Counseling4Kids delivers healing and advocacy to at-risk children and families to improve the quality of life for all.
Counseling4Kids is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides effective mental health services to abused and neglected children and youth in the foster care system throughout Los Angeles County, as possible. Over 75 licensed therapists provide in-home therapy to over 1,600 children per year. For 16 years, Counseling4Kids has impacted the lives of over 11,000 children, changing their future forever. Our services are funded by the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health.
Why We Are Unique
- Our therapists travel to the home of the child to provide therapy.
- This creates a more successful outcome because less missed appointments, ability to identify stressors in the home and ability to follow a child through multiple foster home placements.
- We only use licensed, experienced therapists trained in the unique, special needs of foster children.
A Child's Story- Alexandra
Written By: Jocelyn Clegg, MFT
Teresa* was at her wits end when she finally found about Counseling4Kids’ Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) Program. She had finally escaped an abusive relationship and was living at a homeless shelter with her two young children. Her daughter, Alexandra* was an “out of control” 4 year-old that experts would describe as “unregulated.” Alexandra would fly into tantrums without warning, run around without heed to parental instructions, shrieked and made loud noises, cried easily and was aggressive with her baby brother. Teresa needed help and Counseling4Kids PCIT program gave her the hope she needed.
The PCIT program offers an opportunity for parents who struggle with young children who have excessive aggression, disobedience, defiance, and temper tantrums to learn effective parenting techniques to reduce these behaviors and improve the parent-child relationship. In a special room that has a one-way mirror separating it, a therapist will sit on one side behind the one-way mirror while the parent and child sit on the other side in the play room and have a “special play time” with their child. The parent wears an “ear bug” audio device and listens to coaching from the PCIT therapist. This live coaching and guidance teaches parents how to respond to their children’s behaviors in the moment. This allows the parent to learn and practice skills such as giving praise to increase positive behaviors, giving commands which are likely to be followed and establishing consistent and predictable consequences for both positive and negative behaviors. PCIT has been proven to reduce the risk of child abuse and strengthen families.
Four year old, Alexandra had experienced so much chaos and upheaval in her young life and her behavior reflected this. Alexandra had witnessed repeated beatings of her mother by a boyfriend, as well as the destruction of household property when he was in a rage. Her behavior reflected the chaotic, unpredictable and unsafe environment which she had experienced. By coming to PCIT each week, Teresa was able to learn how to work with her daughter to improve her behavior. Concepts like Praise, Reflections and Behavioral Descriptions are used to help build a positive relationship. In a session where Teresa watched Alexandra play with the toys nicely the PCIT therapist would coach Teresa to repeat Alexandra’s words and describe her actions so that Alexandra knew her mother was interested. “I like how you’re playing with the doll so nicely. You are being very gentle with her.” As Alexandra experienced her mother’s full attention and praise when she was gentle, kept her hands to herself, played carefully with the toys, and kept her crayons on the paper, she became motivated to perform those behaviors more often. Praise reminds the child of their parent’s expectations, helps them feel proud of themselves and increases the likelihood that the child will remember that good feeling and repeat the behavior.
Reflection is the next step in the PCIT program. When parent repeats back what the child has just said to them, it lets the child know that their parent is listening, values what they have to say and approves of them. “You did draw a circle,” reminds the child that the caregiver is paying attention not just to their words but to their actions as well. It increases their self-esteem and decreases the likelihood that they will engage in negative attention seeking behaviors. Behavior Descriptions is another key skill – describing what the child is doing with their hands during their play. It reinforces to the child that the parent is paying attention to them and reminds the child that these are appropriate behaviors. The parent only describes acceptable behaviors and does not give any attention to negative behaviors. “You are building a tall tower with red and green block,” lets the child know the caregiver is present with them, approves of their play, reinforces color awareness and encourages the child to keep building and playing in an appropriate manner.
While the concepts may seem simple and logical, the outcomes are extraordinary and greatly improve relationships between child and parent. As Teresa saw the powerful impact her praise could have to encourage positive behaviors from Alexandra, she began to regain a feeling of control. By the time they moved into the phase of PCIT which teaches effective discipline, mother and daughter had developed a stronger bond. Teresa learned the value of consistency and calm enforcement of rules which had been lacking in the previous family environment. With each success, and with Alexandra improving each day, Teresa’s confidence grew. She continued to apply the skills taught by the PCIT therapist and began to view herself as a competent parent. With her mother more confidant and calm, Alexandra’s once chaotic and defiant behavior was replaced with the ability to listen, follow directions and turn to her mother for help when needed. They graduated from PCIT with a transformed relationship and a strong foundation for the future.
Counseling4Kids offers PCIT to families with young children, ages 2 ½ - 7, with behavioral problems. The caregivers or parents must be long-term, whether they are the biological parent, adoptive parents or permanent legal guardians, and they must be committed to improving their relationship with their child. Currently, the program is only available at our Burbank location but the agency is building a similar PCIT room in our Torrance location that will open in July 2014 to benefit children in the South Bay area and beyond.