Counselling for Children and Young People
I completed specialised training in the field of child and adolescent psychotherapy, so I am qualified to work safely and ethically with children and young people.
Counselling/psychotherapy for children and young people (not to be confused with family therapy – see the FAQ for a detailed explanation) means that the therapist meets the child or adolescent one-on-one for individual psychotherapy sessions - usually weekly for one hour (50-60 minutes).
Parents and care-givers are not present during the sessions, although they may see the therapist separately at regular intervals to share information, discuss concerns or improvements, and to review the child’s perceived progress. These sessions are called 'Parent Review Meetings’ and they are held at a pre-agreed time outside of the child’s regular session time. The child or young person is usually not present at the meetings, although in the case of older children (usually ages 14 and up), the young person may choose to participate in the meetings, if they wish to do so.
Parent Review Meetings may be attended by one or more parents or care-giving figures (mothers, fathers, step-parents, grandparents etc..). It is important to note that these meetings are not compulsory; child therapy can be effective without parent review meetings – however, usually, Parent Review Meetings help bring about quicker changes and positive improvements in children’s and young people’s lives – so they can contribute to the success of the therapy.
How is therapy with a child different compared to adult therapy?
The main difference is the modality of the therapy; while adult therapy usually relies on talking, therapy with a child or a young person may include expressing feelings through art, story-telling or play.
I believe that to help children and young people successfully, one needs to develop a close rapport with them. The strength and quality of the relationship between a child and their therapist will usually determine the success of the therapy to a great extent.
In my clinical experience, the social networks around children (nuclear family, extended family, school class, after school clubs etc..) have a great influence over children’s general well-being. Therefore, I tend to work closely with parents and care-givers, and I am happy to liase with teachers and tutors as well if needed.
Just like adult therapy sessions, child and adolescent therapy sessions are held weekly, usually on the same day at the same time each week (for example – 5pm on Wednesdays).
Listening to children’s and young people’s voices
I will always respect a child’s or young person’s wishes in therapy. If they would like the parent to be present during the sessions, I would accommodate this wish. Or if they wish to bring a favourite object to the therapy – perhaps a teddy bear or an iPad – I would allow them to do so.
I will not ’keep’ children in therapy – if they wish to end their session 15 minutes (or even half an hour!) early, or not to have therapy on any given day, I will respect their choice. I would still offer to see them at the usual time on the following week.
Young people’s rights
I believe in offering an age-appropriate amount of autonomy to my clients. Working with a young person aged 14 or older, I would usually offer them the choice to be present during Parent Review Meetings if they wish to do so.
Young people aged 16 and over have a right to decide whether they would like their parents to be involved in their counselling, e.g. whether they consent to me sharing some or indeed, any details about their therapy with their parents during Parent Review Meetings.
However, even if a young person expressed a preference for minimizing parental involvement, I would still encourage them to consider sharing some aspects of their therapy with their family at some point, explaining how this may benefit them in long-run. After that, it is up to them what they decide to do with this information.
Above the age of 16, I can generally work with young people exclusively, without holding Parent Review Meetings if this is their or their parents’ preference. However, I would still be legally obliged to share information with the parents’ if there is a risk of harm coming to the young person. I always communicate these terms clearly to both the young person and their parents at the beginning of the therapy.