Penticton Counselling for Children | Zalpha Counselling

dad plays with his daughter in Penticton

We all know how important finding the right counsellor is to mental health and wellbeing. Learn more about Zalpha Counselling, a Penticton counselling service that specializes in play therapy and child counselling, in this exclusive Q&A. 

Tell me a little bit about your personal history. 

For as long as I can remember, I knew that I wanted to work with children and youth in some capacity. I grew up as the eldest sibling in my family and I spent my childhood caring for others and building connections with new people. I attended seven different schools across three different provinces and three different countries, allowing me to truly appreciate other cultures and diversities across the world and Canada. My love for young people also grew as my mom ran an in-home daycare at different points in my childhood. Children just bring so much joy into the world.

When I was a teenager, one of my parents experienced a mental health crisis. It really impacted our entire family and it was difficult to navigate. This allowed me one of my first glimpses into the world of mental health, and I am grateful that I have been able to combine this passion with my love for working with young people – it truly feels like the perfect combination for me.

After many years of moving around, my partner and I recently settled into the Okanagan. We have been loving exploring all that this beautiful part of the country has to offer, including the beaches, wineries, restaurants, local businesses and other hidden gems.


What training and certifications have you received? 

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology, a certificate in child and adolescent mental health, and a Master of Arts in counselling psychology. I also have taken additional trainings and certifications in trauma, addictions, suicide prevention and specific types of therapy (such as cognitive behavioural therapy, play therapy and couples counselling).

Image by Koyahni Photography

How did you come up with the name “Zalpha Counselling” for your business?

Gen Z + Gen Alpha = Zalpha

Working with clients of Gen Z (approximately 1997-2013) and Gen Alpha (2013+), and their families are my passion!

What kind of children benefit from Penticton counselling and play therapy?  

Any child or teenager that is experiencing any type of perceived challenge or stressor in their life can benefit from counselling. Counselling and play therapy allow individuals to express themselves and learn more about themselves and their body. Through increasing their skills, they can cope better with challenges, learn how to improve their self-regulation, and enjoy their life more.

Play can be incorporated into sessions for individuals of any age (including adults if they are willing!). This may depend on the individual’s interests, and their developmental age.

boy punches water while playing in Penticton

What benefits are there to play therapy? 

For children, play is their language. Engaging in playing with a child is a way for me to meet them in their world instead of expecting them to come into ours – a world that they may not be developmentally ready for yet. In the right environment, through play, a child’s inner world can come to life. With your child in the playroom, we can work on learning new coping strategies, ways to express themselves and their emotions, and increase their ability to make different choices. It’s truly a fascinating process and I love what I do.

How is your office set up? Is it kid and toddler friendly? 

Very kid friendly! My office set up is still in progress but I can tell you that it will have a couch for relaxation or breaks if needed (as well as engaging in talk therapy with those that are old enough.) It will also have many therapeutic toys, sensory items, fidgets, art supplies, and age-appropriate games. Sessions are customized towards your child’s interests. Your child is also welcome to bring anything that they’d like from home as well.

We also have a waiting room with an activity table, and a gender-neutral washroom. The office is also conveniently located across from good parking and is wheel-chair and stroller accessible.

What age groups do you work with? 

I work with clients ages 3 and up for Penticton counselling and play therapy. For children under the age of 3, generally the best approach is engaging in parenting support only. I also see adults for parenting support and couples counselling (especially in relation to parenting conflicts).

girl smiles lying down in Penticton after her counselling session

How does a typical session go? Do you speak with only my child, with both of us, to me alone? 

I start with a complimentary 20-minute consultation to see if it is a good fit for me to work with your family. Generally, this consult does not include young children, but it is valuable to have teens present if they want to be involved in the decision-making process.

Next, we meet for an 80-minute intake session. Typically, this occurs with just the parent(s). It’s an opportunity for us to take a deep dive into your family’s history, your child’s developmental history, specifics about your child’s personality, exploring the concern in detail, and finding out what you’ve tried in the past. I’ve had some teens insist on coming to these sessions, and that’s okay too. Truthfully though, they usually find it quite boring! In this session, we outline some goals and hopes to achieve together through therapy. Collaboratively, we’ll decide on the best approach to meet our goals. After this, it can look quite different depending on what the goals are.

If they are family-oriented goals and we agree that family counselling would be the best approach, then the majority of sessions would take place with those family members together. For example, if a mom and her 11-year-old child are really struggling to get along and experiencing a lot of conflict at home, then they may be a good fit for family counselling and have most sessions with Mom and the 11-year old both present. 

If the goals are more individual for your child or teenager, then they may have most sessions on their own. For children, I still typically meet with the parents occasionally for parent support sessions, and touch base with them in between about any updates and/or progress at home, school and within therapy.

