Counseling Centre

Our school counsellor Mrs M. Philipson is an experienced counsellor and educator who has worked at Gateway Primary School since January 1992. She trained at the Harare Christian Counselling Centre in Advanced Adult counselling and Child Counselling using Play Therapy.

Children can be referred to her by parents or teachers, but if students feel they need to see the counsellor they can pop a form/letter into the counsellor’s letterbox to make an appointment. “Play Therapy” is used in the counselling room and this enables the children to express and deal with their emotions and issues in a relaxed, confidential environment.

If parents and children both need counselling at the same time, we recommend that parents pursue counselling at the Harare Christian Counselling Centre, while the pupil is counselled by Mrs Philipson.

The counsellor also runs “KIDS GRIEF GROUPS” which are support groups for any children form Grade 3- 7 who have experienced grief and loss – death, divorce, friends emigrating, loss of a pet, loss of health etc.

Mrs M. Philipson
Contact: 0783 578 943

Play Therapy - PLAY is children’s Language, TOYS are their words.  As a play therapist we are trained to develop a warm and friendly relationship of TRUST and CONFIDENTIALITY with the children (What you say in here stays in here! Exceptions – Someone is hurting you; You want to hurt someone; You want to hurt yourself). We create a safe place where children can feel accepted and free to express their feelings, where they decide what and how they will play…as long as they don’t hurt themselves, the counsellor or property) – this choosing empowers them and gives them a feeling of control when their world seems out of control – it promotes self-responsibility and helps develop positive self-esteem.

To have one on one time with an adult who is impartial and accepts them exactly as they are, who listens and reflects what they are saying and feeling and helps them come up with their own solutions to issues and to develop their coping mechanisms brings about the change in them. Play therapy is not a quick fix – some children change slower than others –on average a child is seen for about eight 30-40 minute sessions on a regular basis.

Process – Initial interview with parents to build a picture of the child and their situation - (without child)

Basically when the child comes for their first appointment they are told that this is our special time together and that this room is not a classroom but a place where they can play with all the toys, games etc in many different ways. Usually the child, then look around the room and starts playing.

They may say something alongside their playing, they are in charge and are free to express themselves in anyway as long as they don’t hurt. Each child and situation is different – some come in confidently – others sheepishly or scared there may be something wrong with them or they are in trouble – by the second session they usually are relaxed and communicate freely with their play etc.

In subsequent sessions the child experiences and identifies their emotions, explore situations, act out troublesome issues, role play, relax and have fun. When the child shows progress and is more self-confident, and their behavioural and emotional functioning shows improvement then it becomes apparent that the play therapy needs to begin to come to an end. We talk together about this and plan for the last session so that the child is prepared for the termination.

I know that God is the healer and I am just one of the vessels He uses. Prayer and God’s Word the Bible, play a big part in the counselling process here at Gateway. What a privilege to be able to pray for, and with your children; and to share God’s Word with them. Quite often at the end of a session when we pray, a child will share a deep need in their life and this may indicate what is really troubling them.

IQ VERSUS EQ (An intelligence quotient (IQ) is a score derived from one of several standardized tests designed to assess intelligence.

An Emotional quotient (EQ) or emotional intelligence is a “person's ability to identify, evaluate, control and express emotions.” It helps us communicate with others, negotiate situations and develop clear thought patterns.

So, Emotional intelligence – plays a big part in how children cope with situations and circumstances in their lives.

These are Daniel Goleman’s five components of emotional intelligence. You can see how each of these elements would contribute to an individual's personal success and sense of well-being etc.

  • Self-awareness. Knowing our own emotions.
  • Self-regulation. Being able to regulate and control how we react to our emotions.
  • Internal motivation. Having a sense of what’s important in life.
  • Understanding the emotions of others.
  • Social skills. Being able to build social connections.

As parents/teachers, when we don’t have a healthy way of handling emotions ourselves, we have trouble teaching our children to handle theirs. That is why the change starts with us. Fortunately, all five components of emotional intelligence can be taught and learned at any age. There are many tools and techniques that can help us and our children start to identify and understand the emotions of ourselves and others.

