How to Start a Counseling Session with a Child

How to Start a Counseling Session with a Child?

Commencing a counseling session with a child involves creating a safe and comfortable space by establishing rapport and trust through empathetic communication and age-appropriate techniques.

Beginning a counseling session with a child counseling necessitates a warm and welcoming approach.

Start by building rapport, using simple language, and creating a relaxed atmosphere to ease any apprehensions.

Utilize activities like drawing, storytelling, or play-based methods to encourage expression and comfort.

Employ active listening and empathy to understand the child’s perspective, allowing them to lead the pace of the session while ensuring a non-judgmental environment.

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How to Start a Counseling Session with a Child

Key Takeaway

  • Establish Trust: Focus on building trust through empathy, respect, and creating a safe space.
  • Utilize Age-Appropriate Techniques: Use activities and communication methods suitable for the child’s age and developmental stage.
  • Encourage Expression: Employ creative methods like drawing or play to facilitate communication and comfort.
  • Prioritize Active Listening: Listen attentively and empathetically to the child’s thoughts and feelings, allowing them to lead the session.


When working as a counselor with children, it is crucial to establish a strong foundation and build trust right from the beginning of each session.

Children may feel anxious, confused, or hesitant about opening up, so creating a safe and comfortable environment is key to ensuring a successful counseling journey for them.

Understanding the importance of starting a counseling session with a child

  • Building rapport: The initial moments of a counseling session are crucial for building a strong relationship with the child. It is essential to establish trust, as it lays the foundation for open communication and effective counseling.
  • Assessing emotional state: Starting a session with a child allows the counselor to assess their emotional well-being and understand their current state. This information helps in tailoring the counseling approach to meet the child’s specific needs.
  • Setting goals: Beginning a counseling session provides an opportunity to set goals with the child, creating a sense of purpose and direction for the counseling process. This collaborative approach empowers the child and allows them to actively participate in their own healing journey.

Read More: Child Counseling

Creating a safe and comfortable environment for the child

  • Establishing trust: Begin by introducing yourself and explaining the purpose of the counseling session in a child-friendly manner. Assure them that everything discussed will be kept confidential unless their safety is at risk. Promote a non-judgmental and accepting environment.
  • Engaging in play or fun activities: Children often express themselves better through play and creative activities. Incorporate age-appropriate games, art, or toys into the session to facilitate self-expression and create a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Active listening: Demonstrate active listening skills by maintaining eye contact, showing genuine interest, and repeating and summarizing what the child says. This validates their thoughts and feelings, making them feel heard and understood.

Creating a positive start to a counseling session with a child sets the tone for a productive therapeutic relationship and lays the groundwork for the child’s emotional growth and healing.

Preparing for the Session

When working with children as a counselor, it is essential to approach each session with careful preparation to create a safe and supportive environment.

Here are some key steps to help you start a counseling session with a child.

Gathering necessary information about the child

  • Review background information: Before the session, gather any relevant information about the child’s background, including their age, family dynamics, and any recent events that may have affected them. This will help you understand their context and tailor your approach accordingly.
  • Communicate with parents or guardians: Engage in open communication with the child’s parents or guardians to gain insights into their concerns, challenges, and goals. This will allow you to align your strategies and set realistic expectations for the counseling process.
  • Use assessment tools: Depending on the child’s age and needs, consider using age-appropriate assessment tools to gain a better understanding of their emotions, behaviors, and cognitive abilities. This can provide valuable insights and guide your counseling approach.

Setting up the counseling room to make it child-friendly

  • Create a warm and welcoming space: Arrange the counseling room to be inviting and comfortable. Use bright colors, age-appropriate decorations, and soft furnishings to create a safe and non-intimidating environment.
  • Include sensory elements: Children often respond well to sensory experiences. Incorporate sensory elements such as soft toys, fidget toys, calming music, or aromatherapy diffusers to help create a soothing atmosphere.
  • Offer a range of activities: Have a variety of age-appropriate activities for children to engage in during the session. This can include art supplies, puppets, stuffed animals, or games. These activities can help them express themselves and facilitate communication.
By following these steps and creating a child-friendly counseling environment, you can establish a strong foundation for productive and positive counseling sessions with children.

