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Child and Family Counselling Services

About the Services

The ECC Child and Family Therapists are professionals who are knowledgeable about child and youth development, mental health, trauma, behavior management, parenting practises and child and family relationships. Child and Family Therapists are trained and skilled in a number of counselling methods that are based on or informed by research and evidence.


The ECC provides counselling services to children/youth  and their families living, working or going to school in West Toronto and where there is an identified child and youth mental health problem. Some counselling services are  available for youth up to 16 years of age. A child or youth over the age of 11 may seek counselling without parental or legal guardian approval. If parents or legal guardians have a joint custody arrangement, The ECC requires permission from the other joint custody parent/legal guardian to provide mental health counselling. The ECC does not provide custody or access assessments and does not provide service for the purpose of court proceedings.

Common Presenting Issues

Child and Family Counselling Services  are helpful to those children/youth and families where the child/youth has social, relationship, emotional, behavioural, thinking or other  psychological difficulties and which get in the way of their daily lives or development. These difficulties may include:

  • Angry or confusing thoughts or behavior

  • Anxiety

  • Attachment

  • Attention

  • Activity levels

  • Communication difficulties

  • Depression

  • Development problems

  • Difficulty with persons in authority

  • Expressing themselves individually or in a group

  • Getting along with adults and/or friends

  • Grief and loss

  • Impulsiveness

  • Learning difficulties or academic problems

  • Listening to or following direction or instruction

  • Opposition/defiance

  • Sadness

  • Shyness

  • Thoughts of harm to self or others

  • Worries that won’t go away

These are some examples of the issues that our clients talk about when they seek counselling. If the child or youth is struggling with issues, that affects their day-to-day life, and the problem(s) is/are long standing or more extensive or in a number of areas, then counselling may be helpful. 

Child and Family Counselling can also be helpful for those families whose child may have other issues that are not necessarily mental health issues, but that are affecting  the  well- being  or mental health of family members.

If your child/youth has issues or challenges

  • that are impacting on your family’s well-being and mental health and/or

  • is already receiving service in any of our other programs (e.g. Autism programs or in our Every Child Belongs program)  and

You wish to access, explore or receive counselling services please speak to your Service Provider or contact the Intake Coordinator.  

Typical Timeline

How do I/we access Child and Family Counselling Services?

Child and Family Counselling Services are accessed through the Community Consultation and Counselling Services Intake Coordinator and generally begin with an intake interview followed by a Single Session Consultation. You may also access Child and Family Counselling Services through our Walk-In Clinic.

How long are counselling appointment, how often counselling occur and for how long will I/we be involved in counselling?

Counselling sessions are generally about one hour. The frequency and length of counselling services are discussed and negotiated based on clients’ needs. Typically, counselling is weekly in the beginning and then as progress continues, is reduced to every other week or once a month. If service is required for longer than six months, then progress is reviewed and a new service plan may be negotiated. A projected service completion date is discussed at the initial Service Planning meeting.

Up to a year after service is complete, The ECC clients may call their therapist directly for consultation or further services.

Where do Child and Family Counselling services take place?

The location of our Child and Family Counselling services is negotiated with clients. Counselling may take place in one of our two locations, in an agreed upon community location, or in the client’s home.

What happens in Child and Family Counselling?


Once a client begins active ongoing service, the Therapist will engage the child, youth and family to understand their needs and concerns. Typically, the Therapist begins by meeting with parent(s), the child/youth and relevant family members to get an understanding of the concerns, what might be contributing to the problem or what could contribute to a solution. This is called an Assessment.

The assessment includes the views of the parent, child/youth and other family members. The Therapist may request to meet the family all together or with different members individually or in groups. The Therapist will also seek an understanding of the child/youth/family strengths and supports that can help to improve the situation. Sometimes, other service providers (e.g. teachers, doctors, etc.) are already involved with the child/youth, and with informed consent, their views are also included in the assessment.

Service Planning

After the assessment process is, complete (about four to six sessions), the therapist will arrange a convenient time for a Service Planning meeting with the child/youth/parent(s) to review the information and their observations and provide recommendations. Sometimes, the Therapist may invite other team members (e.g. a supervisor, another ECC professional or another service provider) to participate in the meeting to provide their perspective. The purpose of the Service Planning meeting is to come to a consensus about the assessment, recommendations, service decisions, goals and length of service. Once active service is begun, the service provided will be reviewed again within six months (if service is still being received) and clients are involved in the review and discharge process. Clients may request a review of their service at any time. Client participation is very important and service decisions are not made without the client’s agreement. 

Counselling Services

Family Therapy

The ECC believes that children and youth need the support of their parents/caregivers, family and/or those with whom they a significant relationship in order for things to improve. Children’s mental health is affected by individual factors including their birth history, trauma, and development as well as family circumstances such as the availability of parents/caregivers, support systems, changes in family circumstances, environmental influences, their experiences and vulnerabilities, etc. A child or youth’s mental health problem can affect family relationships /dynamics or family relationships/dynamics can affect a child’s mental health.  

