Training to be a Child and Adolescent Counsellor & Psychotherapist

At the moment Psychotherapists and Counsellors are required by their accrediting bodies, to work within their competences when taking on Children and Adolescents as clients.  However many people who are working with Children and Adolescents have had no formal training in this area.  Others may have trained as Play Therapists or as Art Therapists or may have done some CPD courses in this area. 

With new regulations coming in, and the possible requirements for professionals to have adequate training in specialised areas such as child & adolescent work, this training would be an important one for helping professionals to consider.  It is likely that when regulation is applied, that in order to work with children & adolescents, professionals will require a two year specialised training on top of basic training as a therapist.  There are many reasons why this requirement is necessary and I think one of the main ones is the different techniques required when working in this area.

We cannot counsel children or adolescents in the same way that we would counsel adults.  In order to engage children or adolescents to talk freely, we need to integrate other strategies along with our verbal counselling skills.  The use of Creative Therapies is one of the areas that can provide the opportunity for the child and adolescent to express themselves in a safe way when engaging in the process of psychotherapy and counselling.   The use of Art, Play, and Story Telling provides a safe space and distance for children and adolescents to engage in issues that may be either too painful for them, or hard for them to articulate in the same way adults might.

Donald Winnicott one of the first pioneers to talk about the importance of play within the therapeutic relationship is one of the leading professionals in this area.  As adults we often forget how to play; play provides us with many opportunities to grow and develop in a healthy way.   Winnicott (Jacobs, 1995) believed that play provided us with the possibility of understanding the child in a deeper way and that play was the main method of communication for children.  Winnicott wanted the child to enjoy the experience while attending his clinic but also “to try and find meaning out of a game” ((1980: 175) cited Jacobs, 1995)

“Play is child’s language and toys are the child’s words.” (Landreth , 1991)

The Certificate Course introduces students to Therapeutic Play Skills over the course of 4 modules and a 4 day summer school.  On this course, we look at understanding the historical input into working with children and adolescents and the importance of Therapeutic Play, incorporating all the creative mediums such as Art Therapy, Therapeutic Play Skills, Music Therapy, Drama & Puppet Therapy, Sandplay and Story Telling.  We also look at building the Therapeutic Relationship with the Child and or Adolescent and working with Parents.  During the Certificate Course we also study Lifespan development as this is an important aspect of understanding the stage that the child may be at and the expectations or demands of that child when they come for therapy.  The Certificate comes to a close with a 4 day summer school integrating all the learning on the course, and also giving an opportunity to have a very personal experience of all the different creative therapies that have been introduced on the course.

The Certificate Course also requires that students get a placement in order to have first-hand experience of what it is like to work with children and adolescents.  Students are required to have an external supervisor.  However,  group supervision is also provided on the course to ensure that students can avail of support from all the different experiences on the course; including  tutors, lecturers and other students on the course.

The Diploma Course has a similar structure to the Certificate, with 4 Modules and a 4 day summer school.  The course has been designed to expand on the learning and experiences on the Certificate but also exploring in depth the theoretical input into working with children and adolescents.  We will also be looking at Mental Health Issues that present with Children and Adolescents and how we liaise with the Medical Profession when dealing with these issues.  We will also look at the area of Trauma and what best practice is in working with this particular issue.  Family Systems is an essential part of working with the child or adolescent as this can have a huge impact on a child’s quality of life; it is the first system that we learn about relationships and attachments and these experiences have a long-lasting impact on our experiences as adults.

Both courses focus on integrating creative skills with how you like to work as a psychotherapist and counsellor.  The course is also open to other professionals who would like to integrate these skills such as social workers, career guidance teachers, psychologists and any other professional who works with children and adolescents and wants a greater understanding in this area.

PCI College have just launched a new Postgraduate Diploma in Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy & Counselling.  This course has been designed by Anne Burke who has been Programme Leader for the Child & Adolescent Certificate which launched two years ago and has proven to be a very enjoyable and valuable course for students.  A Taster Day for the Postgraduate Certificate in Child and Adolescent Counselling & Psychotherapy will take place on Saturday 7th June to introduce students to the course.

Anne Burke
Programme Leader, Postgraduate Certificate & Diploma in Child and Adolescent Counselling & Psychotherapy

Anne Burke originally graduated from the Tivoli Institute with a Diploma in Psychotherapy/Counselling.  She went on to receive a BSc in Psychotherapy/Counselling from Middlesex University and was awarded an MSc in Psychotherapy Studies by the University of Sheffield in 2011.  Anne also holds a Diploma in Gestalt Therapy, has professional certificates in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Treatment of Sexual Addiction and is a fully accredited therapist with IACP, and IAHIP, a Practitioner of Therapeutic Play and is a fully accredited member of the Republic of Ireland Employee Assistance Professionals Association. Anne received her Diploma in Supervision from the Dublin Gestalt Centre and is an accredited IAHIP supervisor, offering supervision for psychotherapists at the centre, including students.
Anne has also completed further training in the area of Relationship Counselling, Suicide Intervention, Loss & Bereavement, Sexual Abuse, Bullying & Harassment, Self-Development & Assertiveness, Anxiety & Panic Attacks, Critical Incident & Stress Management, PTSD, Group facilitation and Expressive Arts Therapy.

Anne works with individuals, couples, adolescents & children and also runs Group Therapy and workshops from the Centre. She uses an existential-humanistic and integrative approach, which incorporates all the different therapies which she, has studied; psychodynamic, gestalt, cognitive behavioral therapy, person-centred, Expressive Arts Therapy and Play Therapy.  Anne is a Lecturer/Tutor at PCI College Dublin, teaching courses on the issues of Working with Suicide and Child & Adolescent Counselling & Psychotherapy. Anne is currently studying for a MSc in Child & Adolescent Art Psychotherapy with the Mater CAMHS & UCD.

Anne firmly believes that once people are given the right environment to address issues, they can explore and understand their difficulties in a new light, discover strengths within themselves to make any changes they may feel are appropriate, discover supports and resources that are open to them and also become more aware of their own potential and
ability to cope and empower themselves.


‘Counselling Children, A Practical Introduction’ Third Edition Kathryn Geldard & David Geldard

‘Counselling Adolescents: The Proactive Approach for Young People’ Kathryn Geldard & David Geldard

‘Effective Counselling with Young People’ Hazel Reid and Jane Westergaard

‘Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship’ Second Edition  Gary L. Landreth

Course Venues:   Athlone   |   Belfast   |   Carrick-on-Shannon   |   Cork   |   Dublin   |   Kilkenny   |   Limerick