Connect with your Child: Aaron Greenwell’s Approach to Child Counseling: Ep. 23
- Episode Topic
In this episode of Mastering Counseling, we explore the dynamic world of therapy through the eyes of Aaron Greenwell, a limited licensed clinical counselor and a school counselor with a master’s in counseling. With a deep understanding of nonverbal communication and a background in various communities, Aaron shares his journey from an ASD Paraeducator to a licensed clinical counselor.
- Lessons You’ll Learn
Join us, as we engage in a rich conversation with Aaron Greenwell, a counselor specializing in children, parenting, and dynamics within households. Aaron’s journey begins with the influential presence of his grandparents, who were both educators, leading him on a path toward counseling. From his experience as a martial artist to his involvement in diverse communities, Aaron emphasizes the importance of movement, play, and ritual in his counseling approach. He discusses the impact of technology and screen time on children’s behavior, advocating for a balanced approach.
- About Our Guest
Aaron’s expertise in child counseling shines through his ability to build relationships with the young ones. He talks about the why and how we should respond when kids do something wrong. Instead of just reacting, he suggests using positive responses to help them behave better. He also thinks that practicing, learning, and being creative in a way that’s right for every kid is really important. He discusses the importance of incorporating extracurricular activities and resources into counseling, drawing from his background in martial arts and other communities.
- Topics Covered
Aaron talks about how doing things in a certain way regularly can be helpful for kids. He compares this to routines, which are like habits that give kids a sense of order and rules. These routines can make kids feel safe and encourage them to act well. For people who want to practice child counseling in the future, Aaron suggests staying open-minded, flexible, and really connected with the kids.
Our Guest: Aaron Greenwell: Guiding Students Toward Confidence and Success
Meet Aaron Greenwell, an Elementary School Counselor at Warren Consolidated Schools, who is dedicated to making a positive impact on students’ lives. With a strong skill set in student counseling, counselor education, and training, Aaron plays a vital role in the school community. He focuses on providing valuable support to students, helping them navigate challenges, and developing essential life skills.
Working at Warren Consolidated Schools, Aaron is committed to creating a safe and nurturing environment for young learners. Through his expertise in counselor training and community counseling, he ensures that students receive the guidance they need to thrive academically, emotionally, and socially. Aaron’s role goes beyond the classroom – he’s a key player in building the future of these students.
Aaron’s experience and skills speak volumes about his dedication to education and student well-being. As he continues his journey, we can look forward to insights and wisdom that will surely benefit students, parents, and fellow educators alike.
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Aaron Greenwell: The issues with screen time is, we’ve lost a lot of outdoor playtime and where children used to go outside and play at the age of seven and eight, free-roaming without an adult around, we’ve lost that completely. Some areas still allow it, but in a lot of places, if your kid goes out, people might call the police or something like that just because the culture shifted.
Becky Coplen: Welcome to Mastering Counseling, the weekly business show for counselors. I’m your host, Becky Coplen. I’ve spent 20 years working in education in the role of both teacher and school counselor. Each episode will be exploring what it takes to thrive as a counseling business owner, from interviews with successful entrepreneurial counselors to conversations with industry leaders on trends and the next generation of counseling services, to discussions with tech executives whose innovations are reshaping counseling services. If it impacts counseling, we cover it on Mastering Counseling.
Becky Coplen: Welcome to another episode of Mastering Counseling. Today joining us is Aaron Greenwell, a limited licensed clinical counselor and a school counselor with a master’s in counseling. Aaron’s unique journey into education and his deep understanding of nonverbal communication have led him to specialize in counseling topics related to children, parenting, and dynamics within households. Aaron, we met just about a year ago when you became an intern at my elementary. What a fast year it’s been.
Aaron Greenwell: Yes, it has.
Becky Coplen: Yeah! And then he was such a skilled intern that he was able to get his first full-time job several months before the internship ended. So he’s been working in the field since, I think after New Year’s. Correct?
