Multiple Intelligences (MI) in Counselling for Children

Dr. Howard Gardner, Professor at Harvard University, developed the theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) in 1983. Dr. Gardner felt that the concept of intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, was very limiting. Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences delineates eight (possibly nine) distinct intelligences, each one representing a different way that any individual communicates and learns. These intelligences are:

  • Verbal Linguistic
  • Mathematical Logical
  • Visual Spatial
  • Musical Rhythmic
  • Bodily Kinesthetic
  • Intrapersonal
  • Interpersonal
  • Naturalist Environmental
  • A ninth intelligence (Metaphysical) has been considered, but not yet verified.

The conventional education system is largely based on using Verbal Linguistic and Logical Mathematical intelligence, as it was believed that children predominantly think and learn through written and spoken words,  have the ability to memorize facts, respond to written tasks, and enjoy reading.  Introduction of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory in counselling has been fairly recent and it has shown to enhance the effectiveness of counselling.

Use of MI helps the therapist  understand and work with the child’s natural abilities. The therapists incorporate experiential activities in their sessions (based on the child’s abilities, preferences and strengths) that stimulate their different intelligences and skills which are less dominant. Use of MI in therapy helps build the child’s sense of competence, allowing them to communicate and work through issues in a non-threatening and non-oppositional way. Furthermore with the use of MI, the therapist is able to establish a strong alliance with the child, as they often enjoy attending the therapy sessions because of the experience.

Lastly, the therapist is able to help the children be aware of their own learning styles and gain a better understanding of how and why they respond to things and situations. This awareness often contributes to increasing the child’s self esteem and confidence.

Expressive Therapies (Art, Play, Sand etc.) have been found to be a useful way to concretize MI in counselling practice. Expressive Therapies provide experiential activities that tap into intelligences like art, imagery, music, movement, emotional expression, therapeutic writing, relaxation and visualization making it fun for children.

The concept of MI is also applicable to adults and some online tests are available to help individuals discover their own preferred intelligences.

Written by

Vinti Mittal
MS (Counselling), Grad. Cert (Counselling), PGDCA (Comp Sc), BSc (Hons)
Director, SAC Registered Counsellor

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