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What is existential child therapy?
Existential child therapy is an approach to therapy that integrates existential philosophy and principles into the therapeutic process when working with children. It draws from existential therapy, which is a philosophical and psychological approach that focuses on exploring the fundamental aspects of human existence, such as freedom, choice, responsibility, meaning, and the search for purpose.
Existential child therapy recognizes that children, like adults, grapple with existential concerns and questions about their existence and the world around them. These concerns tend to include issues such as identity, a fear of death, loneliness, meaninglessness, and a lack of purpose. My aim is to create a safe and supportive environment where children can explore and make sense of these existential themes.
I also tend to assist the child to examine their beliefs, values, and assumptions about themselves and the world, encouraging them to balance critically thinking and to develop their own understanding of their experiences. I might include a variety of techniques, including open-ended questioning, reflective listening, storytelling, art, play, and metaphorical expressions to facilitate exploration and understanding.
Generally, the therapy emphasizes the child's agency and capacity for self-determination, empowering them to make choices and take responsibility for their actions. It also focuses on fostering a sense of meaning and purpose in the child's life by encouraging them to engage in activities that align with their values and interests.
The overall goal of existential child therapy is to help children develop a sense of self, resilience, and an ability to navigate life's challenges while embracing their unique existence. By addressing existential concerns, this therapeutic approach seeks to support children in living authentically and finding personal meaning in their lives.
I seem to have a gift with engaging with children and building rapport quickly. A warm and professional child friendly relationship is always established first, where the child is accepted as they are. Once this is attained and trust develops, the child can begin to establish a feeling of comfortability in the relationship, so that they feel free to express their feelings completely.
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Some of the ways the ENGAGEMENT process develops includes: (See moving images)
- Creative Visualisation
- Puppets and Masks
- Sand play
- Painting and Drawing
- Therapy Cards
- Imaginary Games using small Miniatures.
I try to maintain a deep RESPECT for the child's ability to solve their problems and give them the OPPORTUNITY to do so as much as possible. I then give the responsibility to the child, in a digestible way, so they can make choices leading towards LONG term change.
I don't attempt to direct the child's actions or conversations in any manner. The child generally leads the way, and I follow. This way of working surrounds the understanding that all 'ROADS LEAD TO ROME' and eventually through the child's dialogue, we cover what is disturbing them most.
The entire process is not about hurrying the child to 'GET BETTER'; instead, it is a gradual and usually rewarding experience for parents/caregivers.
To view the picture below from a young client, click on it to expand. To reduce it, just click on it again.
There are many other useful topics that I'm trained in that may be included in the sessions if needed. Some of these include broadening the child/adolescent's AWARENESS of;
I tend to work alongside parents/care givers/schools and other professionals involved, to keep them in the loop as much as possible within reason and hopefully with the child/adolescent's approval. This sometimes involves conversations mainly with the parents/caregivers outside the sessions, including informing the child of the 'gist' of the conversation to maintain TRANSPARENCY.
As parents/care givers, you may personally be affected during your child's therapy process and certain elements may arise for you. In such situations, I encourage you to seek your own therapy. If you're unsure about reputable therapists, I would be happy to recommend someone.
I hold a CURRENT working with CHILDREN'S CHECK identity card, which can be verified on the working with children’s website by clicking here. Enter the number 949862 and add my surname underneath which is STERRY. Once you have clicked CHECK, look at the BOTTOM of the website and to the LEFT is a line in GREEN highlighting my verification.
There is a one-hour mini online course for parents - ‘Making the most out of your child's therapy’-, that is highly recommended before starting.
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