Aaron Greenwell: Yeah, they heard me beginning of January. And I have to say, you were a great supervisor for internship.
Becky Coplen: So, thank you that’s very nice. All right. Well, we want to dive into all your knowledge and what you have to share today. So why don’t you first share with us your journey into the counseling field from your experience as an ASD Paraeducator to now becoming a licensed clinical counselor?
Aaron Greenwell: Yeah, so I feel, it started a little bit before that really from my childhood. My grandfather was a school principal and a camp counselor, and then my grandmother was also a school counselor. So I feel my journey begins there because they were a big influence on me growing up and for a long time I really struggled to understand what was important to me. And I had an undergrad in fine arts. I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do, but I worked as a substitute teacher for a year. Within a year I got hired as an ASD paraeducator and that’s where I sat for eight years and I feel I learned a lot there. I learned a lot about communication, working with children, and the biggest thing I picked up is that children really trusted me there. I worked really well with them. I brought down their anxiety, things of that sort, and even I work directly with ASD children. But because of that I was around the general education population as well and I was able to form connections that a lot of the staff found really valuable. And so in doing that over those eight years, I realized that counseling was the direction for me and it kind of lined up with everything from my grandparents being counselors. And I guess a lot of the things I picked up from there. And so I went back to school and here I am.
Becky Coplen: That’s amazing. I love the personal touch from really long ago. And even with your grandparents having a part in your whole experience. So that’s amazing. And then we saw a lot of those great connections when we had you at our school for six months. Why don’t you tell us about some of the challenges and triumphs you encountered while developing your expertise in counseling for children?
Aaron Greenwell: I feel to some degree there’s still some challenges for me to overcome. Being a new counselor, I’m still kind of learning, time management, is a big challenge for me right now. Looking a little bit further into the past, I look a lot at my ASD experience and a lot of the challenges were more in shifting my mindset and we’ll get into this a little later too. But I think there’s a very big part of us that wants to approach things with a very disciplinary type of response, but trying to shift my view into being more proactive and having a more positive behavioral spin on things. Early on when I first started in education, I feel like that was a really big challenge for me.
Becky Coplen: Sure, there are so many approaches to how we all should be working with children and it just takes a lot of different things because all the kids are so different. So I agree completely. Let’s talk about your actual degree in Master’s in counseling, which included both clinical and school counseling. And how would you say the work on that program and maybe even your fine arts bachelor’s degree? How did that encourage or affect your expertise moving into counseling?
Aaron Greenwell: To start with the fine arts, I feel that creativity is an important aspect to working with children and education in a few different ways. There’s art therapy, a field that exists, but more broadly, when you’re working with children, every child’s unique and they come from a unique background. So it’s very much not one size fits all. And so often it takes some creative approaches, like you said, what works for one child will not work for the next. So I think that requires a lot of creativity. How can we modify what we’re using to work differently with the student that the strategy worked fine for another? So in terms of art and creativity, I think that’s where that applies. In the master’s program, a lot of the focus for school counseling was on MTSS and the ASCA National Model. I feel like I got a lot out of that. That taught me a lot of how to approach children more than just an individual level, because when we’re talking clinical, usually it’s individual or small group. So I feel like I got a lot of knowledge out of that learning about the ASCA National Model and stuff like that.
Becky Coplen: Absolutely, yeah! There’s so many parts of counseling and school is a lot different than clinical, and I know I was super grateful for your art skills because as you know, that’s a weak point. So he did a great job with kids. I remember the crayon thing. The kids would still talk about some certain way that you would color with crayons. So let’s get into some details. What would you say is your best expertise when it comes to child counseling?
