world through their families. Regardless of their outward behavior, they often feel powerless and lost at these times. We attempt to work with parents and other family members to be emphatic toward their child and the situation. We ask family members to have patience and tolerance while we sort out problems and find solutions.