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. 

Filtering by Tag: Parent consultation

Your child off to college? Left with an empty nest?

Did your child leave for college, and are you left with an 'empty nest?' Chances are that you do not feel 'empty' at all.  Chances are that you are handling the situation pretty well. In a comprehensive study about parents' well-being when children leave home, Genevieve Bouchard concludes that the consequences of children leaving the parents is relatively positive. Other studies also indicate that 'empty nest syndrome' is largely a myth.

That being said, it is a fact that interaction and activity patterns between parents and child have to be modified for the family to persist.  And that families have to adjust to the new situation. The system is being profoundly modified. 

Becky Scott in 'Life in the Empty Nest' gives the following advice:

1. There is no 'right' way to cope:

Just like with pretty much everything in parenting. Although parents would like to have the one right way to approach a problem, an issue with their children, there is not one right way.  Each family, each parent and child have to find a way that works for them.  There is no formula, but there is room for creativity.

2.  Communicate

With your child to come to an agreement about how often you will be in contact, with your spouse how you will fill your child free schedule.

3. Address and resolve conflicts immediately.

As both children and adults are adjusting into their new roles, it can be stressful for both parties.  The pain and conflict that can emerge during this time is not a new conflict, but typically something old. It might be the time to take a closer look at this.  I think of a mother whose very old feelings of abandonment were triggered.  Although she wanted her child to become independent, she was perceiving his striving for independence as an abandonment, a rejection.  The difficulty this woman was facing was how to find a balance between supporting her children and letting them learn on their own.

4. Finding balance between independence and connection

You want to support your child fostering interdependence.  His or her support system should include his family of origin, but also new friends, college... It might be hard to let go of being the only one or main one protecting and supporting your child.  

How do you think you might feel about your children leaving the house?

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


Your child's creativity and it's GPA.

Counseling centers at universities and colleges have been overflowing with emergency call.s  At one university it was stated that over the past 5 years emergency calls to the Counseling center had doubled.  Students are increasingly seeking help not just regarding issues like depression and anxiety, but regarding on the surface banal problems that seem to occur in everyday life.  An example was a person who felt traumatized because a roommate called her the B-word.  Or a student who called the counseling center because he saw a mouse.  Or even getting a B or a C can activate a student to call a therapist, as it is considered often as 'failure' are a reason to call the counseling center.  This current trend seems to indicate a decline in resilience among young adults. Colleges are struggling.  Traditionally their mission was to busy themselves with higher education, but the lack of resilience to address typical problems seems to demand that the university and professors also take on the role of substitute parents.  They wonder how much hand holding has to be done.

Peter Gray, the author of Free to Learn connects this decline in resilience with the dramatic decline in children's opportunities to play, explore, and pursue their own interests away from adults.  Among the consequences he states are well-documented increases in anxiety and depression, and decreases in the sense of control of their own lives.  This generation of children has not been given the opportunity to get into trouble, make mistakes and solve them.  Gray thinks that 'helicopter parenting' is at the core of the problem, but he makes clear to say that it is not the parents who are to blame.  We are living in a 'helicopter society.' He states that if we want  to counter these social forces, we have to give the children the freedom and practice to take responsibility for themselves. In the current society, children and parents alike are victims of the increased power of the school system and a schooling mentality that says that kids develop best when carefully guided and supervised by adults.  

We could see in everyday life and my practice with children and their parents that this plays out in the attitude towards grades. Often anything under an A is considered inadequate.  The focus on GPA becomes so central, as it is taken as the indication of future success or failure. What controlled research studies are currently discovering is that there is either no correlation, or even an inverse relation between GPA and Innovative orientation or creativity.  A study at NYU found that there was an inverse relation between students' reported GPA and their orientation towards creative or innovative work. One of the possible explanations was that possibly students with propensities toward innovation are less concerned with grading systems that rely on memorization.  Or, college going students with innovation intentions may be more likely to approach their education as a means to discover new ideas, wanting more out of the experience than a series of external valuations. 

So, in today's helicopter society it is harder for students to build upon their natural curiosity and creativity. As parents, it might be our task to not fall in the helicopter trap, and leave the door open for growth towards independence, and leave room for creative exploring of interests, rather than focus too strictly on GPA.

You can contact An at (530) 321-2970/




Which child needs therapy?

When parents come to consult for a child, it can take some time to determine who is suffering, who wants help: the parents or the child. And sometimes when they consult for a child, it is not always for the child that is suffering most.

This shows in this summary of a chapter from the book by Catherine Matelin: 'Lacanian psychotherapy with children: The broken Piano.'

The parents of Aurore and Christine came to see CM with their two daughters. Aurore was beautiful, tall, blonde, smiling a fairy-tale princess who resembled her name. She was 7 years old. Christine, age 5, was dark and quite small, she seemed shy and more retiring. When CM asked the parents which girl had the appointment they seemed amused: 'Christine, of course.' 

CM asked the parents, once in the consulting room why they were so surprised, when she asked who had the appointment. The parents responded they thought she would have noticed right away: Aurore is self-assured, joyful. She feels good about herself. People are always worried about Christine. Christine is small, reserved. Yes, she has friends, does well in school, she likes to work. But she is very quite. Aurore is always talking, center stage. She seems overwhelmed by her older sister. 

When CM talked to Christine, she seemed not to be suffering. She was talking perfectly well, expressing that she does not always likes to talk so much, and prefers to read her books. play the piano... The parents seemed to be on the lookout for symptoms, but CM could not see what their concern was. Christine did not seem to want help, and CM invited the parents to come back and talk as it seemed that they wanted help. Perhaps it was not Christine, but something else that was on their mind.

In the meantime in the waiting room Aurore had torn out a piece of paper from the notebook in her schoolbag and drawn a picture. When she saw CM come in she rushed over to CM and gave her the drawing. Something in the urgency of the little girl made her feel that she had to listen to her. It was the sort of picture all 7-year-old girls draw: flowers, a sun, a beautiful princess with a carefully decorated gown full of sparkling jewels, gray clouds, a blue sky. 

Among the sprinkling of flowers were a few small red mushrooms that attracted CM's attention, and she asked her about them:

CM: Oh, that kind of odd, so many mushrooms...

Aurore: Yes, the are poisonous, you know, deadly mushrooms.

And the gray clouds up there?

Aurore (smiling): Yes, those are toxic fumes that kill people when it rains. 

CM: And these hills on which you planted the flowers?

Aurore: (still smiling) These are the lairs of the living dead. They come at night to cut people's throats and suck their blood; sometimes they smother them.

CM: And the princess? Is she in danger?

Aurore: The princess is the one who orders the other ones to kill. So she is afraid that they will come and take revenge.

The parents looked stunned: 'Aurore, how can a nice girl like you say such horrible things?' 

CM noticed that Aurore had written on the other side of the paper S.O.S.

The parents were correct in feeling that they needed a consultation, only they didn't know for whom they had come. It is often found that a family's demand on behalf of one child actually concerns another.  The guilt that was devouring A and her parents could be spoken of only through their 'victim,' who was bearing up quite well. It is not always the preferred child in a family who is in the better position. 


An Bulkens    |    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist    |   MFC 52746

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