Contact Us: 03 8372 5723

School Avoidance Counselling

School avoidance counselling is very common and has also proven to be very successful

School Refusal and How to Get Your Child to go to School

Attending school is important not only for academic development but social skills training, therefore when a child or teen starts to avoid school on a regular basis this needs attention.  A school phobia may initially manifest as symptoms of a physical illness, the child might say they are feeling unwell and find comfort when they stay home. If this behaviour is prolonged it can have long term consequences and it is important the child or teen can go back to school as soon as possible.

The classroom teacher may be aware of issues in the classroom, the child or teen may exhibit excessive anxiety and young children may experience separation anxiety.  Teen years are complex and youth anxiety is very common. The goal should always be to return to school. A combination of cognitive therapy and relaxation training has proven successful in enabling a child or teen to attend school. Family life and mental health must be taken into account for the child to successfully go to school.  Our services offered as proven successful in helping return a teen or child to school

Western Plains Psychology focuses on resilience, early assessment, and intervention to promote positive developmental pathways and improve developmental outcomes for all children.

We partner with parents to offer support, understanding, strategies, tools, and tools to support their children.

We form partnerships where appropriate with psychiatrists, general practitioners, speech pathologists and occupational therapists to support functioning in multiple environments.

We don’t just assist with school avoidance counselling, our psychologists offer support, assessment, and intervention for children with a variety of presenting issues, including:

  • Adjustment Disorders
  • Anger Management
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Attachment Disorders
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorders
  • Behavior Disorders and Difficulties
  • Eating disorders and body image
  • Bullying
  • Depression
  • Developmental Disorders and Disabilities
  • Elimination Disorders
  • Difficulties in Emotional Regulation
  • Family dissolution (separation/divorce/conflict)
  • Giftedness
  • Grief and Loss
  • Learning Difficulties
  • Skill Training
  • Psychoeducational Assessment (cognitive, learning and cognition assessments)
  • Phobias
  • School readiness
  • Avoidance and Refusal to Attend School
  • Self-esteem and resilience building
  • Self-harm
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Social and peer interaction difficulties
  • Social Skills Building
  • Strategies to Support Learning & Achievement
  • Stress Management and Coping
  • Trauma and abuse

Treatment for Child Anxiety

Anxiety can be a problem that prevents your child from reaching his or her full potential in school and life. While everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, excessive worry and anxiety can lead over time to more serious problems. It is important to get help as soon as possible.

To receive effective counselling, your child doesn’t have to meet the criteria of a serious medical disorder. It’s about gaining skills to cope with everyday challenges.

You might consider enrolling your child in our counselling program for anxiety.

Counselling for children and adolescents

Do you feel your teenager or child needs help with behavioural, emotional or social problems? Counselling can help your child understand, manage, and overcome many personal challenges such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Friendship Problems
  • Asperger’s-related Issues

Counselling can help your child work towards reaching valuable educational and personal goals.

What is the best time to use child counseling?

When your child is experiencing distress that interferes with their ability or to cope, you can use child counselling.

  • Concentrate in class or at work
  • Do their schoolwork
  • Communicate with your parents
  • Sleep
  • Friends are always available to help you
  • Enjoy life

All counselling is confidential. Except where there is a risk to the client, information is not shared with anyone without client consent.

Each session ends with a final 5-10 minute review of the progress and discussion about any homework or new goals.

What are the required sessions?

Six weekly sessions are recommended for the initial program. You can review your progress, strengthen new skills, and set new goals in less frequent follow up sessions. Many parents notice improvements in their children’s behavior within the first few sessions. Research has shown that new habits take 2-3 months to form.

Assessment of Learning Difficulties (Including Dyslexia Testing).

  • Do you have a child who struggles with writing, spelling, or reading?
  • Are they able to mix letters up or misunderstand their sentences?
  • Are they having trouble with maths, symbols and numbers?

They may have dyscalculia or dyslexia.

Learning difficulties can seriously hinder your child’s ability to learn and their enjoyment of school. Low self-esteem, anxiety and depression can all result from learning difficulties. It is crucial to identify any learning difficulties in your child and implement effective strategies and programs as soon as possible.

An Educational and Developmental Psychologist is the first step to helping your child achieve their full potential. This includes testing for dyslexia as well as other learning disabilities.

Here are some reasons you should consider a Learning Difficulty assessment for your child.

  • To find out their learning potential.
  • To show their “learning profile”, which reveals their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Find out if your child has a learning disorder in reading or writing, maths, attention, or both.
  • To determine the learning strategies and support that they will most benefit from at home and school.
  • To give them insight into their learning abilities.
  • This will allow you to make educated decisions about your child’s education.

What is a Learning Difficulty assessment?

You will get:

  • A review of your child’s cognitive and emotional, social, familial, and emotional history.
  • Standardised cognitive (IQ), test
  • Accredited achievement standard (academic) test.
  • You may also be interested in other assessment tools.
  • Comprehensive assessment report.
  • Recommendations for learning that are tailored to your needs at school and at home.
  • Complete feedback session to answer all of your questions.

