My name is Andrew
For children the counselling experience can be curious and confronting. In most of cases they have little understanding as to their attendance and their reasons for being there are often due to the decision of a parent or school. It is therefore vital that when working with children in a therapeutic setting you do everything you can to inform them of your role and what it is you do. I feel that too often the pressure is put on the child regarding their attendance and questions are mostly asked of them. As they are already struggling to comprehend their presence in the room these questions are can often lead to false conclusions early into the session.
“My name is Andrew and I have a long last name, What’s your name?”
“That’s a cool name, let’s write them down together, your name sounds kind of German, I wonder if that’s where your ancestors are from”
“So Klaus Vershtaffen I am a Psychologist have you heard that word before?”
“I talk with loads of different people, some are your age, some are teenagers, some are adults, some are Mums and Dads and sometimes even whole families”. “We talk about all different things, sometimes we talk about all the things that make us happy and all our favourite things we like to do”. “Sometimes we talk about things that makes us feel sad or angry and things we wish we could change”. “The best part about talking to me to is that I can’t tell anyone what we talk about, but you can tell everyone what we talk about, so you can tell Mum, you can tell Dad, you can even tell your teacher”. “I guess if you wanted me to talk to people then I could or maybe if I think we should talk to Mum or Dad about something important because we could be in danger then I would talk to them about that”.
This is quite a basic script that I use, and it does vary from child to child. Sometimes I will spend more time before discussing my role on get to know you questions such as drawing and writing down our names, our favourite colour, our favourite food, our family, our friends, our pets and our favourite things to do. Sometimes I will discuss these after I have spoken about my role.
I feel it is always important that when introducing yourself and talking about your role in the initial session with a child that there is a passive activity to engage in. This can include drawing, painting, sand play, water play, Jenga etc. I find this useful as the child can swap their attention from you to the activity to maintain regulation. It’s also useful as you can swap your attention from the child to the activity to not place your whole focus on them and maintain co-regulation through the activity.
Starting with the statement “My name is” might seem obvious and intuitive, however, we might often perceive it as a formality or manners which once undertaken can then make way for the clinical assessment or intervention. I feel though that “My name is” begins the assessment and intervention simultaneously through opening channels of rapport, signalling to the child that it is a safe environment and encouraging their participation in a joint activity which gives you observations of many cognitive abilities as well as hearing their story.