  1. Accept our children’s emotions and emotional responses ‘That must have been really frustrating’. You look sad.
  2. Help them label their emotions. ‘You sound upset’, ‘you look really down’,
  3. Encourage children to talk about their feelings (boys prefer to talk about what it is “like”) ‘How did that make you feel? What was that like for you?
  4. Help them to recognise cues as to how other people may be feeling (Empathy building) – body language ‘How do you think that made him feel?’ ‘What do you think was going on for her?’ ‘How would you feel if that happened to you?’
  5. Help children be aware when their tension is building and what creates stress for them. ‘Are you finding this stressful?’ How is your body telling you that you are stressed? ‘ ‘I can see from the way you are clenching your jaw that you are feeling angry’
  6. Teach them how to calm themselves down. Let’s take time to calm down. ‘This is how we do deep breathing’. “ So when that happens again and you feel angry etc you could you say to yourself: ‘I can stay calm’ and you can do some deep breathing‘
  7. Teach children alternative ways of expressing their frustrations safely ‘Let’s think of how you can express your feelings without hurting yourself, others or things – deep breathes, counting, squeeze fists etc. ‘What do you think you will do next time you feel like that?’
  8. Teach them how to problem solve ‘Let’s write down a list of things that could help, and then you can see what you think would work best. ‘What do you think would happen if you did that?’ ‘How do you think he’d respond to that?’
  9. Teach children positive self-talk “When you are feeling like that what could you say to yourself? ‘I can handle this’. Bible verses like I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me-Philippians 4:13 ‘I just need to do my best’
  10. Recognise what motivates them to perform at their best ‘What do you think you could say at the start of the day that would help you feel more positive?’ Attitude of Gratitude – 3 things thankful for. ‘I like the way you have planned everything you need to revise for your exam.’
  11. Teach each children to listen and talk in ways that enables them to resolve conflicts and negotiate win-win solutions.


  1. What is the problem?
  2. What feelings do you have?
  3. What can be done about it?
  4. What do we both agree on?
  5. Did we apologize and ask for forgiveness?
  6. Did we pray together about it?

Teach them COMMUNICATION SKILLS ‘I messages’ rather than ‘you’ messages. Don’t say ‘you never or you always”

  1. Comment when our children show self-control etc ‘I like the way you stayed calm when he was raising his voice -That showed a lot of self-control’. You really stayed calm when you were doing that puzzle, even when you couldn’t find the right piece –you just kept on trying.
  2. Talk about our own feelings/ what it is like for you ‘I feel so frustrated when I start to say something and I get interrupted’ ; ‘I love it when I come home to a tidy kitchen’; ‘I’m feeling a bit low…I think I need to chat with Auntie Louise’.
  3. Model how to remain calm and in control when we are angry ‘I’ve had a rough day at work – can we talk about this later when I’ve had a chance to cool off?’

Starting from Grade 1 Emotional Intelligence is being encouraged in our Life Skills Lessons at Gateway.

The children are being taught about their different feelings – positive and negative feelings (not just happy and sad -worry, fear, jealousy anger disappointed, excited, content, stressed) and appropriate expression of them, listening skills, problem solving skills, teasing and bullying issues, kindness, empathy, choices and consequences, self-control, persevering, discernment, body safety, loss and grief, and so much more.

An issue we tend to find nowadays with children, is that they don’t feel that they always have someone who has time to listen, to understand in this busy world of ours, our extended families are also scattered. The children often don’t want to cause more pain to parents eg. They see their parents hurting through a divorce so they try not to show their feelings and concerns, or they may feel embarrassed or scared about a situation eg. Viewed pornography.


We need to build relationships as families and spend time together communicating and interacting. Some suggestions to do this are - have our meals at a dining room table where we can be together and informally interact and chat, play board/card games together, get out into nature and enjoy God’s creation together etc.

Please can I encourage you to turn off your phones etc. and enjoy quality Family Time on a regular basis.