Counselling by Nicola Stewart

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Counselling Children

When working with Primary School aged children I will use an ‘Integrative’ approach with influences from Play Therapy, Sand Tray Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Person Centred Therapy and psycho-education around emotional regulation.


Play is vital to every child’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical, creative and language development. It helps make learning concrete for all children and young people including those for whom verbal communication may be difficult.


Play Therapy helps children in a variety of ways. Children receive emotional support and can learn to understand more about their own feelings and thoughts. Sometimes they may re-enact or play out traumatic or difficult life experiences in order to make sense of their past and cope better with their future. Children may also learn to manage relationships and conflicts in more appropriate ways.


Certain sensory characteristics of art making are effective in improving mood, sensory integration, and calming the body and mind, especially with children who have experienced early traumatic events.  The theoretical underpinning of this work relates largely to attachment theory and the person-centred way of working.

Play therapy

Non-directive Play Therapy is a counselling approach used to help children communicate their inner experiences through the use of toys and play.


Non-directive play therapy is based on a set of principles laid down by Axline (1969)


The therapist:    

  • Must develop a warm and friendly relationship with the child.    

  • Accepts the child as she or he is.    

  • Establishes a feeling of permission in the relationship so that the child feels free to express his or her feelings completely.  

  • Is alert to recognise the feelings the child is expressing and reflects these feelings back in such a manner that the child gains insight into his/her behaviour.    

  • Maintains a deep respect for the child’s ability to solve his/her problems and gives the child the opportunity to do so. The responsibility to make choices and to institute change is the child’s.    

  • Does not attempt to direct the child’s actions or conversations in any manner. The child leads the way, the therapist follows.    

  • Does not hurry the therapy along. It is a gradual process and must be recognised as such by the therapist.    

  • Only establishes those limitations necessary to anchor the therapy to the world of reality and to make the child aware of his/her responsibility in the relationship.