Building Rapport

Building rapport with a child is crucial in establishing a successful counseling session.

Here are some key strategies to create a safe and engaging environment for the child:

Engaging in non-threatening activities to establish trust

Children often feel more comfortable opening up when they are engaged in non-threatening activities.

Encourage the child to participate in games, art projects, or other interactive exercises that allow them to express themselves in a more relaxed manner.

By providing a safe space for the child to explore their feelings, they are more likely to establish trust with the counselor.

Using age-appropriate communication techniques

It is important for counselors to use age-appropriate language and communication techniques when working with children. 

This ensures that the child understands the concepts being discussed and feels comfortable expressing themselves.

Simplify complex ideas, use visual aids, and incorporate storytelling or play therapy techniques to facilitate communication.

By adapting the counseling techniques to the child’s developmental level, the counselor can effectively connect and empathize with the child.

By building rapport through these strategies, counselors can create a foundation of trust and understanding with the child.

This not only enhances the effectiveness of the counseling session but also helps establish a positive therapeutic relationship.

It is essential for the counselor to prioritize the child's emotional well-being and create a supportive environment where they feel heard and valued.

Each child is unique, and it may take time for them to feel comfortable opening up.

Patience, empathy, and a child-centered approach are key to starting a counseling session on the right note.

Read More: How To Explain Counseling To A Gifted Child? Emotionally!

Assessing the Child’s Needs

When it comes to caring for children, it is essential to understand their individual needs and emotions.

By effectively assessing their needs, caregivers can provide the best support and guidance.

Here are two important strategies for assessing a child’s needs:

Using assessment tools to understand the child’s emotional state

One effective way to assess a child's emotional state is by utilizing assessment tools. 

These tools are designed to help caregivers gather information about the child’s emotions, behavior, and development.

They provide insights into areas such as the child’s communication skills, social interactions, and overall well-being.

These assessment tools can be administered in various formats, including questionnaires, interviews, and observations.

They offer a structured approach to gather relevant information from both the child and their caregivers.

By utilizing these tools, caregivers can gain a comprehensive understanding of the child’s emotional state and better tailor their care accordingly.

Listening actively and empathetically to their concerns

Actively listening to a child's concerns is crucial for understanding their needs. 

Children may not always express their emotions verbally, so it is essential for caregivers to pay attention to their non-verbal cues, body language, and tone of voice.

By actively engaging in conversations and demonstrating empathy, caregivers can create a safe space for children to express their emotions openly.

Empathy plays a vital role in assessing a child’s needs. It involves understanding and acknowledging their feelings without judgment.

Caregivers can demonstrate empathy by validating a child’s emotions, reassuring them, and offering support.

This empathetic approach helps build trust between the child and caregiver, making it easier to identify and address their unique needs.

By utilizing assessment tools and actively listening with empathy, caregivers can effectively assess the needs of children in their care.

This understanding allows them to provide appropriate support and guidance, promoting the child’s well-being and development.

Read More: Is Counseling Health Care Expense For Child Support?

Introducing the Counseling Process

When it comes to counseling with children, starting the session on the right note is crucial.

It sets the tone for the entire therapeutic process and helps the child feel comfortable and engaged.

Here are some key points to consider when starting a counseling session with a child.

Explaining the purpose and goals of counseling to the child

  • Use child-friendly language: It is important to communicate the purpose of counseling in a way that a child can understand. Use simple and age-appropriate language to explain that counseling is a safe space for them to talk about their feelings and work through any challenges they may be facing.
  • Emphasize confidentiality and trust: Assure the child that what they share during counseling will remain confidential unless there is a safety concern. Building trust is essential for the child to feel comfortable opening up and seeking support.
  • Discuss goals: Clearly outline the goals of counseling, such as helping the child develop coping skills, improving self-esteem, or managing emotions. Involve the child in setting their own goals to empower them and make the counseling process more collaborative.

Providing an overview of what to expect during the sessions

  • Discuss the structure of the sessions: Explain the length of each session, how often they will occur, and the importance of regular attendance. This will help the child feel a sense of routine and understand what to expect.
  • Describe the activities: Let the child know that counseling may involve talking, drawing, playing games, or engaging in other therapeutic activities. Reassure them that these activities are designed to help them express themselves and navigate their emotions effectively.
  • Address any concerns: Encourage the child to ask questions or share any concerns they may have about the counseling process. Addressing their worries and providing reassurance will help alleviate any anxiety or apprehension.

