I work with children from the ages of 6 through to 18. I work in primary and secondary schools and I have also worked in a sixth form college with 16-19 year olds. I currently manage a counselling project within a school for a large organisation. I also worked for a children’s counselling charity based in Grays. The work that I do with children varies depending on their age. I wrote a piece of research on counselling children In schools which supports and informs the way I work with children, as this offered me insight into some of the issues they face, and in most cases they were scared, worried or simply embarrassed to seek help. The most important thing to consider in counselling children and young people is that they need to feel safe, and trust is key. So my first goal is to build the relationship with them, so they feel safe to work with me, then and only then, can the work can begin.
How is it different for children?
Adults can find it difficult to ask for help about their own, mental health issues, so consider how daunting it can be for a child. They may be experiencing something they don’t understand. They may be talking to their friends about how they feel depending on their age. They may have tried speaking to a teacher or the school student services, but still feel unheard. They may decide to try and speak with a family member, but sometimes children find it harder talking to a parent than another adult. Do not be offended by this, consider that they may have found it really hard to confide in you and to even say, I need help.
If you suspect something is wrong, their behaviour may have changed, Consider what might be happening in their lives. Could anything have triggered these changes?
- Learning difficulties
- Behavioral problems
- Depression and anxiety
- Anger issues
- Separation anxiety
- Low self esteem
- Suicidal thoughts
A few examples of how counselling can help children, and some of the issues I have worked with, include things such as, coping with everyday worries, or a big change in their life such as divorce, and the guilt they feel, relationship issues, with friends, family members and teachers. A family member or someone close has died, bullying, exam stress, depression, anxiety, anger issues, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. In my experience of counselling children and young people, one of the biggest things in recent times that impacts a young persons mental health, is social media and the pressure and judgement this brings, in terms of body image and self worth, all impacting their self esteem and confidence.
All these things can impact a child and have a huge affect on their mental health. If you have tried talking to them, but are still worried and have decided you need help, this is how I can help.
How I can help.
For a child speaking to someone they do not know offers them a sense of safety, as they will not feel judged and the mere fact that its away from school and home can help some children to open up more. Counselling gives them the opportunity to talk about how they feel. I offer a safe environment for them to express their feelings and understand what may have caused them to feel this way. I explain to them that I am very different to a teacher and that I am not there to tell them what to do, but to understand how they may be feeling and offer them support. The methods I use in the sessions will depend on the child’s age, situation and their learning development. There are many ways in which we can work together, art and play therapy, drawing and painting encourages children to express their feelings and express themselves better. Reading a story can be helpful for some younger children as we can talk about the feelings of a specific character. This can help them understand the emotion and, in turn encourage them to discuss their own feelings. Teenagers can sometimes find it hard to put into words how they feel, so using emotions cards and drawing can help to relax them and the feelings begin to flow more naturally. Older children may prefer talking therapy, but in my experience older children prefer the sessions to be more engaging and productive and consider just talking alone not as helpful. So I believe a mixture of both works well.
Different methods may be used for child counselling to that of adult counselling, as there are other issues to consider, purely because of their age in terms safeguarding. Although the aim of counselling for both children and adults is the same, to help the individual cope better with their feelings and provide them with the tools to cope on their own and enjoy their life again.