Chico Center for Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy and Counseling services for Children & Adults | Support for Parents


Chico therapist An Bulkens, LMFT is psychotherapist and counselor in Chico, California.  An Bulkens specializes in psychotherapy and counseling for young children  (toddlers, preschoolers, adolescents) and support for parents, with a special emphasis on  early childhood psychotherapy, and counseling  for preschoolers and Kindergarten aged child.  She also offers parenting skills support. She offers psychoanalytic psychotherapy for adults.  Her approach is grounded in  Lacanian Psychoanalysis. She was also trained as a clinical psychologist in Europe, Belgium.  Her education emphasized developmental psychology and psychoanalytic therapy. 

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Adolescents and Psychotherapy

Parents often call me with the request to see their adolescent child who they feel is not doing well, and needs therapy. The parents often have a clear idea of what the psychotherapy needs to fix. Adolescents might have certain ideas about psychotherapy as well which might make them a bit reticent. Not in the least the fact that they might see the therapist as 'on the same side' as their parents. They might feel that the therapist is also there to 'fix' them, as if there is something wrong with them.  This along with a common characteristic of many therapists that they 'want to help,' might be that the therapy with the adolescent gets off to a bad start. 

As a therapist it is important to create initially a space where the adolescent can formulate his or her own demand for therapy. I typically ask adolescents to commit to six sessions so that they can explore whether they want to come in for themselves, not because the therapist or the parents think that they need it. Often parents feel uncomfortable with this, they feel that they have to make the adolescent go to therapy. However, therapy is something that cannot be forced on anyone.

In case the adolescent does not want to come in, it might still be possible to work with the parents to explore how they can help their adolescent. At times I meet regularly with the parents, and the adolescent knows that he or she is welcome to join whenever he or she is ready. Even, if they do not join, often the fact that they know their parents go and talk about them can help them.

To schedule an appointment call us at (530) 321-2970


I love you rituals

When parents come to consult a psychotherapist or counselor to help them handle their children they are often at a point where they feel that parenting has become a hassle where rewards are few and far in between. They experience their children as insisting with requests, that never seem to be satisfied, and which once satisfied, just seem to create more of them; and they resents themselves having to nag, repeat themselves without being listened to. 

It boils down to the following points: neither child nor parent feels 'listened' to by the other, the tendency to take a child's requests at face value, the tendency to focus on the behavior by reacting to it, vs responding what might be behind the behavior or the child's request. A child can ask for a cookie, but might just want to spend some time with you. Requests that insist might be just ways of the child to engage the parent.

It can be hard to tackle all these issues at the same time, but the Child Centered Activity which I mentioned in an earlier post is a great starting point. It will introduce some time to just be in eachother's company and where you can reflect on your child and on yourself just being in the presence of your child. It seems easy, but it can bring about some strong affects. As I mentioned before, just spending a little bit of time like this every day can bring about a major change in how your child will engage with you. The child is typically very appreciative of this kind of time spent together.

As a preschool teacher I have also experienced that introducing little pleasurable one on one interactions with your child can do wonders. They can also make transitions which can be sometimes hard for a child a lot easier. Nursery rhymes and songs are key here. I would refer you to a book by Becky Bailey, 'I love you rituals.' It has a lot of nursery rhymes and little fun games to play with your young child.  Sometimes she has cleaned up the original nursery rhyme which she felt was too violent or not as loving enough, with more loving words. Becky will not let the cradle fall down with baby and all. I disagree with her on this. Working as a therapist with young children, I know that the inner world of the young child is not as idyllic as we adults like to believe it. I think it is actually a nice message to have a nursery rhyme that might be somewhat violent in content, but where the violence is tempered by the rythmic, loving, playful tone of the parent.  It sends the message that we do not have to be afraid of those cruel, and aggressive ideas that might sometimes pop in our heads. It sends the message that we can handle them, we can play with them. In Becky Bailey's approach it seems that this darker side is unnecessarily locked out. 



The terrible two's: How to handle your child's loud and clear 'NO!'

It can be a shock for a parent, when their sweet and loving baby suddenly turns against them with this loud and clear no. Sometimes parents experience it as a rejection, a withdrawing of the child's love. And understanding it this way can lead to a cascade of misunderstandings between parent and child, and to a souring of the relationship.

However, this NO is indicative of a very important shift in the child's position: from being a baby who could not conceive of anything other than doing what the parent wants, towards becoming his or her own person! This is a moment to be celebrated. As Dolto points out: The child says 'no,' to be able to do 'yes.'   What does this mean?  That the child says no, 'because you ask me, and I do not want to do whatever you ask me, as I am my own person'.  However, the child immediately follows up with a yes, 'but I want to do it for me, because I am a becoming a big boy, or a big girl, and I want to do things on my own, for me.' 

If the parent understands this, these ‘two's’ do not have to be so terrible. Typically, when the parent does not insist, or refers to another adult of importance for the child as making the same request, the child will eventually do it. The child will do it not to please the mother or father, but to become his own person, and not just a 'child' that is commanded like a pet, or a little kid. 

If the parent reads this no as a rejection, but as a positive intention of the child moving towards developing his own personality, separated from the parent, the child might feel that the parent is needing him or her to stay this parental extension. The child might get the message that he is there only for the sake of pleasing the mother, satisfying her needs, but is not respected in his or her own desires. If a third element or person does not intervene to bring about this separation between the parent and the child, it might be the beginning of difficulties for the child, and for the parent – child relationship.  The child might move back and forth between compliance and revolt and opposition. But stuck in this dynamic the child stays stuck to the parent in what can sometimes become an infernal dynamic for all parties involved. In that case therapy might help both parent and child to help bring about the separation that has not had a chance to occur. It is precisely this separation, (which indeed will imply  a certain loss), that will make a connection possible between parent and child.  A connection that will be much more pleasurable than the infernal dynamic of opposition and reconciliation.

To schedule an appointment call An at (530) 321-2970


Reflective vs reactive parenting

This is an older but still interesting post on 'reflective' parenting from Psychology Today.  Reflective parenting helps parents to 'reflect' on the intentions, thoughts, desires, goals... that are motivating their children's behavior. A parenting approach that takes this reflective stance, rather than reacting to the behavior without considering what might be behind it, is proven to improve the parent-child relationship: it leads to an increased sense of connectedness between the parent and the child, and helps the child regulate his or her emotions and behaviors better.  In this approach it is not crucial that you come up with the right reason underlying your child's behavior. As the mind of another person, and also of your own child, will always remain to some extent opaque, this approach implies that it is not crucial to find the the exact right motivation of your child's behavior.  More important is to have the reflective, wondering stance towards your child's thoughts and intentions.  

An Bulkens    |    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist    |   MFC 52746

Tel. (530) 321- 2970    |   186 E 12th ST,  Chico, CA 95928