Sol’s coun­selling role helps kids set­tle in

Waipa Post - - News - BY BETHANY ROLSTON www.cam­bridgelifeskills.co.nz

A golden labrador is help­ing Cam­bridge chil­dren con­quer ‘the black dog’ of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

Three-year-old dog Sol — named af­ter the sun — is owned by coun­sel­lor-in-train­ing Sarah Court.

Sarah is in­tern­ing at Cam­bridge Lifeskills, an agency that of­fers free coun­selling to chil­dren.

Sarah of­ten takes her easy­go­ing pooch along to her coun­selling ses­sions.

“Some­times a child can be ner­vous en­ter­ing their first coun­selling ses­sion, but then they see this big friendly yel­low dog and they start to re­lax.”

Sol is won­der­ful with chil­dren, Sarah says.

“He is very ob­ser­vant and aware of peo­ple’s emo­tions. I of­ten find he’ll try to com­fort a child if they are up­set.

“The child can give Sol a big hug. He’s just a big softy and so gen­tle.”

Around 60 Cam­bridge chil­dren, aged 5 to 15, have weekly coun­selling from Cam­bridge Lifeskills coun­sel­lors.

The agency has nine coun­sel­lors who see chil­dren at 13 schools in the Cam­bridge area.

Cam­bridge — just like ev­ery other town — has plenty of is­sues, says the agency’s man­ager, Sandy Wes­ford.

“Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, ne­glect, anx­i­ety, friend­ship trou­bles — it’s all hap­pen­ing in Cam­bridge.”

And chil­dren don’t al­ways have the skills to deal with those is­sues.

“If we can work with chil­dren when they are young and early in the sit­u­a­tion, we can help them learn the skills they need to deal with life,” Sandy says.

Any­one can re­fer a child to the agency — a teacher, par­ent or even chil­dren can re­fer them­selves via the Lifeskills web­site.

Cam­bridge Lifeskills is at full ca­pac­ity. The agency’s board aims to have no chil­dren on the wait­ing list.

And with the pop­u­la­tion of Waipa¯ grow­ing, the agency is only get­ting busier.

The most com­mon is­sue chil­dren are deal­ing with at the mo­ment is anx­i­ety, Sandy says.

A child might also need coun­selling fol­low­ing their par­ents sep­a­rat­ing, bul­ly­ing, or the death of a fam­ily mem­ber.

Coun­selling a child is a spe­cialised process, Sandy says.

“Par­ents and care­givers are val­ued and very much part of the process.

“We use a lot of work­sheets and toys and teach kids about un­der­stand­ing and manag­ing their emo­tions. At times this in­cludes breath­ing and mind­ful­ness.”

But at the end of the day it’s all about lis­ten­ing to the child and at times ad­vo­cat­ing for them, Sandy says.

“If you sit down and re­ally listen, they will start to talk.”

Sandy says men­tal health is just as im­por­tant as other, more vis­i­ble forms of health.

“If your child needs glasses, you take them to the op­tometrist. If they are sick you take them to the doc­tor. It’s the same with men­tal health — your child might need help from pro­fes­sion­als if they are strug­gling with their emo­tions.”

Cam­bridge Lifeskills launched in 1992 with the pur­pose to im­prove the men­tal health of Cam­bridge youth.

It has since helped thou­sands of chil­dren.

When it first launched it was like the am­bu­lance at the bot­tom of the cliff, Sandy says.

“We’ve steadily worked our way up the cliff — but that’s taken 25 years.

“And we be­lieve we’re fi­nally at the top of the cliff now.”

TC290518BRSOL

COUN­SEL­LOR Sarah Court with 3-year-old labrador Sol.

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