Working With Children And Young People
Thank you for reading this.
It can be a daunting and anxiety provoking business for parents/ guardians to find a therapist who they feel will provide a safe and non judgemental space for their child/guardian to explore and work on their emotional issues.
In order to alleviate some of these fears, please see below for some information on my experience and qualifications as well as way of working.
I have experience of working on a one to one therapeutic basis with children aged between 4-11, and young people aged between 12 and 18. This has been gained from providing therapy for children known to Milton Keynes Social Services and in the care system; in primary and secondary schools, youth centres, youth counselling organisations, a refuge and in my private practice. Issues that I have addressed include, anger, anxiety, depression, self-injury, low self-esteem, suicidal intent, bereavement and loss, bullying, transitions and change, including those related to divorce; stress, abuse, including sexual abuse; trauma, identity and relationship difficulties.
I am a UKCP registered Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and hold a UKCP accredited Masters Degree in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy and Counselling. This means I have received rigorous training in areas which include neuro-science, child protection and safe guarding, infant, baby and child development, mother, baby and infant observation, the expressive arts and play in therapy and child psychiatry and mental health disorders.
I have an up to date Disclosure and Barring Service check (formerly known as Criminal Records Bureau Check) clearance, which I am always happy to show parents/guardians.
I prefer working in a non- directive way, where the child leads the process and decides on the therapeutic medium/s. So, for instance, some older children may prefer talking therapy whilst younger children may prefer play or creative therapy.
Others may want to use a combination of therapies where drawing, painting, music, writing, or drama alongside the sand tray or talking is used to express and make sense of the feelings and thoughts they have. The important thing here is that the child chooses.
I always speak to parents/guardians before the first session to get an understanding from them as to why they feel their child needs therapy at this time and why they think the child might be experiencing what they are experiencing. These conversations are also about eliciting information on the context in which the child lives their life, so this would include asking parents/guardians questions about their relationship with the child, family history on both parental sides giving details of significant losses, trauma and abuse that have taken place. This is used to get a better idea of factors related to the family that might be influencing the child's emotional behaviour.
Many parents/guardians can quite understandably feel quite concerned about what might happen in therapy, so these sessions also allow for time to answer any questions parents might have around the therapy process, as well as those around safeguarding, child protection and confidentiality.
These meetings last for 1 1/2 hour and can take place on line or in person. Depending on the make up of the family and the relationship between the parents, parents/guardians may be seen together or separately. These meetings will form part of the assessment process which is used to devise a treatment plan which clarifies how I think treatment with your child should look and the reasons for this. A treatment plan may recommend a mixture of sessions, so some play sessions for your child, some parent child sessions, psycho- education sessions or even a referral to another agency or service.
Meetings with parents/guardians during their child's therapy.
I will arrange meetings with parents/guardians to review and assess how they feel the therapy is progressing, highlight any issues/ or new concerns they may have about the therapy or their child's emotional behaviour. We will think together about the issues raised and identify new ways in which parents/guardians can support the child at home with them.
Sometimes I might recommend meeting with a parent to explore how issues from their own childhood may be influencing their parenting now.
Sometimes there might be parent/guardian and child combined sessions. These can provide a safe, contained and non judgemental space to explore issues such as those related to communication and can be a pre- requisite to resolution. More generally speaking such sessions are used to “build up” the relationship between parent and child. My work here is informed by Theraplay, an attachment informed modality which focuses on building up this relationship through activities which use playfulness, structure, nurture and challenge. I also use reflective practices to help parents/ guardians mentalise or think more about what their child’s behaviour may be conveying about the internal mind of their child, that is how they are thinking and feeling.
The approach highlighted above, acknowledges that parents/ guardians are important facilitators/ influencers of emotional well being and mental health in their child given they will, in most cases, spend more time with the child than anyone else, and know a lot more about what their child has experienced than anyone else. It recognises that for therapy to be effective, parent/ guardian and therapist need to work together.
It is only natural for guardians/parents to be curious as to what is explored in their guardians/child's sessions. I leave it to the child to decide what to tell parents/guardian or anyone else about the therapy sessions.
However, I will treat everything the child says in the sessions as confidential. I will only break this if I believe the child is in harm or putting someone else in danger. At this point, parents/guardian and other agencies, depending on the nature of the information received, might have to be informed.
I have a contract which I ask all parents/ guardians to sign before sessions (post assessment) occur. Amongst other things, it includes my confidentiality policy.