Aaron Greenwell: I’d say it’s building connections. I’m really strong in that area and I feel like that kind of relates to we’ll talk in a little bit. I think I might bring up parenting styles. I touched a little bit on the positive behavioral approach in my childhood. Again, with my grandparents, there was a lot of anxiety and learning from them. They had they were very open and so I was able to build a connection with them. And I think that’s something that I’m able to do with children really well. They may have an anxious moment or a fight breaks out or a conflict happens or a teacher or an adult is angry at them. And I can approach them and as opposed to getting frustrated myself, I can sit there with them, sit them with and have like an empathetic moment of their crying and I’ll just be there with them and wait till they’re ready to talk and I’ll be able to communicate with them that way. And I think that really helps build a connection, which is really important in the therapeutic process.
Becky Coplen: Yes, absolutely. In talking about the positive behavior approach, are there any newer trends that you’re using or exploring that are shaping the way we address behavioral or cognitive issues with children?
Aaron Greenwell: There’s a few, I think in schools there’s a big push for the PBIS programs, the Positive Behavioral Interventions, and I think that is a really needed and powerful program. As you know, positivity project being one of them. I get to experience implementing that this year, so I’m excited for that. But looking around, there’s a lot of programs like that popping up right now in competition with each other, so I think there’s a big focus on that. I like to think that consequence and discipline plays a role, but I think it’s often forgotten how important positive behavioral intervention is for children because that’s really where they thrive. I like to see it as consequence, lets them know where the boundaries are, but the positive behavioral allows them to grow. So I think there’s a lot of room in that area as well as the SEL, the Social Emotional Learning piece that goes with positive behavioral intervention, I think. Teaching children about what emotions they are experiencing versus what other people are experiencing and understanding that there’s a difference between the two. So I think those are two important things in the field that we’re focusing on right now.
Becky Coplen: Yes. Thank you. That’s great. Shifting a little bit, are you seeing a negative impact at all in the world of technology and screen time? How do you feel it’s affecting children?
Aaron Greenwell: So this is something I’m fairly passionate about. I’m still learning a lot about this topic, but I’ve done a few projects on this and I think that technology has a major negative impact on the children’s behavioral health and social health. There’s been a few studies. One of the things I saw was for younger children, screen time above an hour can start to have effects on the brain similar to addiction. So it triggers a dopamine response and you start to see the brain looks similar to what other addicting things would have on the brain. In addition, there’s a lot of differences in how we interact with screen time. So there’s active versus passive, which would be are you sitting there watching a show or are you interacting with the screen? So is it a game or are the characters on the show interacting with you? And that can have a slight impact.
So if it’s passive, they’re not getting as much out of it because you have to think that as a child, every moment of their day, what they’re interacting with is its own lesson. They’re constantly learning. So if instead of playing, interacting, manipulating the environment around them, if they’re instead sitting there and just watching something on the screen that can have a much different impact. So at least if it’s like active where they’re engaging with it. At least there’s some quality of learning going through that as opposed to just watching a screen. The other one that was really fascinating to me was individual versus social screen time. So is the kid in the room by themselves just watching the screen, or are you sitting next to them playing the game with them? And that seems to have a major impact. It’s you’re learning more social skills. If the parents there’s helping you understand what’s happening on the screen.
Becky Coplen: Great insight on that. Yeah, it’s definitely a huge factor and I think all across the country and world, it’s something educators, counselors we all have to consider.
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Becky Coplen: Going back to a focus with the nonverbal cues of children helps a parent kind of balance between effective communication and understanding the nonverbal cues of their children, or perhaps how the children are perceiving their parents’ cues.
Aaron Greenwell: That’s a really good question. I think some of it comes down to the parents putting more attention on those cues. So for me, with the background in ASD, I worked with a lot of nonverbal populations. So for me, I had to recognize the nonverbal communication, right? Because that’s the only way they have to communicate in doing so. I feel that really helped me pay attention to it more. So I think that can be a challenge for people who aren’t paying as close attention to it. So in that sense I just try to keep it in mind, just try and pay attention to it. I think it can start early. I think it just comes naturally. It’s just maybe something that we don’t actively think about because when you have a kid, they’re not verbal until a few years down the road. So up until that point, you are communicating with them non-verbally. So I guess for people who haven’t had children yet, just pay attention to that. Pay attention to all the communication that happens with your child before they’re able to use their words because that’s going to carry on into the future.