Starting a counseling session with a child in a clear and supportive manner lays the foundation for a successful therapeutic journey.

By explaining the purpose and goals of counseling and providing an overview of what to expect, the child can feel more at ease, ready to engage, and open to the healing process.

Read More: How To Open Up In Counseling Without Losing Child Custody?

Establishing Boundaries and Confidentiality

When starting a counseling session with a child, it is crucial to establish clear boundaries and ensure confidentiality.

By doing so, you create a safe and supportive environment for the child to express themselves.

Discussing the limits of confidentiality and child’s rights

It is important to explain to the child the limits of confidentiality. Let them know that while you will keep most things private, there may be times when you need to share information with others. 

This could include situations where they or someone else may be at risk of harm. Providing examples and assuring the child that you will always prioritize their safety will help build trust.

It is essential to discuss the child’s rights during the counseling process. Explain that they have the right to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment.

Let them know that their opinions are valued and that they have the right to ask questions and seek clarification during the session.

Emphasize that counseling is a collaborative process where their voice matters.

Creating a safe space for the child to share their thoughts and feelings

Creating a safe space for the child to share their thoughts and feelings is crucial for a successful counseling session. 

Here are a few strategies to establish this:

  • Show empathy: Begin by expressing empathy and understanding towards the child’s situation. Let them know that you are there to support them and create a non-judgmental environment.
  • Use age-appropriate language: Adapt your language and explanations to the child’s age and comprehension level. This will help them feel comfortable and engaged in the session.
  • Active listening: Demonstrate active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and using verbal cues to show that you are fully present and interested in what they have to say.
  • Encourage self-expression: Allow the child to express themselves freely and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings openly. Validate their emotions and provide reassurance that they are heard.

By establishing clear boundaries, discussing confidentiality, and creating a safe space for the child, you can ensure that the counseling session is effective and beneficial for their emotional well-being.

Utilizing Play and Art Therapy

When starting a counseling session with a child, it is important to use techniques that create a safe and comfortable environment for them to express their thoughts and feelings.

Play and art therapy are effective methods that can help facilitate communication and encourage the child to express themselves in a non-threatening way.

Incorporating play and art therapy techniques to facilitate communication

  • Establish rapport: Begin by building a connection with the child through active listening and empathy. This helps create a trusting relationship and encourages open communication.
  • Introduce play therapy tools: Use age-appropriate toys, games, and activities to engage the child and create a playful atmosphere. This allows them to express their thoughts and emotions through play, rather than directly discussing difficult topics.
  • Use art therapy: Provide art supplies such as paper, crayons, and markers. Encourage the child to express themselves through drawing, painting, or collage-making. This can provide insight into their feelings and experiences.

Encouraging the child to express themselves through creative outlets

  • Offer a variety of creative options: Give the child choices in how they express themselves, such as through drawing, sculpting, or storytelling. This allows them to find a method that feels most comfortable to them.
  • Emphasize the process, not the end result: Encourage the child to focus on the act of creating rather than the final product. This reduces pressure and allows for more authentic self-expression.
  • Validate and praise: Provide positive feedback and validation for the child’s creative efforts. This helps build their confidence and encourages them to continue using creative outlets to express themselves.

By incorporating play and art therapy techniques, counselors can create a safe and nurturing space for children to explore and express their emotions.

These methods help foster communication and support the child’s emotional well-being throughout the counseling process.

Addressing the Child’s Concerns

When a child is going through emotional or behavioral challenges, it is important to address their concerns through counseling.

By providing a safe and supportive environment, therapists can help children navigate their thoughts and emotions effectively.

Here are some key points to consider when addressing the child’s concerns:

Discussing specific issues the child wants to address in counseling

  • Active listening: It is crucial to listen attentively and empathetically when the child shares their concerns. This creates a sense of trust and validates their emotions.
  • Open communication: Encourage the child to express themselves freely, allowing them to talk openly about the specific issues they want to address in counseling. This can range from difficulties at school, problems with friends, or dealing with a challenging family situation.
  • Problem-solving: Collaborate with the child to identify possible solutions or coping strategies for their specific concerns. This helps empower them and provides a sense of control over their own situation.