These tests combined provide insight that is not possible to get from any one test.

Cognitive testing is used to identify any weaknesses in key skills, such as:

  • Processing speed
  • Processing of the auditory
  • Learning issues in verbal language
  • Learning issues that are not verbal

Assessments measure abilities in key academic areas, such as:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • Mathematics
  • Oral language

How many appointments are required for a Learning Difficulty Assessment

In total, there are four sessions:

  • Initial consultation for parents (30 minutes)
  • Assessment session #1 for your child (90 minutes)
  • Assessment session #2 for your child (90 minutes)
  • Feedback session for parents (50 minutes)

School Avoidance Counselling

Many of our therapists are trained in school avoidance counseling in Caroline Springs and can offer great help in this area.

School Readiness Counselling

School readiness counselling can help children prepare for school. School readiness counselling can make the transition to schooling easier.

Grief Counselling for Adolescents

A teenager can also benefit from grief counselling. This is a crucial part of grieving. It can help the family and the adolescent manage through such an event.



Michelle Morris

I am a counselling psychologist and family therapist. I studied psychology and family therapy at Monash and Swinburne universities. I was awarded a PhD by the Australian Catholic University. The research for my doctorate examined 20 chemically dependent women’s responses to their pregnancy, antenatal care and birth and how they negotiated strategies for recovery and their development of a 'mother identity'.

I am also a registered nurse and once worked as a barrister. I am married with adult children but also am part of a larger blended family. I live in a small rural community about an hour's drive from Western Plains Psychology.

Why I personally trained as a counselling psychologist is a long story, summarised simply by saying I enjoy helping to empower people, whether it be an individual, a relationship or a family. Besides feeling effective and useful, I find the work endlessly enjoyable and rewarding, not just because of the ideals of helping, but I really like the work itself. I look forward to meeting each new client but also saying goodbye to those who have completed work with me. I do enjoy a challenge. I like to learn about the aspects of neuroscience, habit change and relationship complexities that we each share. I enjoy the countless ways that makes each person's mind, body, history, emotions, thought processes, network of relationships unique.

However, this work is not just about the ideals, but also about the day to day work. For psychology, this means: you have to like talking and helping people from various backgrounds. You have to accept paperwork (I'm still working on that; what I can say is that the client time makes the paperwork bearable).

Finally, to be a psychologist, you have to be mentally flexible, able to see things from another person’s perspective while helping them to build on their own culture, ideals and resources. This has enriched me for I get to see life through hundreds of different lens and watch life develop on a myriad of diverse pathways.

For light relief I listen to music, catch up with friends and family, chase kangaroos away from my farm and find a million excuses not to do housework.

Elizabeth Richards - Psychologist

Elizabeth Richards

I believe that everyone holds the key to their own happiness and each and every one of us possesses the power to change our lives for the better...

However, sometimes we need the help of others to guide and support us to evaluate a situation, understand our needs, recognise our thinking patterns, and identify what needs to change.

My greatest reward as a psychologist is when I assist clients to discover ways to make changes in their lives, so that they can face the future with brightness and hope.

Everyone needs someone to talk to, who will accept them, listen with empathy, be nonjudgmental, and help them to identify and overcome the problems that stand between them and the life they want to lead.

I work with clients across the lifespan, from young children with developmental, behavioural and/or psychological disorders, through to elderly people who are in need of support, compassion, and a listening ear, as they face major transitions in their lives, or in the lives of their partners.

I have experience in collaboratively managing mood disorders, behavioural problems, relationship difficulties, grief and loss, hoarding, and parenting problems, and I use a variety of therapies, depending upon the clients' particular needs. Approaches and modalities include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, Interpersonal Therapy and Solution-Focused Therapy.

Prior to studying psychology, I was a special education teacher for many years, so I am passionate about supporting children with learning disabilities, improving their level of self-esteem, developing their resilience, and improving their confidence and social skills. I hold postgraduate degrees in both psychology and education and am a trained ABA therapist. I also have a particular interest in conducting assessments to support government funding for school children with special needs.

If you believe that you are committed to making positive changes in your life, and you feel that I can help you to do so, it may be time for you to take the first step. I look forward to meeting with you and working with you at Western Plains Psychology.


Michael Kerr

As long as I can remember I have been passionate about creating bonds and working with people. It was this passion that drove me to a career in psychology. I believe that everybody has the right to access mental health care and support to navigate some of life’s tougher obstacles.

I believe that it is of great importance to develop a strong therapeutic relationship through trust, empathy and respect. I work with a variety of clients, including children, with diverse presenting issues. Being the only male clinician at Western Plains Psychology (besides Max, the therapy dog) has led me to choose male mental health and wellbeing as an area of focus. Male mental health and wellbeing are areas that I am passionate about and I look forward to continuing my growth and development in this area.

Through my training and recent completion of a Masters of Clinical Counselling I have gained extensive knowledge in the use of differing therapeutic techniques. These include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Therapy (SFT) Client Centred Therapy (CCT). My approach is tailored to each client’s individual needs.