Becky Coplen: Thank you. Awesome. Let’s go into talking about connection, movement, and ritual. And how would you say your involvement in various communities, how have these influenced your counseling approach?
Aaron Greenwell: Yeah, so the communities were part of impact our values and the ways that we act. And that in turn gets put into the work that we do. So I’ve been part of a few different communities. I know a lot of performers. I’m a martial artist, so I’m part of a martial arts community that’s very traditional. One of the communities I’m a part of is the local burner community or the people that go to art events like Burning Man and stuff like that. All of those have a lot of movement involved and all of them have their own kind of set of rituals. So I’ve pulled a lot of that into what I do as a counselor.
So, for example, working with a student for me is a big thing at the age group I work. I think a lot of times it’s a struggle to understand why like a kid will do something over and over and over, even though you’ve told them verbally that, oh no! You’re not supposed to do this, why do you keep doing this? It’s a bad thing to do. And like, you give them this big talk, but where’s the practice in it? Where’s the movement? So in that sense, like I’ve something I did recently with a student, they’re acting up in class and they’re maybe getting angry and going after another kid.
So in bringing them into my room, we talk about it a little bit, but then I’m like, okay, so let’s practice this. And I tell them, okay, so we’re having a conversation, we’re saying something, and then I say something really mean to you, and I act it out, we play it out. And so we do that through scenarios. And I think that’s really important is that it’s in motion, it’s movement, it’s part of play because I think that’s where a lot of their education comes from at that age. And I think that carries through to us as adults. I personally think that’s something that we forget and lose sometimes. And so that’s where I really value some of the communities I’m a part of.
Like the performers, I’ve started to bring some juggling stuff to work, things of that sort when the kids really love it. But it’s also its own teaching tool, right? Because you start juggling and they’re like, here, you do it and they’re like, I can’t. And I’m like, well, that’s because you’ve never done it before. And I’ll tell them like, you’re going to fail. You’re going to fail a million times, and then eventually you’ll get it the right way. It’s teaching the idea that you need to practice things. And I feel like that’s a hard concept sometimes. Like you see a lot of kids in math and they just get discouraged.
Why am I practicing this a million times? Well, you gotta do it a million times to get good at it. But at the same time, where in their life are they practicing something that they actually enjoy practicing over and over and over? And so I think it’s important then still, that so they understand its value. I think that’s also why it’s often important to have a lot of extracurriculars. For me, that would be the martial arts and the same thing. We don’t get better and learn things by just doing it once and doing a cool move. No, we got to practice, practice, practice.
Becky Coplen: Oh, I love that. Especially it’s hard for kids to fail. So doing that, trying new things is very important. And in the long run, so good for them. So thanks. What are some of the resources and tools that have been instrumental in your counseling approach and philosophy as far as maybe books, authors, or even some of the things you already mentioned?
Aaron Greenwell: The big one for me is extracurriculars. That’s going to vary from area to area. I’m partial to martial arts because that’s something dear to me. But even finding sports clubs and extra activities that children can do outside of school for parents, there was a family I met. They were Albanian and they were really struggling because their kid when they came over, they loved soccer. She was really struggling to find a league that played soccer and you could see the kid was struggling a little bit mentally because of that. So I helped find those resources for the parents and that really helped them. So finding extracurriculars, I think, helps other things. So two big people that I’ve been listening to right now, One is names are weak point, especially on the spot. I forget names like, really good. You mentioned something about.
Becky Coplen: You mentioned something about Lauren someone.
Aaron Greenwell: Laura.
Becky Coplen: Laura.
