My approach is informed by models of human development. We all grow and learn throughout our lives, but there are particular challenges at key stages in life which, if we don’t navigate successfully or during which we experience a trauma, can leave us ill prepared for life. We can experience low self-esteem, depression, anxiety or relational issues because of ‘developmental trauma.’
During our first year of life we are helpless and vulnerable, needing our caregivers to nurture, feed and clean us. If we are cared for well enough we learn to trust others. If our parents are neglectful, perhaps because they are experiencing traumas of their own (bereavements, anxiety etc), then we can develop anxiety and distrust which we carry into adulthood.
As we grow through childhood we need our caregivers to help us learn to act on our own and to take initiative, mainly through the ‘work’ of playing. In later childhood we learn how to be competent and valued for who we are. Developmental traumas that stop us achieving these developmental milestones can leave us feeling incompetent, guilty, doubting and even shamed.
The teenage years are characterised by a need to find out who we are, to find our own identity, and gradually become less dependent on our parents. This is necessarily a time of going our own way, finding our own path, and finding our friendship groups beyond the family. It can be a hard time for parents as they see their children becoming independent of them, and getting the balance right between setting boundaries and providing freedom is challenging. Teenagers that experience too few boundaries or too little independence can find it hard to become a confident ‘self’.
Young adults (20-40) leave their own family to set up in relationship with another and form their own ‘family.’ The challenge at this stage is to be confident enough in your self to join with another without loosing ‘self’ or ‘dominating the other.’ The trust required to attach to another may have been damaged in those early years when caregivers were not trustworthy, we can carry that distrust into adult relationships. Our adult relationships will mirror our childhood relationships.
In later adulthood (40 – 65) we hold responsibilities for our family, perhaps for our older parents, and often carry greater responsibilities at work. We can find this fulfilling and satisfying or worrying and difficult depending on how we were encouraged to develop initiative and responsibility taking in childhood.
As we get into older age we start to look back on our life and ask if it was meaningful. We can either feel a sense of fondness for life and reconciled with its passing or we can feel despair, that we have lost opportunities that we will never regain.
The good news is that developmental deficits can be healed and we can go on to lead fulfilling lives.
I can work with those aged 16+ to help them overcome childhood deficits and I can work with parents who are finding it hard to know how to raise their children.