Working with teenagers
I work with people from 14 years of age and above. Working with children and adolescents is very different from working with adults due to the amount of developmental changes that occur early on in life and so all therapists must ensure they have the training required to work with each age group. I currently do not work with anyone below the age of 14 years old as this is the age at which I know I am fully able to understand and support.
Working with young people can take time due to a number of factors. There are a lot of changes that occur physically, cognitively and emotionally in teenagers and it can be an incredibly complicated and stressful time for them. In addition to this, they may not have much insight into the way they think or feel and as this is what we often explore in CBT, we may need to take the time to first help them to develop this insight before we can tackle the actual difficulties they have.
A positive note for this age group is that their brains are so remarkable in adapting to changes that once we get through the understanding and develop new ways of thinking and responding to things, this change can be rapid and continue into their future.
When they are ready
It is really important that the young person wants to be in therapy sessions. It is completely normal for a parent or caregiver to be worried about a young person and want to do everything to help, even if the young person is not ready for this support. I am happy to talk to you about your concerns for your child and if they are willing to attend an initial assessment session so I have an opportunity to talk to them and explain how I might be able to help, then that is really positive. If after this however, the young person does not want my support, I will advise you that I am not able to support them at this time and instead offer ideas for what other things you might be able to do to help them for now. This is because this approach takes active participation and without this, it is unlikely to work.
In addition to this, it is really important that the young person receives a positive experience and feels comfortable in therapy. If they are pushed into attending sessions straight away then not only is it unlikely to work, but it is more likely that they won’t feel able to try it in the future either. I focus on trying to show them that it can be a positive experience and let them know how it can help them and why, so that they are more open to coming back in the future when ready.
Parents and other significant people in our lives can impact on how successful therapy is. This is particularly important in working with children and young people. I will encourage you to take an active role in helping your young person throughout their therapy journey. This can look different for each young person but in general, it is helpful if you understand their difficulties when we know more about what is having an impact on them. Developing this understanding might involve you attending some sessions with them or having separate conversations with me and reading information about what we discover that I will provide. You might come to review sessions and get involved in tasks that the young person does between sessions to help themselves. An openness to trying out things with them and taking on board suggestions of what we think might help them is also really important, even if they are things you have tried in the past that haven’t worked.
Before the first session, the person with parental responsibility will be asked to sign some documents that relate to therapy expectations and confidentiality. It is important to pay particular attention to these and to ask any questions you might have. These detail that sessions between myself and a young person are confidential and the only information shared (apart from when you are involved in a session or between-session tasks) relates to any risk concerns. This confidentiality means that I am don’t give updates on the session content or how talkative the young person is in a session, unless we have agreed an update with them. This is important because although there will be sessions you will be encouraged to get involved in and there will be information that we share with you about what we are doing, the young person needs to feel safe to explore things without the worry that non-risk related things will be communicated back to you. This can be really tough at times for a parent or carer and I am happy to give regular updates that I create with the young person. I will also always review sessions with the young person regularly and discuss any concerns with them if I feel they aren’t engaging with the sessions or if we feel they aren’t helping, so that we can then bring these concerns to the parent or caregiver, rather than giving session-by-session updates about how engaged they are.