Common Concerns of Children, Teens, and Parents (that I hear in therapy)

Common concerns of chidlren and teens

As a child and family therapist, I listen to people’s deepest worries and problems almost every day. While no two individuals or circumstances are exactly the same, there are patterns I hear from the various age groups of clients. Below are the most common concerns of children, teens, and parents, as they are presented to me in therapy. Read more

Friday Wrap Up for June 13, 2014

Friday Wrap Up on Kim"s Counseling Corner. Best online finds from the week.

DSM-V: Implications for Children and Adolescents

This is a great article on Liana Lowenstein’s site this week that shares important changes  child therapists need to be aware of in the latest DSM. I find I am still learning every day!

Family Mail by Let’s Explore

I have actually done this before, just slightly different. I was seeing sisters in therapy who were not getting along. The were fighting and hitting most of the time and communication was extremely difficult. Each girl created a mail box similar to what you see in the picture to the right and attached it on the wall outside of their bedroom door. They were able to pass mail back and forth when they wanted to say something to their sister. We set some rules up first, such as no name calling on the letters. The girls found this to be a very helpful alternative to the difficult task of face-to-face communication. Read more

Activities That Improve Focus and Concentration

Colored wooden toysAnyone can benefit from activities that require focus and concentration. Not only does it keep your brain functioning well into adulthood, but it can make other tasks less frustrating and increase productivity at school and work.



7 Ways to Promote an Good Concentration Skills:

  1. Set realistic tasks, especially considering your child’s maturity level. Unrealistic expectations create frustration, which then interfere with concentration.
  2. Break up the tasks into small steps or parts. If you or your child are not used to studying for an hour straight, then break up homework time into shorter spans to allow for breaks.
  3. Create a distraction free zone. Lots of noise and visual distractions can limit concentration and focus.
  4. Be supportive and encouraging. Learning a new skill can always be challenging, and learning to concentrate is no different. Encourage your child with verbal praise during fun games, as well the more serious homework times.
  5. Play fun concentration building games. More of these below!
  6. Good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and exercise. Our brains need a healthy lifestyle to function at it’s best.
  7. Allow plenty of time for free play, entertainment, and hobbies.

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Welcome Bags for Play Therapy

titleAs therapists, our work with clients begins on our very first encounter with them. We aim to establish positive rapport, professionalism, and expectations for the therapeutic process. I am always looking for ways to accomplish these goals in my therapy practice. Most of this is done through direct engagement with a client and a therapeutic environment, but I always love to find new ideas to develop a unique and successful practice.

Coming to therapy for the first time can be a nervous time for any client.  In an effort to welcome kids and their parents to play therapy, I send home welcome bags after their first session. I include some items that are typically included in a calm down basket, as well as information for parents.

Benefits of a Welcome Bag:

  • Helps establish a positive therapeutic rapport
  • Provide psychoeducational materials to parents
  • Communicate my commitment to their emotional well being.
  • Help spread the word about play therapy
  • Market your play therapy services

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Resources for Sensory Processing Disorder

Books, Activities, & Resources for sensory processing.As a final post on sensory processing challenges, following Identifying Sensory Processing Challenges in Children and Treatment for Sensory Processing Challenges, below is a list of helpful books, handouts, links and more for professionals, parents, and children. If you have any  further resources, please share with me and the readers!

Books for Parents, Caregivers, and Child Specialists

1. 101 Activities for Kids in Tight Spaces: At the Doctor’s Office, on Car, Train, and Plane Trips, Home Sick in Bed . . .
2. The Out-of-Sync Child
Read more

Identifying Sensory Processing Challenges in Children


ChildrenSensory processing is a term that is becoming more and more recognized with educational and health care professionals. Everyone processes information from their environment through their senses- sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste. We often take it for granted that our sensory systems can provide us with the information we need to function, enjoy life, and be alerted of dangers. But for some individuals, this bodily function is not working properly and, as you can imagine, this causes great distress and hinders their ability to function appropriately in every day life.

As I learn more about sensory processing, I can identify sensitivities and preferences in my own children. My son, for example, often complains of loud noises. He doesn’t like when someone raises their voice and covers his ears when the toilet is flushed. In my counseling practice, I provide a sensory processing screening tool to most parents who seek help for behavioral and emotional concerns. I also keep a number of sensory tools in my playroom. Screening handouts are listed at the end of this post and information on treatment options will be a follow up post.

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5 Benefits of Sand Play for Children

I hold quite a few fond memories of playing in the sand as a child. We lived for a short time in a remote area where I had freedom to roam and explore the natural world around me. I remember spending hours in the sand and mud- digging, squishing, building, and so on. The earth in my fingers and toes felt cold and gritty, and my imagination transformed the sand to pies and mountains.

I hope my own kids find just as many opportunities to enrich their lives with one of earth’s natural toys. Our back yard has a sand box and I often encourage them to dig and feel the sand in their fingers whenever they can. I tell them that super dirty means they had super fun! I also use a sand tray in my counseling practice in various forms. It’s a wonderful tool for process and self-exploration. Read more

Calming Down Visualization for Little Truck Lovers

Calming technique for little truck lovers at

My son is a huge fan of all types of truck or work vehicle- garbage trucks, tractors, big trucks, emergency vehicles, and especially fire trucks. His favorite book, which we read every night (yes, I can recite it by heart!) is called “Dig, Dig, Digging” by Margaret Mayo and Alex Ayliffe. It’s a colorful and fun book about various work vehicles that dig and lift and pull and roll that excites my truck-loving son. On every page, it says “They can work all day.” about each truck, until the end when it says “They can rest all night.”


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Setting Limits Using If/Then/Choose Statements

Learning to set clear and effective limits is one of the most important techniques a parent can learn. I took my kids a the Home Depot workshop recently and my son was so excited that he was running up and down the isles. While I love to see him having fun, it was not safe to run wild with so many crowds and we had to set some limits on the running.

Three Steps to Setting a Limit:

1. Use If/Then statements

2. Emphasize the child’s choice.

3. Clearly define benefit and consequence of choices.

I think this video by The Kid Counselor is a great explanation of using if/then/choose statements:


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15 Favorite Toys and Games in My Play Room

Most Popular Items in Play Room by Kim's Counseling Corner

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1. Moon Sand

Sand boxes are irresistible to most kids. I use moon sand for play therapy, which has a consistency between a wet sand and dry sand. Click here for purchase information.


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2. Marbles

A simple box of nearly 100 marbles is by far one of the most popular toys in my play room. They are played with at nearly every session! Children stick them inside cars and in the sand box, smash them between colors of play dough, and love to simply watch them roll off the table.

3. Bean bag toss

I initially bought this game for another purpose and decided to try it out in the play room. It is a simple, wooden bean bag toss game that I paid around $15 for at a party supply store. Well, it turns out that the child will use it as a way to involve me in their play when rapport is just being established. Through the therapy process, they use it as a mastery game, and often add new challenges and twists to the game, showing me their creative and problem solving skills.

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