I have played sport most of my life and I enjoy the fitness, challenge and comradery that comes with being a member of a team. I have lived in rural Victoria, the outer suburbs and inner-city areas of Melbourne. I have enjoyed the different lifestyles each has to offer.

Stephanie Sullivan - Psychologist and Trained ABA Therapist

Stephanie Sullivan

I am a registered psychologist and a trained ABA therapist. I have recently completed a Masters in clinical counselling. For the past 12 months I have worked with clients throughout the lifespan and across a variety of presenting issues. I feel confident engaging with children, parents and families to help each individual to improve on their strengths in order to work through and help them establish a positive environment to cope and understand the issues presented.

At Western Plains Psychology I believe in connecting with each individual on a personal and emotional level to ensure that their journey is unique and personal. I hope that my clients feel secure through the process, and that despite the challenges, there is a sense of comfort and wellbeing.

I have an interest in sport, healthy eating and positive personal experiences, which help in the holistic approach I undertake myself. I endeavour to encourage the client to pursue their individual goals based on their own personal values, interests and strengths. I have gained a knowledge and understanding of anxiety, depression, stress and relationship issues. I work with evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, (ACT) and Mindfulness to assist each client to achieve the best possible outcome.

As an ABA therapist and psychologist I have had the opportunity to work with children of all ages and their families. I have a passion for working with children who need help with anger, behavioural issues, Autism, Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and social skills.

Kim Lefebvre-Poirier

Kim Lefebvre-Poirier

I commenced my tertiary education in Psychology and Criminology from the University of Montreal in Canada. I then completed a Bachelor Degree in Sexology at University of Quebec in Montreal. Whilst doing my degree, I received a scholarship to study in Belgium for a semester where I completed coursework from the Master in Family and Sexuality Studies from the Faculty o Psychology. After moving to Australia, I completed a Master of Clinical Counselling at the Australian Catholic University.

I use a wide range of theoretical counselling modalities ranging from harm reduction and humanist approach to more tailored psychological interventions in private practice.

I am currently doing a Professional Doctorate in Public Health at La Trobe University, specialising in the mental health of parents experiencing the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Special Care Nursery. This project has been motivated by my own experiences whilst having children. I believe that mental health is a central component of an individual's overall health that can be affected by current life challenges. Research reports that most people will face some mental health difficulties throughout their life.

Therefore, I think that an individual's mental health exists on an ongoing continuum, which may improve or deteriorate from time to time. Counselling can help by providing a safe and supportive environment. I think that psychological interventions need to be tailored to each person's needs and circumstances, I have a strong interest in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Schema Therapy, Psychoanalytical and Attachment-based approaches.

I will be offering counselling sessions at Western Plains Psychology via telehealth appointments.

Valencia - Psychologist


Valencia is a psychotherapist at Western Plains Psychology offering Relationship Counselling, Family Counselling, Family Dispute Resolution (Mediation) services, Play Therapy and ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) Therapy. Following an undergraduate degree in Psychology, Valencia's special interest in human interactions, family dynamics and parenting let her pursue postgraduate qualifications in Children and Family Studies, ABA Therapy, Play therapy, Social Work and Dispute Resolution.

Valencia is accredited by the Attorney General's Department to provide mediation services to separated parents, while maintaining the focus on the best interests of the children, towards establishing effective co-parenting relationships.

Valencia also provides post-separation mediation for property and financial matters, encouraging parties in a dispute to consider their current and future needs, prior to entering into lasting financial agreements.

Through her work with children diagnosed with ASD and their families, Valencia adopts the strengths-based approach to encourage independence, confidence, improved social skills and to address problem behaviours through Play and ABA therapy.

As a mother to a blended family herself, Valencia understands the challenges that clients face in everyday interactions and relationships - including power imbalances, parenting, relationship breakdown, disappointment and ineffective communication.

By encouraging clients to recognise unhelpful patterns of behaviour, to assume accountability and to participate in strategy building, Valencia aims to empower each client to realise that they possess the ability to action change within their lives.

Sue Pallo

Sue Pallo

Sue Pallo is the Practice Manager for Western Plains Psychology. Sue has worked with the clinic for several years and is very experienced at connecting clients with the most appropriate psychologist to commence therapy. She may be the first person you will speak with when you ring for an appointment or enquiry. Sue provides effective and efficient management in co-ordinating all areas of the clinic and also plays an important role in delivering key services and the day-to-day running of the clinic.

Maxwell the therapy dog

Maxwell the therapy dog

"Western Plains Psychology" has a new trainee therapist... He is small, cute, hairy and irresistible. His name is "Maxwell"... Max for short, he is a toy French Poodle. Max loves to meet and greet the clients and charms everyone he meets… if you are lucky he will let you play with his toys.Just by having a friendly pet like Max in the room, people can feel more relaxed and at ease with the counselling process.

Get In Touch

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Western Plains Psychology

8 Kyneton Circuit, Caroline Springs VIC 3023 • Phone: 03 8372 5723 • Fax: 03 8372 5770 • Email: