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How to pick a counsellor or psychologist, based on your child’s needs

Does your child refuse to talk, throw tantrums, cry or get panic attacks on being alone? Read this article to know whether you need to approach a child psychologist or a counsellor.

New Delhi | Updated: December 10, 2020 5:36:51 pm
child psychology, counselling, child mental health, mental health, indian expressIs you child in need of a counsellor or a psychologist? (file)

By Ajeeta Mulye

As someone rightly said, children are like clay in our hands; like a sculpture, we can chisel and carve their personalities. Children may not always express themselves with caregivers due to the fear of consequences or letting them down. Hence, talking to someone like a child psychologist or counselor helps. Child counselling thus becomes important in helping children better understand their problems and cope with it.

But how do you identify whom to approach – a child psychologist or a child counsellor? Here is a difference between the two. Apart from the degree and specialisation with extensive study, child psychologists are experts who diagnose, do various psychological assessments as well as treat a wide range of psychopathology/ psychological disorders seen in children. Meanwhile, a child counsellor is an expert helping children guiding with their career choices and with distress and adjustment problems.

I remember my first few years working with children where an adolescent walked off from the door saying “I don’t need help and don’t call me” banging the door behind, a child struggling to sit on the chair in front of me, while another child running from the class when distressed with me, security guard as well as the floor ancillary staff running behind him trying to pacify him. So, do only children exhibiting behaviour issues need help? The answer is no. Children who are quiet, withdrawn, struggling academically, socially or emotionally need support too.

The common myth that people have is that children can seek help only when they are in crisis. In fact, children can seek help at three stages:

1. To learn a new skill to be equipped with the skills when the issue is faced as we all know prevention is better than cure. Example: learning to tackle bullying with assertiveness.

2. When they are in crisis. Example: difficulty getting along with friends.

3. Post the crisis, as a way to cope with it. Example: grief/ managing emotions post failure in exams.

As a psychologist, I have worked with children for almost a decade. I have enjoyed the journey and the enriching experience I obtained through this journey. It comes with its own perks and challenges. Perks include receiving naïve and random unfiltered compliments, random hugs for no reasons, and most cherished handmade cards. Challenges include children refusing to talk, throwing tantrums by yelling, crying, sleeping/sitting on the floor, getting panic attacks on seeing they are missing from the room as they believe in playing hide and seek at their convenience. Plus, once in a while taking a slap from them, running behind them round and round, deciphering their babbling, protecting them from getting hurt, negotiating, etc. Mind you, I have been through all of these (phew). But never giving up on them, building a relationship, using more activities and believing in the superpowers of counselling helped me to mould these very same children into their better selves with time.

Hence, it will not be wrong to say that these counselling and therapy sessions have helped me to get in touch with the creative side of myself, keeping the child within me alive, as well as having taught me to be empathetic, non-judgmental, accepting of others as well as more patient.

Whether psychologist or counselor, they cannot be kept forever but the magic they created in counselling sessions can never be forgotten. That’s the beauty of counselling.

(The writer is Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower – The Foundation.)

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