Anin Utigaard and Dr. Janet Edgette use two theories, person-centered child therapy and adolescent family therapy with children in two video sessions respectively. The therapies are highly impactful yet differ in important respects. Person-centered approaches seek to honor the client by supporting them in their self-exploration. Adolescent family therapy strives to strengthen the family system through encouragement of member’s feelings and contributions. These therapies and tools are viable strategies for use by professional school counselors.
In the first video, Anin Utigaard counsels an eight-year-old girl, Shayla, who draws, plays in sand, and uses a turtle puppet as an extension of her personality. With a patient, gentle demeanor, Utigaard offers affirming words as her client chooses what she wants to do. In contrast to the non-intrusive manner of Urtigaard, in the second video, Dr. ...view middle of the document...
Utegaard impresses us with her quiet, sensitive style that could easily prove frustrating for a less-experienced counselor. In watching this relationship unfold, one feels that Shayla is able to take the lead, especially toward the end of the session, when she draws a picture of a heart including all her family and step-relatives, and reminds the therapist of her real name. The notion of privilege of being allowed into the world of a child that is apparent in Utigaard’s approach should be a cornerstone for any therapist working with young children. This approach may not be as practical for use in a secondary setting without modifications and the challenge for school counselors will be to incorporate and tailor what is a nurturing, self-actualizing modality to what we can hope to apply within a typical fast-paced school environment.
For those working in secondary school settings, Edgette’s dynamic interaction with Heather and her mother is inspiring on many levels. Heather has issues of dominance and projects disrespect for authority figures, an all-too-familiar concern for middle and high school students in schools and in the home. Edgette has a rational, unflappable manner and even manages a hint of sarcasm that could work well with teenagers who are a bit full of themselves. Within this approach, support for the adolescent comes with limits and includes a healthy measure of respect. School counselors who seek to partner with parents for the benefit of students will recognize the parallels in terms of the importance of the family in a child’s development.
Counselors working in schools are well advised to sharpen the people skills that inform these therapies. In counseling, we have seen a shift toward more directive, short-term techniques that could be leaving the vulnerable individuals who we work with behind. There is a place for solution-focused therapies in both clinical as well as school settings yet we must always choose evidence-based practices such as those shown in the two videos that best support the unique needs of the individual and our populations.