Sometimes, children are very resistant to therapy. If it’s a minor level of resistance, we can usually work through this together. However, if attending therapy is going to cause extreme stress, then this may be an opportunity for parenting support only.

Do I have to be referred by a doctor? 

No, the majority of inquiries that we get are people who recognize that they may need a little extra support for themselves, their children, or both.

boy hugs his dad with his eyes closed at Penticton counselling session

How much do the sessions cost? 

Sessions start at $130 + GST (for 50-minutes, 2022 pricing) but vary depending on the service and how many people are attending therapy. As a Registered Clinical Counsellor, my services can be claimed on many extended health insurance plans. Contact your insurance provider directly for information about your family’s coverage.

How many sessions do you usually recommend, and how often?

For most young people, I usually recommend weekly or bi-weekly services. Especially when working with children under 10, two weeks can feel like an eternity – so weekly services can have the biggest impact. As progress is made within the therapy room as well as changes experienced within daily life, sessions can be tapered off as we begin to conclude our work together. For those with financial, time, or other limitations, I do offer sessions at lesser frequencies, however, our goals are usually modified with this in mind.

Every individual and every family is different, and therefore I never give a concrete time frame about how long therapy takes. There are many determining factors that can influence this, such as readiness for change, if new concerns arise during the therapy process, level of parental involvement, and more.

What makes your therapy unique? 

I strive to connect with you and your child(ren) in a way that feels meaningful. Research demonstrates that the most important predictor of success in therapy is based on the relationship between the client and the counsellor. If your child is really into squishmallows, I want to hear about them, and I want them to bring them in to incorporate into our sessions! If your teenager has a song that perfectly matches how they are feeling about a particular topic, that’s perfect, we can listen to it together and dissect the ways that it feels meaningful to them. Or they can show me the latest Tik Tok dance! I don’t believe there is a one size fits all approach and I work with you and your family to be as engaged as possible.

boy holds hand with his mom after counselling

As a therapist, what advice would you give parents raising children in today’s world?

This feels like such a daunting question! I feel like this is difficult to answer specifically, as every individual is so unique and advice that works for one won’t always work for another.

I would encourage parents to remember that you are doing the best that you can. Parenting is HARD. It can feel exhausting. There are days where you want to (or do!) sit on the floor and cry, worrying about if you’re messing up your kid. Social media can be such a valuable resource to educate about parenting, and it can also be used to manipulate parents into thinking that they are not good enough or trying hard enough, that “gentle parenting” is the ONLY approach that works, or that they are failing by letting their child have too much screen time or mac and cheese for dinner. This is definitely not the case! I encourage parents to unfollow any accounts that make them feel inadequate. Adding this type of negativity into your life is not necessary as there are plenty of helpful, educational resources out there.

Are there any common issues that you see children having to deal with that you have to help with?

In my experience, one of the number one concerns that I see children and youth come into my office for is anxiety. Something that we often talk about in therapy is how anxiety can sometimes be helpful for us – it can provide a healthy weariness of our environment to keep us safe, and can help motivate us to do things like study for tests. But anxiety becomes something that you should seek support for when it starts to interfere with daily functioning. For children that may look like having frequent stomach aches at school and having to come home, and big reactions at even the thought or suggestion of completing a certain task or activity such as going to the dentist or going to “the other parent’s house.”

I also see many children who are struggling with the impacts of parental separation/divorce, are needing support figuring out their identity and how they fit in the world, having big reactions or “outbursts” to many feelings or situations, having difficulty navigating relationships in their lives, experiencing trouble with executive functioning (including ADHD) or a combination of all of a few of these things! This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the concerns I have experience with.

girl builds tower with sticks at the Penticton beach

What are some signs that I should be seeking therapy for my child?

You may notice changes in your child’s willingness to engage in activities that they once enjoyed, their eating or sleeping habits, and their overall mood and energy levels. Many parents that I speak with also comment that they just hope that their child can be “more like themselves again!”

How far in advance are you booking Penticton counselling sessions? 

As a new and growing business, I am only booking out about 1 week for appointments. That’s right – NO waitlist! Generally busier times of the week are my after school/evening appointments as well as weekends.

How can I get in touch if I want to book a session? 

I have an easily accessible online booking platform. Clients (and/or their parents) are able to go to and book sessions directly. They are also able to cancel or reschedule appointments with more than 48 hours notice, making this a great booking option for busy individuals and families.

To learn more, visit my website at or email

I hope that you enjoyed learning more about Zalpha Counselling! Sarah sounds absolutely wonderful and I’m sure that her Penticton counselling and therapy services will help a lot of children and families. 

If you would like to document the unique bond your family has, I would love to photograph your family. I am a family photographer in the Okanagan. I specialize in making families feel comfortable and at ease to get the real emotions that are unique to each family click here to see more of my work.

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