Working with Children and Young Adults
Adults are not always the best reporters of children’s stories and when we try and make something alright we can end up losing something. In adapting my approach to working with young people I believe it is important to consider the developmental consequences. On the whole, adults tend to think before acting but children often behave and respond differently. Children build their own narratives distinct from those of adults and tend to assume blame and responsibility when trouble prevails. Whether it is the death of a parent or a sibling, abuse or a trauma, children are actively seeking a reason for something that has happened. Children are vulnerable and require reassurance and I see my work as helping and supporting the child or young person begin to see that some things are difficult to know.
In my work with children between the ages of 9 and 16 counselling cannot occur without the consent of a parent or a caregiver. Once initial contact has been made an initial assessment is arranged for both parents and child to attend. In this way, everyone present can reflect on whether counselling is appropriate at this time and whether I am the right therapist for the child. During this session I introduce the limits of confidentiality and explain that my primary role is in keeping the child safe – what is said remains in the room unless I feel the child is at harm. Safety is crucial, and my role is to provide both an emotionally containing space as well as physical safety. During the assessment process it is important to address that managing boundaries can be difficult. I make it clear to parents that my role is not to feed back to them what is explored during therapy unless the child requests me to.
Ultimately, confidentiality requires careful attention when working with children and I ensure that I consult with a young person as to what, if anything, they wish of me to communicate to another. Children invariably lack power and autonomy in their lives and generally find themselves sent to therapy by a parent or adult. My work is to ensure that the young person is aware of the freedom that they have to continue or end therapy whenever they choose and to instil in them a sense of their own potency and influence.