Updated: Mar 20, 2022
Much of what we offer in youth and adolescent counselling is holding the hope. In all counselling and coaching and in particular youth and adolescent work we are considering many factors that influence the client. The dominant culture, family life dynamic, the parents relationship and history, their school life, friendships, hobbies and their own personal history.
My general goals in counselling are that my young clients can become more authentic, open minded, realistic, capable and able to be present and enjoy meaningful relationships. It is my hope that clients can see the forces that shape them and make conscious choices about what they will and wont put up with and be empowered to be who they truly are while remaining connected to their family.
Most teenagers love their families despite most of them complaining about their parents more than anyone when they come to counselling. In fact it is often the parent the child is closest to that will experience the teens full range of emotional experiences. It is really important when working with teenagers and young people that you work to create harmony in the family, strengthen family bonds and help struggling families.
In a culture that orients around independence it is easy to pathologise families but a good therapist will recognise that this can be harmful in the long run. Rather than focussing on what is wrong with the family or the child we can work with our clients in developing the characteristics that according to John Defrain are found in healthy families; "appreciation and affection, commitment, positive communication, time together, spiritual wellbeing, and the ability to cope with stress and crisis."
The processes I share with my young clients can be used throughout their whole life, they are life skills. Things like self-reflection, mindfulness, breathing techniques to regulate emotions, understanding their core values, character strengths, self compassion and understanding the difference between thinking, feeling, sensing, reacting vs responding, setting goals and finding your own voice and north star.
Helping young people discover who they are and what they really want if often the work of youth counselling and coaching. Sometimes this takes on the form of creating an inspiring future vision and I often see a shift in energy that motivates and empowers my clients to work toward something that matters to them. This can be a very helpful way to work when the client has experienced a trauma or serious struggle of some kind as it develops their agency.
Mindfulness can be a very helpful skill for young clients and I'm not just talking about meditation because most teenagers won't spend a long time sitting in meditation but rather learning informal skills to be present with their strong and often painful emotions. It's important on one hand to validate all their emotions but to do so in a way that helps them develop awareness and compassion so they may process them fully.
Many teens are at a vulnerable age where they may turn to all kind of things to help them cope with their suffering including alcohol, drugs, over eating, cutting, self-harm, hitting their friends or at worst taking their lives. It can be perpetuated if they don't have positive ways to help them cope for example exercise, hiking, hobbies, self care, meditation, yoga or being in nature. Lots of these activities can help them be more in their body and process pain and help their energy move.
The first step to all of this work is developing trust so as a counsellor the best way to achieve this in the beginning is to listen deeply and explore the young persons world. Being mindful of not only their fears and challenges but also their strengths, hopes and aspirations. In reality teens and adolescence is a transitional life stage full and they are great to work with because they have so much potential and are changeable. While they are on one hand impulsive, they are also deeply insightful, creative and highly influenced by relationships. This is a fertile ground for the therapeutic work of youth counselling. To find out more about youth and adolescent counselling visit the website.