Psychology, Professional

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Jean M. Birbilis; Maxine West


This project identifies strategies used by experienced counseling psychologists who work with children diagnosed with oppositional behaviors for the benefit of students of psychology and those beginning their careers in the field. Children with oppositional behaviors have been identified by Fonagy, Target, Cottrell, Phillips, and Kurtz (2005) as among the most resistant to therapy and a difficult population for child and adolescent psychologists to work with.

Through interviews with eight mental health practitioners, including psychologists, social workers and one provisionally licensed mental health care provider, selected due to their reputation with treating this population. By applying Grounded Theory to their collected interviews, several themes were identified that may be helpful to mental health providers who wish to work with this population. These themes are:

1. Establishing an effective and empathetic relationship with clients

2. Effectively conceptualizing their cases

3. Making allies of parents

4. Recognizing that multiple approaches work in treating this population

5. Possessing five common qualities of an effective clinician: Patience, Continually Measuring Progress, Taking the Client’s Point of View, Not Taking It Personally, and Accessing Continuing Education.

This analysis explores these themes by examining statements presented by each practitioner and identifying suggestions related to effective and ineffective approaches when working with clients from this complex population.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.