Working with children and adolescents is a bit different to working with adults, where adults will come in very motivated to start work. Children and adolescents often come in for a variety of reasons, and not always of their own choice. It therefore can take time to build a relationship with a child, before the real work can begin of starting to make changes. I like to take a strength-based approach, where we first build a therapeutic relationship and then we are able to start working on some of the key concerns. This means helping the young person feel safe and comfortable in the counselling environment first and taking a bit of time to build a good working relationship that is warm and happy. It is my role to help them reflect, find motivation, understand them, and see a reason to try and make a change. That is when true change occurs.
I have worked with children and adolescents since the beginning of my career. I like to take a gentle approach that is very responsive to what a young person needs. That means looking at what is happening for them from their perspective. I like to take a holistic approach to counselling, so to look at health, behaviour, family, learning style, diet, lifestyle as well as ‘problem’ behaviour’. This helps give a fuller picture of what is happening for the young person and within the context of their life, and the family and then to create a plan together about what will help. Counselling children and adolescents requires age appropriate communication skills and a genuine approach. There are many tools which can be used to assist in the process such as drawing, sand play, painting, telling stories, clay, games, play, apps, talking and drama. The approach taken will depend on the child and what works best for them. I also do some more formal programs such as Cool Kids which is a CBT based program for anxiety, Zones of Regulation for physical or emotional regulation issues, Superflex for ASD for social issues along with other social skills tools.
The main issues I work with are:
- High functioning ASD
- Children dealing with divorce and parent separation
- Parenting issues
- Fears and phobias
- Self Confidence
- Exam/ study stress
- Social skills
It is important to note in counselling that there is confidentiality for children and teenagers. Parents are a very important part of a young person’s life, and I always encourage communication between parents and children, however there are times when children and teens need to be free to express their feelings and explore ideas with someone who isn’t going to rush to judgement. This is an important part of the therapy process. A Psychologist can gently give guidance, rather than lectures about healthy options and choices. I see my role as facilitating that and helping children build self-confidence and really own their own behaviour and choices. If there is an instance where a child is at risk of harm to self or others I will inform you.
The first session
In the first session we will often sit down together, depending on the child’s age, and then discuss why you are here. This invites the child to speak if they are comfortable and lets them know why they are here and that I am a safe person to talk to about their issues. Of course there are some details that children do not need to know, especially if they related to adults concerns such as difficult family circumstances. If you are not sure we can speak separately at another time.
Getting the best out of counselling
It takes time to build a counselling relationship, to get the best out of counselling for you and your child it is important that:
- You attend regularly
- Try to help your child practice any skills or activities recommended at home
- Discuss your concerns with me
- Make it a positive experience for your child by letting them know why they are coming to see a psychologist and by encouraging them to see it is a safe place to talk
- Let them talk about therapy if they want to after wards, but if they don’t want to talk about, don’t push it, as they may do that in their own time.
I look forward to working with you and your family. It is privilege to be able to help families and I look forward to building a good working relationship.