Using age-appropriate strategies to explore their thoughts and emotions

  • Play therapy: For younger children, play therapy can be an effective method to explore and express their thoughts and emotions. It provides a non-threatening and comfortable way to process their concerns.
  • Art therapy: Creative activities such as drawing, painting, or collaging can help older children express their feelings and thoughts. It allows them to communicate in a visual and symbolic way, making it easier to explore complex emotions.
  • Talk therapy: For older children and teenagers, traditional talk therapy can be beneficial. Engage in conversations that explore their concerns deeply, allowing them to reflect on their thoughts and emotions.

Addressing the child’s concerns in counseling is essential for their emotional well-being.

By implementing age-appropriate strategies and creating a supportive environment, therapists can help children navigate their challenges and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Implementing Therapeutic Interventions

As a compassionate counselor or therapist, starting a counseling session with a child requires special attention and care. 

Establishing a safe and supportive environment is crucial for the child’s emotional well-being. Here are some key points to consider when starting a counseling session with a child.

Choosing appropriate interventions based on the child’s needs

  • Assessment: Begin by assessing the child’s individual needs, strengths, and challenges. This will help you determine which therapeutic interventions will be most effective in addressing their specific concerns.
  • Play therapy: Play therapy is often a valuable tool when working with children. Providing a variety of age-appropriate toys, art supplies, and other play materials can facilitate communication and expression.
  • Art therapy: For children who may struggle with verbal expression, art therapy can be a powerful intervention. Encouraging the child to create art, such as drawings or paintings, can help them explore and communicate their feelings.
  • Relaxation techniques: Teaching the child simple relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, can help them manage stress and anxiety during the session and in their daily lives.

Working collaboratively with the child to develop coping skills

  • Active listening: Show the child that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Practice active listening by using open-ended questions, reflecting their feelings, and restating their words to ensure understanding.
  • Empathy and validation: Validate the child’s emotions and experiences, letting them know that it’s okay to feel the way they do. Demonstrate empathy by acknowledging their struggles and providing support and encouragement.
  • Teaching coping skills: Collaborate with the child to develop age-appropriate coping skills. This can include teaching them strategies for managing stress, regulating their emotions, and problem-solving.
Building trust and rapport is essential when working with children. 

Always maintain a supportive and non-judgmental attitude throughout the counseling session to create a safe space for the child to open up and grow.

Ending the Counseling Session

Summarizing the session and reviewing progress

At the end of a counseling session with a child, it is important to take time to summarize the session and review the progress made. 

This helps reinforce the child’s understanding of what has been discussed and allows both the counselor and the child to reflect on the goals achieved and areas that may need further attention.

Here are some key steps to follow when ending a counseling session with a child:

  • Summarize the session: Begin by summarizing the main points discussed during the session. This helps the child consolidate their thoughts and ensures that everyone is on the same page. Use simple language and focus on the key themes or topics that were explored.
  • Highlight progress: Celebrate any progress made by the child since the last session. This could be improvements in behavior, increased understanding of emotions, or successful implementation of coping strategies. Recognizing progress boosts the child’s self-esteem and motivation to continue working on their concerns.
  • Set goals for the next session: Together with the child, identify specific goals or areas to focus on in the next session. This helps maintain a sense of direction and ensures continued progress. Encourage the child to share their thoughts and ideas on how they would like to address their concerns in future sessions.
  • Provide closure: End the session on a positive note by reinforcing the child’s strengths and their commitment to the counseling process. Remind the child that they can always reach out if they have any questions or need support between sessions.

By following these steps, counselors can effectively end a counseling session with a child, leaving the child feeling empowered and optimistic about the progress they have made.


Initiating a counseling session with a child requires a delicate balance of empathy, age-appropriate methods, and a non-judgmental environment.

By establishing trust, utilizing creative techniques, and prioritizing the child’s comfort, counselors can create a conducive space for therapeutic engagement.

Active listening and flexibility in approach are paramount, allowing the child to express themselves comfortably, fostering a more effective counseling experience.

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