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: parenting preschooler

6 challenging times with your young child according to Brazelton

Berry Brazelton is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus at Harvard Medical School as well as the founder of The Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Boston Children’s Hopsital.  He was awarded a Citizen’s Medal by President Obama.  He was also named a Living Legend by The Library of Congress.

Brazelton’s work emphasizes that there is no right or wrong way to parent.  Every baby, every child is different.  If one approach does not work, another can work.  ‘Learning to be your child’s parent is about having an experimental, trial-and-error mindset.’

The difficulty moments for parents are when children reach certain touchpoints.  According to Brazelton they are predictable developmental points, but parents typically think that there is something wrong with their child.  They get anxious, it might be in those moments that abuse becomes more likely.  They might think that there is something about their parenting that is not quite right.  They might get upset with their child.  It is here that the parents will need extra support.

According to Brazelton there are 6 touchpoints:

-Unexplained, end-of-day fussing that starts around 3 weeks.  This can be very difficult for parents as it is unexplained, and very hard to sooth.

-At 4 to 5 months, the child can focus the eyes much further from the breast which might make feeding more difficult, possibly leading to conflict between parent and child.

-Between 7 and 9 months the child start to point.  The parent can feel bossed around.  They can put crawl and put little objects in their mouths. 

-At age 9 the child start to read the parent’s nonverbal cues.  At this point the child start to test the limits. This can be a shock for parents.

-At age 2 there are the temper tantrums, the ‘terrible twos.’

-Then there is the toilet training which does not have to be a struggle, but often is, and can end up becoming a battle of control.

-At age 3 there is the ‘I want to do it myself’ issue.

All these touchpoints are moments where the parent can start ‘arguing’ with the child, but possibly also with the other parent, which complicates the situation. However, they are moments of growth for the child, and can also be moments of growth in the relationship with the parent. 

To set up an appointment you can reach An at (530) 321-2970


Learning about the world by creating your own world in art and play.

Before I started working as a psychotherapist, I worked with preschool age children in a small nursery school program that I had created.  I ran this little school l for about five years before opening my private practice.  One of the important things I was able to witness during my work with young children was the importance of play, and the typical high level of creativity, and natural creative exploration in young children.  You don’t have to teach a young child to play. You don’t have to teach them to be creative.  Children are naturally, deeply creative.


In a recent post, T. Goldstein states that 'any time a child does or learns something new they have to be creative in their own, small way. They have to come up with something original, which they’ve never done before, and something useful, which can be used to solve the problem they may be working on. Although this type of creativity may not be what we think of as being behind the great works of Picasso or Bach, the important connection between play and the arts cannot be overstated.'

It is easy for a young child to be creative before formal schooling, but it can be hard for children to keep that same sense of creative freedom once they’ve entered the classroom. Especially because of the current emphasis on curriculum standards.  This tends to lead to a certain rigidness of lessons and it deprives students of the best way of learning: through personal exploration and discovery.

This tendency has unfortunately entered early schooling as well.  Kindergarten is especially noted for moving away from child-directed activities and, 'disturbingly, towards high pressure teacher-led pedagogy.'  Goldstein mentions that 'engagement in the arts—which emphasizes personal ways of knowing, thinking about the self, and discovery—may be key to providing children with creative experiences.' 

In psychological and educational research on creativity, Goldstein states one often talks about different types of “Cs”: “Pro-C,” “Big C,” “Little-c,” and “mini-c.” “Pro-C” and “Big-C” are what we’re usually talking about when we use the word “creativity”—advances in the arts, engineering, or sciences with innovation and usefulness at the forefront. 

It is “Little-c” and “mini-c” that is critical to children’s growth, knowledge, and achievement. These can be thought of as the kinds of creativity children engage in when they’re discovering something new to them.  The process involved in this is foundational in later achievement and abilities.

How can we foster this capacity: One way is through engagement in pretend play and the arts. As children play they are creating a protected space for themselves to make mistakes and try out different emotions and social situations. Creating knowledge on your own is the best way to learn—children and adults alike will remember more, and know more deeply, material that they have taught to themselves over material explained to them. 

Sciences, math, and engineering do also require and engender creativity.  But at the elementary and middle school levels, much of the coursework in these topics is based on recreating knowledge that is already well established in those fields. 

The arts on the other hand demand creativity in the moment, constant trial and error, discovery, and mistakes. Goldstein mentions that 'in a detailed ethnographic analysis of high quality visual arts classes for adolescents, psychologists Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Kim Sheridan, and Shirley Veenema found that the key concepts being taught in arts classes—beyond learning how to hold a paintbrush or mold clay—were to stretch and explore thinking about materials and topics and to observe and reflect on how to engage in artistic work.'

It may be (and research is currently investigating this) that by learning these skills in an artistic way children will be better prepared for more traditional academic learning and creating their own knowledge. 

As parents we can make sure that our children can experience these kind of creativity engendering activities outside school life, which seem to be currently not feeding this need of children.

To schedule an appointment call An at Chico Center for Psychotherapy 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. 



An Bulkens    |    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist    |   MFC 52746

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