Contrary to popular opinion our teenage years are not just difficult years driven by raging hormones. It is a crucial time of development that involves significant growth of the way we think, reason, focus attention, make decisions and relate to others.
Successfully embracing the exciting changes that happen in adolescence is the bedrock of becoming a fully functioning adult and is also the source of great creativity and fresh thinking. Teenagers are on a journey to finding their own identity and autonomy.
I have experience of working with young people to help them navigate the challenges of this stage of life and deal with the pressures of school and family life. Whilst I welcome the support of parents in referring their teenager for help it is important for me that the young person makes the decision to engage in counselling.
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My work with children is usually done through relational play. Play is a child’s way of exploring the world and learning to master adult tasks. They learn how to relate to others through play, how to explore emotions and thoughts, how to behave, move and take action. Play can include board games, humorous games, soft toys, puppets, role play, crafts, drawing, painting, and messy play.
I use play to gradually build up a relationship with a child, to offer them a gentle and safe way of building the trust needed for them to feel confident enough to share difficult things with me. This can take time. My work in schools allows me to see children for as long as it takes to develop a therapeutic relationship. If you are bringing a child to me in private practice you may need to be prepared for it to take many weeks for the clinical work to be effective.
Children have a variety of relational needs: for example, to be seen, heard, appreciated, valued, to feel safe with others. Whilst playing with them I use a range of relational tools to bring some healing to their developmental deficits. I also use play as a diagnostic tool, to understand the child’s issues or ‘developmental deficits.’ For more on this see Human development
For example, sometimes playing humorous games can help a child feel they are liked and can heal low self-esteem. Making things can help a child feel capable. A child can sometimes express emotions or process thoughts or events through role play using puppets or dressing up. Messy play (sand, slime, clay etc) can replicate pre-verbal sensory play and can be very soothing for a child who finds it hard to contain strong emotions like anger or sadness.
Each child is unique and I tailor an approach to suit their needs.
Sometimes when I work with young people it can be helpful to also work with their parents/carers. Young people often ‘react’ to pressures on the family or dynamics between family members. They can withdraw into themselves, experience low mood, be badly behaved, be overly care taking of others, or be anxious or angry. Working with parents can help to shift a family dynamic in a way that helps the child.
It is unhelpful to think of this as ‘blaming the parents.’ Life is hard at times. Parents may be dealing with illness, stress, financial pressures, relationship breakdown or have unresolved issues from their own adverse childhoods, and be finding the raising of children to be challenging.
Each child is unique, one child can respond well to your parenting style whilst another ‘kicks off.’ Sometimes a child needs something different from a parent, a different way of approaching parenting that suits their particular needs, something that is different to the ‘normal’ approach to parenting.
I can work with parents who are finding it hard to deal with their child’s issues and want to find ways of shifting the family dynamic.