Children’s Counseling Checklist

One of the instruments that the therapists at Family Christian Counseling Center use during child counseling to help assess children who are experiencing behavioral, emotional, and social problems is the Child Behavior Checklist. This is a checklist that has been developed over decades using evidence based research to aid in identifying behavioral, emotional, and social problems. It is widely used in mental health services including schools, medical settings, child and family services and public health agencies.

History of the checklist in child counseling

The checklist originated in the 1960’s when Dr. Achenbach began work on child and adolescent psychopathology. He collaborated with Dr. Lewis (the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) to develop the checklist. This approach has over the years evolved into not only helping children and adolescents but adults as well. The checklist rates skills and involvement in activities, social relations, school, and work to access a person’s abilities and functioning. The system can use these ratings to display an individual’s scores in relation to norms for age, gender, and society.

The child behavior checklist is widely used around the world and has been translated into 75 languages. The checklist in all its forms (child, adolescent, and adult) has been used in over 6000 professional publications and is considered a valid and reliable indicator of behavioral and emotional functioning. I think one of the best features of this system is that it allows for comparing the ratings of different observers such as mother, father, teacher, or caregiver.

Parts of Checklist that help with child counseling

About one-third of the questions evaluate internalizing behaviors (these are behaviors where the child is directing feelings and emotions inward). The list identifies three types of internalizing behaviors:

  • Somatic – headaches, stomach problems, eye problems, feeling tired and more.
  • Withdrawn behaviors – shyness, sadness, social withdrawal
  • Anxiety/depression – fear, nervousness, worries

Another third of the questions are directed toward externalizing behaviors which show up as aggressive or delinquent behaviors. Children who score high on this part of the assessment tend to be diagnosed with conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder.

The last third of the questions assess social, thought, and attention problems. Some of the problems identified are not getting along with peers, acting young, and repeated acts. The list also helps assess sleep problems, eating problems, speech problems, and sexual problems. These behavioral problems may not indicate any specific diagnosis but may be symptoms of developmental or behavioral disorders.

Its use with child counseling

The Center uses this checklist as a tool to help begin the process of healing in traumatized children. The list is a tool the therapist may use in child counseling to help with completing a total assessment before treatment begins. If you are struggling with helping your child we would love to assist.


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