Aaron Greenwell: Oh, Laura Beauregard. She’s working here in the district. She’s a teacher consultant, but she was giving a good talk today on visuals, the importance of visuals in the classroom. Jonathan Hite is someone I’ve listened to and he’s someone who talks a lot about the effects of technology on children. He also talks about the importance of movement and play. So an extension of the issues with screen time is we’ve lost a lot of outdoor playtime and where children used to go outside and play at the age of seven and eight, free-roaming without an adult around, we’ve lost that completely. Some areas still allow it, but in a lot of places, if your kid goes out, people might call the police or something like that just because the culture shifted.
So he talks a lot about that and the effects that has on children. So he’s a big author. I like that. I’ve been reading a lot. And then the other author, John Vervaeke, he has a series called Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. I want to say it’s like its own program at a college, like it’s each video is like an hour long. There’s 50-plus videos and he’s in a classroom with like a board and he’s writing all over it and stuff like that. But it’s a nice walk through history talking about philosophy and also exploring the concept of meaning. And I have learned so much from that, including the importance of practice and ritual and movement and things of that sort.
Aaron Greenwell: So it all connects to a lot of the other things I’ve been talking about. But it’s really nice because there’s a lot of really little historic pieces that he talks about. A good example, a lot of times we in the counseling field, we talk about mindfulness. I think a lot of us have this idea that mindfulness is being present, but he breaks it down in a really interesting way and he talks about where its roots and mindfulness comes from Eastern philosophy and things like Buddhism and the way that they approached it.
A lot of times it gives this nice example that I love where he’s like, okay, so we’re going to practice mindfulness and we’re going to focus on this. Can’t really see it but this pen, right? He’s like, okay, so how do we do that? Okay, focus on the pen. Focus on the pen. No, your attention wandered. Why aren’t you paying attention to the pen? Pay attention to the pen. Well, that’s a really hard thing to do. So what do you do instead? Well, you’re not just paying attention to the pen. You’re noticing all the little pieces of it. You’re noticing the color. Well, it’s kind of a gold pen, and it’s got these numbers on it and paying attention to those details, more so than just saying pay attention to something. Keeps your attention there.
Becky Coplen: Great little object lesson. It did appear on her side at some point. No, that’s great. Probably our last question. All of this has been really good, but what would be your advice for aspiring counselors who are interested in going into child counseling or school counseling as they embark on this rewarding path?
Aaron Greenwell: Probably the best piece of advice I can give is keep an open mind, and be flexible. Understand that you’re going to run into a lot of unique situations and that every kid is a little different. And as long as you have a big heart and you have a lot of passion and you’re able to connect with the children, I think you’ll do a pretty good job.
Becky Coplen: All right. I agree completely with that for sure. Anything else you wanted to mention that you didn’t get to talk about before we close out for the day?
Aaron Greenwell: I think we mentioned ritual before this a little bit. And I was doing some thinking earlier. And one of the meetings I was in, someone brought up routine and I see routine and ritual as similar concepts. Ritual is something I’m still trying to wrap my head around and learn about, and I see it as something important, but it’s a little hard for me to understand the definition of it’s a really broad term, but ritual does have an importance in our life, and I think that can be seen somewhat through routine because routine is similar to the ritual. It’s something that we do on a regular basis, and I think that can be really important for children to have a routine in the morning to brush my teeth, get my clothes on. I do this and so everything’s in order and they know what they’re doing and that’s in place. All that kind of gives the border or the boundaries around what they need to do in the day. And everything else can be filled with play, learning, and fun.
Becky Coplen: Thank you for that. I’m glad that you expounded upon that a bit. Well, Aaron, thank you so much for giving your time today. We really appreciate you sharing your insights and especially your expertise in nonverbal communication and with all the different types of kids that you’ve worked with. That’s been awesome. And I know soon we will be talking and collaborating, so the conversation will continue. We’ve delved into some great topics in the counseling world and to our listeners, thank you for subscribing. We look forward to your feedback and continued conversation in the future.
Stay tuned for our next episode, which promises great insight into the exciting work of counseling and therapy. I look forward to connecting again. Have a beautiful day and keep the buzz going for mastering counseling. You’ve been listening to the Mastering Counseling podcast by Mastersincounseling.org.
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