Counselling and Psychotherapy for Children and Young People
I completed specialised training in the field of child and adolescent psychotherapy, therefore 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 (50-55 minutes).
Usually, parents and care-givers are not present during the sessions, although with young clients, exceptions can be made (for example, if a child is worried about being left alone during their first session).
Additionally, parents may see the therapist separately to share information, discuss concerns or improvements, and to review the child’s perceived progress. These sessions are called 'Parent Consultation’ or ‘Parent Meeting’ sessions and they are held at a pre-agreed time outside of the child’s regular session time.
If your child is aged 16 years old or younger, having a Parent Consultation session before I begin working with your child is highly recommended.
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).
What should I tell my child before bringing them for their first therapy session?
Depending on the age of the child, it is good to provide them with an age-appropriate amount of information.
- They don’t have to keep going to therapy sessions if they don’t want to; and
- Parents/caregivers are allowed to be present during child therapy sessions if the child would like someone to be there with them, especially during the initial stages of the therapy.
For example, for younger children (4-7 years old) it is enough to explain that you are bringing them to see a lady who helps children talk about their feelings and helps them deal with their problems - like your child’s specific problem (i.e. their angry outbursts; their difficulties at school etc..).
You can also explain to your child that the therapist’s office is called “the play room” and it will have toys (a sand pit, figurines, plush toys) and arts & crafts materials (paint, play doh, etc..) in it which they will be allowed to play with.
For a slightly older child (8-10 years) you may also explain that the therapist is there to help them deal with their difficulties through talking, drawing/painting or playing. The therapist won’t judge them, or make them behave like a teacher at school. You can explain that the therapist’s office (the play room) is a safe space for children to express how they are feeling, and all feelings are welcome there – even negative feelings, like sadness or anger.
For adolescents (11 years & up) usually, not much explanation is needed, but you my want to tell them that you are bringing them so that they can receive help and that it is their choice whether they want to work with the therapist or not.
It is also useful to mention that the contents of their sessions will be confidential (will remain between the young person and the therapist), except if there is a risk of serious harm coming to them or to somebody else (suicide risk, severe self-harm, child protection concerns, etc..).
How many therapy sessions are needed to achieve lasting results?
Usually, a minimum of 5-6 therapy sessions are required to help a child or young person with their difficulty.
The length of the therapy needed depends on many factors: the complexity and severity of the problem (for example: mild behaviour problems versus severe behaviour problems); how long the issue had been present (the longer standing the problem, the more sessions will likely be required to address it); and it also depends on how the child / young person feels about coming to therapy (it helps if they are coming willingly and if they have positive expectations).
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.