Jennifer Stoakes, MA, LMHC - Counseling for children and parents
I wanted to share with you what my daughter said as we walked out of your office tonight: “Jennifer is the nicest person I have ever met.” Then she looks at me. "That is, people I have met that aren't related to me." Then she thinks for a minute. “Unless all humans are in some weird way related, she might be my 30th cousin or something. She is just so nice and so nice to talk to, I really like her.”

~ Parent of a 10-year-old girl
Benefits of Therapy for a Child

I assist children ages 3-13 and their parents in restoring a healthy
developmental path and stronger, more resilient relationships.

Here are three important questions when considering therapy for your child:

When would a child benefit from therapy?

What is a child's experience in therapy?

How are parents involved?

When would a child benefit from therapy?

Knowing when a child might benefit from therapy is sometimes obvious (possibly a death in the family, thoughts of harming themselves or others, behaviors that keep them from enjoying life). Sometimes it is not so obvious (perhaps a lack of enthusiasm for once loved activities, a "phase" that seems to go on too long, the family making accommodations for one child's discomfort).

Some of the children I have worked with have experienced:

  • A hard time focusing (even on fun activities)
  • Difficulty separating from parents to enjoy age-appropriate activities
  • A hard time making friends
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety (sometimes panic attacks)
  • Worrying thoughts they can't stop
  • Body image struggles
  • Depression
  • New family members
  • A need for more effective social skills
  • Divorce or family separation
  • A parent's illness and/or death
  • The death of a loved one
  • A major move (new house, school)
  • Problems controlling bowel and/or bladder
  • Problems controlling anger or other emotions
  • Adoption
  • Ongoing conflicts with important adults (parents, family, teachers)
  • Thoughts of hurting themselves or someone else
  • Self harm such as cutting their own bodies
  • Trouble adjusting to a new parenting plan
  • Lack of compassion for others

Sometimes parents seek my help because their doctor or a teacher has suggested doing so. At times they call because they are at the end of their rope and need new resources. Other times they call because a problem they thought had been resolved has resurfaced (often when something new is happening).  Back to top

What is a child's experience in therapy?

When a child walks into my office they will see lots of games, toys, and art supplies. There is a tray full of sand and shelves full of miniature figures of animals, people, vehicles, trees and many other things they can use to create "sand pictures". All of these games and toys will become their tools in a process of healing.

As a play therapist, my job is to learn what stories a child has created while making sense of their world and experiences. These stories get revealed in their play and in our interactions. My training allows me to help create a safe space for these stories to be told. As these stories become present I guide them in finding healthier ways to view the world and themselves while integrating potentially painful experiences and thoughts.

We all have a built in drive toward health and vitality. A child is accessing that drive when they create an understanding about their world; why mommy and daddy got divorced, how come I got hurt by my uncle, what can I do when I feel so scared I can't move, what could I have done that might have changed things.

In addition to the more overt stories, children create stories sometimes even they don't even know about. This is when we can see mysterious symptoms such as: inability to control their bowel or bladder, excessive hand washing or other "rituals", an urge toward self harm in order to feel better, or an overwhelming feeling of being unsafe in a very safe environment.

To a child, particularly the younger ones, they will see our time as play time. Older children will experience time with me as time to talk while we might play a board game or draw together. Most children look forward to our time together. They will know from the beginning that everything they do and say during our time stays in the room and with me, unless they tell me someone is getting hurt or about to get hurt. This is their safe space.  Back to top

How are parents involved?

What a child is able to gain from therapy is enhanced and guided by parental involvement. This happens from the moment they first think about counseling for their child to finding a therapist and getting them to appointments. Since I work closely with parent(s), I like to schedule at least 2 sessions with them before I meet their child. This allows us, parent(s) and me, to form a relationship. It gives time for questions and for me to begin to understand the nature and history of their concerns. It also gives me the opportunity to get acquainted with a family's values and styles of communication.

I typically recommend one session (50 minutes) per week with a child and one session (50 minutes) per month with their parent(s). At times I may suggest another schedule based on individual needs.  Back to top

2711 E. Madison St. #215 Seattle, WA 98112