Family sitting with a counsellor

For these reasons, and wherever possible and appropriate, the Child and Family Therapist often begins the process of counselling with the child/youth and their family (or those with whom they have a significant relationship).

Each child, youth and family has a unique background, history or culture that is important to who they are as individuals and family. They also have unique strengths, abilities and resources that are important to include in the counselling process. The therapist will explore a number of important child and family areas including the child’s vulnerabilities and skills, child and family relationships, the child’s school, community and peer relationships, communication, parenting practises and life events that may be meaningful, impactful or traumatic. The therapist will also explore those areas of the child’s life that are going well to make sure that these are present in their daily life.

Based on the assessment, the Child and Family Therapist will work with the child and family to improve agreed upon areas that will achieve the desired outcome.  This might include improving communication, developing stronger family relationships, talking about and resolving past events, taking responsibility for roles, changing ways of addressing problems, and improving behavior and practises.

Individual Child/Youth Therapy

Child and therapist

Individual child therapy is available for children/youth who are already clients of The ECC, and/or who have participated in, or are also receiving family therapy. Some children /youth respond to an individual  “talking” approach, others respond to a skill building approach that also includes how they think about themselves or a problem, while others respond to a less direct approach  such as play or art therapy. The approach is determined based on an assessment of the problem as well as what works best for the individual child/youth. As with any counselling, the discussion between the child/youth is confidential unless there is agreement to share the information or there is a risk of harm to self or someone else.

Intensive Child and Family Services (ICFS)

ICFS services are available to clients who are already in service with The ECC or are involved with another community service provider and there are complex  and/or long standing mental health issues affecting the child, youth or family. Parent skill  building is often a component of this service and parent involvement and participation in planning  is very important.  

ICFS services are offered in the client’s home or community and sessions may be longer  or occur more frequently than is generally available through Child and Family counselling. This service can be offered to clients for a maximum of 10 weeks. At the end of ICFS, a review of progress will be conducted.

The CARE program (Children at Risk for Entering Child welfare) is delivered by the ICFS staff. Referrals for the CARE program are made by the Child Welfare agency to the  Child and Family Counselling Intake Worker.

Group Services

Some issues can be addressed in a group setting specifically developed for a particular theme or persons with similar issues. Sometimes, children and/or parents who are struggling with a common issue (e.g. a parent /marital separation, bullying, a traumatic event) benefit from a group approach because they also hear about other’s experiences and with the help of a therapist, learn helpful strategies from each other and the Therapist.

Group services are identified once or twice a year and notice of these groups is made available either through the Child and Family Therapist, Service Coordinator, or through postings on The ECC website or pamphlets.

If there is a particular group service you are seeking, please contact The ECC Community Consultation and Counselling Intake Coordinator or check  with your service provide if  you are already involved in The ECC services.

Risks and Benefits

Possible Benefits:

  • Counselling gives children, youth and families the support and skills they need to achieve change.

  • Children, youth and families improve their communication, interaction, and relationships  and learn helpful methods of managing conflict, disagreement or worry.

  • Parent(s) develop new or more effective parenting and discipline methods.

  • Children/youth are better able to understand their feelings, manage their behaviour and increase their social skills.

  • Children/youth learn to communicate their needs more clearly and effectively.

  • Children/youth are better able to achieve their potential at daycare or school.

  • Children, youth and families are better able to talk about difficult events or situations.

  • Parents are able to advocate more effectively on their child’s/youth’s behalf.

  • Children/youth are better able to advocate for themselves.

  • Specialized assessments may identify issues, strengths and strategies that lead to solutions for important issues.

Possible Risks:

  • Counselling is likely to explore individual and family issues or past events that feel private, painful, and/or are worrisome. Family members may discuss things that are upsetting and this may trigger unwelcome or unexpected reactions.

  • There may be feelings of shame or embarrassment about revealing or discussing problems.

  • Conflict or behaviour may temporarily worsen when difficult issues are addressed.

  • Change may feel too difficult or not fast enough.

  • The commitment to participating in counselling may be hard to keep, and may not feel that it is worth the time and/or effort.

  • There may be uncomfortable discussions about parenting practices and discipline methods. Some parents may find it hard to change their practices or approach.

  • Children/youth sometimes argue with their parents about coming to counselling or try to reject it completely. Children/youth may feel embarrassed, think they are "bad," or may not agree to discuss things/events that are difficult. It is important to understand and address children’s concerns early in counselling.

  • Child Welfare may need to become involved if there is suspected abuse.

If this information applies to you, your child, and/or family, visit our page on how to get started. 


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The Etobicoke Children’s Centre

65 Hartsdale Drive,
Etobicoke, ON M9R 2S8

200 Ronson Dr., (4th floor)
Etobicoke, ON M9W 5Z9

Tel: (416) 240-1111
Fax: (416) 240-7999
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